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2020 NFL free agency FAQs: Time, deadlines, tampering period rules, more

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 free agency period.

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

2020 NFL free agency is hours away, as teams are making their final preparations by using their franchise tags (sorry, Chris Jones fans). Soon, there will be a frenzy of signings and months and months of speculation and anticipation will come to a head.

For the Detroit Lions, the next 48 hours are crucial. They have the free agency capital, but their needs are long, and they’ll have plenty of competition for many of their top targets.

But before everything begins, let’s take a minute to refresh ourselves on the specifics of free agency and the tampering period.

Is it actually happening?

Yes, it looks like it. The NFL sent a memo to teams on Sunday evening stating that the league year would start as planned. Although there were some late talks on Sunday night that things could still change. The latest report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero suggests the NFL is still working out the kinks in their plan, specifically travel for physicals, but it appears free agency is still a go.

When is it happening?

The free agency tampering period begins at noon ET on Monday, March 16. However, no deals with free agents can be officially signed until the start of the new year, which is Wednesday, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET.

What exactly is the ‘tampering period’?

This a stretch of time from noon on Monday until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday in which teams can contact and negotiate with agents of players set to become free agents on Wednesday. Both sides can negotiate terms and come to an agreement. However, the deal cannot be official until Wednesday. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a deal will be reported as agreed upon, but the player will eventually back out before it becomes official. This happened with Anthony Barr last year, who originally agreed to join the Jets, but had a change in heart and returned to the Vikings.


  • Teams cannot speak directly with players set to become free agents. They must speak with their agents.
  • Teams can still officially re-sign their own free agents during this period

So when are we going to hear some actual news?

Well, that depends on each team, but last year, the Lions made several moves on the first day of the tampering period. Detroit agreed to terms Trey Flowers, Jesse James and Justin Coleman all on the first day, so there’s a good chance we hear a bunch of news for Detroit on Monday. Of course, it bears repeating that none of these deals will be official until Wednesday.

How much money do the Lions have to spend?

Based on several estimates, Detroit has somewhere around $50 million in cap space. Considering the Lions like to take at least $10 million into the season, their draft class is expected to cost between $7-10 million, and they may want to save some extra for Kenny Golladay and Taylor Decker extensions, the best estimates have the Lions with somewhere around $20-30 million in spending money.

That may not seem like a ton, but Justin Rogers of the Detroit News pointed out something worth considering:

Going back to Flowers, Coleman and James, that trio of players only cost $11.6 million against the cap in their first year on the roster. That means the Lions are in position to be aggressive in free agency, including targeting top-of-the-market players, if they choose that route.

Yep, the Lions have plenty of money to be very aggressive in the next couple of days.

Where can I follow along with the latest news and rumors?

We’ll have two different trackers to keep you updated to the second.

First, we’ll have our Free Agency Tracker, which will list each transaction the Lions have made, including former Lions that sign elsewhere. FREE AGENCY TRACKER HERE

We’ll also have a Free Agency Rumors Tracker, which will note each player the Lions are interested in, visiting with, and eventually sign. RUMORS TRACKER HERE

When the posts are up, we’ll link them in this article and we’ll also have them pinned to the front page.

Happy free agency, everyone!

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.