By Mark Gaughan
A new element of the NFL calendar allows teams to start talking to the representatives of free agents three days before the start of the free-agent shopping season.
The free-agency signing period begins at 4 p.m. on March 12. Starting at 4 p.m. Saturday, 72 hours in advance of the start of the new league year, league rules now allow teams to negotiate with agents.
In past years, such preliminary talks were not legal, but there was almost no way to prevent teams from jumping the gun in talking contract numbers with agents. Players still cannot visit any new team until the start of the signing period.
Former Buffalo Bills General Manager Bill Polian says the new "run-up" rule is something that had been considered for numerous years when he was a member of the NFL's competition committee.
"Everybody will be interested to see how it works out," Polian said. "We discussed it when I was a member of the competition committee. ... I wouldn't say that everybody was enthusiastic about it. We all had some reservations. But on balance, I think it's fair to say we felt it was something that would at least bring some organization to what has been a very chaotic process.
"Now agents can talk to the clubs. They can go back to the old club with what one would assume be a bona fide offer or some parameters. They can gauge who's interested and who's not interested. So all of those things may bring a little more organization to it than had previously existed."
The NBA has a similar "talking period" in its free-agency system, although it lasts 10 days, and some top deals are done well before the actual signing date.
Polian says if that happens in the NFL, it's better than encouraging tampering, which no run-up in the system effectively does.
"Even if that were the case with our league, my personal opinion is it would be a good thing," Polian said.
tagged2013 free agency | Bill Polian