The Open Negotiating Window for Free Agents


Today is the day where the NFL begins the “legal tampering” period. For the next three days agents of free agents can begin to negotiate contracts with 31 other NFL teams in preparation for the official start of free agency on March 11. Players can not sign contracts with teams, nor can they meet with coaches or take physicals. Essentially the NFL wanted this to replace what would occur in February at the NFL Combine.

So at noon today there will be a tremendous amount of action with players really learning what teams do and do not want them in 2014. It gives the agents a window to really pinpoint interest and make a more defined strategy for approaching free agency. They will likely determine weaknesses in a teams roster, examine salary cap situations, and look at deals signed in the past by those teams to get a better idea about structures that would be agreeable to both sides.

For big name free agents this will be a very busy period. Many of these players will essentially have contracts agreed upon by the end of the 3 day period, if not sooner.  Once free agency officially begins those players will officially meet with teams take their physical, and, assuming all goes well, sign their contracts. The first day of the League Year ends at 11:59 PM on the 11th rather than 4PM at which point the first day transactions are processed.

For others this may prove to be disappointing. Expected interest won’t be there. The money won’t be anything like it was expected to be. Dreams of signing contracts quickly will soon disappear and decisions will be made on taking short terms deals with hopes of free agency in 2015 or lower than desired contracts proving a sense of job security. Some may contact former teams with stories of interest in hopes of securing a deal with a team that they are familiar, even though they had failed to make a deal for weeks. Some will roll the dice as hope to find a soft landing spot when teams rumored to be hot for a big name player lose out to another team. While you might be their second or third choice it could pay off.

Players, agents, and fans alike will begin to get an idea of positional values in the NFL for 2014. This year it will be expected that Safeties, Corners, and Left Tackles may be in high demand. That may not be the case as last season we saw Corners, expected to be in high demand, garner little initial interest. This years group of players is of a higher level than last years group but if the NFL cap managers do not want to sink $10 million a year into a corner they will wait. Personally I want to watch Wide Receivers very closely since that is traditionally a fast signing group, but this year I believe teams will pull back on that.

The rumor mill for these players will be hot and heavy. Twitter will be loaded with details on supposed meetings, interest, and near signings. Sites like Pro Football Talk will probably have the most scoops of anyone. Teams will monitor and try to dig through what is and is not true. Is the source represented by the same agency as the player involved and are they the only one reporting it?  If so that may be reporting designed to drum up interest rather than a report. Is the source of information reliable or just someone hoping to be correct?

This is the time of year where a site like OTC can be an invaluable tool. Agents have, at their disposal, contract information via the NFL Players Association. The NFLPA is always going to do a better job at piecing together contract information (after all they do get copies of the contracts of every single player in the NFL), but it doesn’t always paint a full picture, especially when teams are behind in updates or teams are holding onto talent to artificially deflate salary cap situations.

For example yesterday someone floated a report from the NFLPA identifying salary cap situations for all 32 teams. Unfortunately the NFLPA has yet to update for most voidable contracts (i.e. Brandon Meriweather of the Redskins) showing millions less in cap room than really exists. In some cases there is double counting for players with voids and tenders, such as Brian Orakpo. We work to adjust those numbers for every team and keep things as accurate as possible.

Teams may be keeping players on a roster until the last possible minute to claim lack of money when entering into negotiations. The Jets, surprisingly, have failed to release WR Santonio Holmes just days before free agency is about to begin. CB Antonio Cromartie and QB Mark Sanchez will likely both go as well. That moves the Jets from around $23 million in cap room to over $45 million in cap space. You’ll never know that reading the reports available from the official sources. The team charts at OTC allow you to sort each roster by cap savings by clicking on a header and immediately identify players that could be released. Plus that into the salary cap calculator and it saves a ton of time in having a more full picture when discussing a deal with a team.  You can also view position salary cap spending and top contracts by position with full guarantee estimates.

We’ll be updating our databases as soon as we receive any details of contracts. If we do grab anything from a report we’ll note it on a players individual salary cap page until we can confirm the numbers at a later date. So some of the contract may not be complete but I’ll try to get that first year cap number up there to keep the cap space consistent. If you have any information you want to share feel free to email me at the contact on the right sidebar so we can update sooner rather than later. If you have any general questions or comments feel free to email as well.