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2019 NFL free agency tampering period: Dates, rules, misconceptions

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A full explainer of how the NFL’s tampering period of free agency works.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII Experience Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What has been commonly termed as the “legal tampering” period of NFL free agency begins on Monday. During that time, we will hear news and rumors about teams and players and new contracts.

But there are a lot of common misconceptions about the legal tampering period. I’ve seen plenty of people misunderstand what teams are allowed to do and which players are eligible to be “tampered” with.

So here’s a rundown of what the legal tampering period is, and everything else you need to know about it.

When?

The legal tampering period starts at noon ET on Monday, March 11.

Who?

The players involved are those whose contracts will expire at the beginning of the new league year, which is set at Wednesday, March 13 at 4 p.m. ET. This only involved players who will become unrestricted free agents. Those that are still restricted cannot be negotiated with until March 13, when they become unrestricted.

This DOES NOT involve players who were recently cut. Danny Amendola is the perfect example. He was released on Friday and immediately became a free agent who could sign anywhere. That’s why the Lions were able to sign Amendola before the tampering period began at noon.

Negotiating rules

During the legal tampering period, players CANNOT meet with teams. All negotiations and contact must go through the player’s agent. Players are not even allowed to talk over the phone with a team. So if you hear rumors that Trey Flowers is at the Detroit Metro Airport on his way to meet with the team on Tuesday, you can immediately throw that rumor in the trash.

Additionally, players cannot officially sign a contract with a new team during this period. They can only “agree to terms” with a new team, meaning an agreement is in place and will become official once the new league year starts. But, remember, there’s always a chance a different team comes in at the last moment after terms were already agreed to.

Re-signings

Teams ARE permitted to re-sign their own players during the legal tampering period, even if they are set to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday. Dante Fowler is a perfect example of this, as the Rams re-signed the edge rusher to a one-year, $14 million contract with the Rams late Sunday night.

Trades

This is also a time in which trades commonly go down. But much like new signings, these can only be agreed to in principle. Trades do not become official until the new league starts on Wednesday. Again, be weary that though news will paint these stories as “official,” there’s always the small chance that a team backs out before the start of the new year.