What will the next four days hold for NFL teams and free agents?

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is one of 18 Redskins with expiring contracts. (The Washington Post/Richard A. Lipski)

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is one of 18 Redskins with expiring contracts. (The Washington Post/Richard A. Lipski)

The NFL’s new negotiation window opens at midnight, and from that point on, teams and agents will be allowed to explore deals for free agents.

The negotiation window closes at 3:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, and at the stroke of 4 p.m., players can agree to deals.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Talking to people around the league – representatives from teams, agents and players – no one knows exactly what to expect.

But the league hopes that by instituting the four-day window, tampering will be wiped out  and the whole free agency process will be less chaotic.

Former Indianapolis Colts executive Bill Polian, who is now an analyst for ESPN,  discussed the thinking behind the creation of the negotiation window during a conference call last week.

“Well, we discussed it when I was a member of the competition committee,” Polian said. “I think it’s fair to say that everybody will be interested to see how it works out, what the results of it are.  I wouldn’t say everybody was enthusiastic about it.  We all had some reservation.

“But, on balance, I think it’s fair to say that we felt that it was something that would at least bring some organization to what had been a very chaotic process,” he continued. “Agents can talk to clubs, they can go back to the old club with what one would assume would be a bona fide offer or some parameters.  They can gauge who is interested and who is not interested. So, all of those things may bring a little more organization to it than had previously existed.

“But I’m going to be as anxious as you to see if we come out of the box with deals at 4:01 p.m., or if it serves as a way to sort of set the market before people begin to do deals.”

Some people believe that the four days of negotiations still could resemble something of a circus. No doubt, reports will leak regarding a team’s interest in a particular player, and how favorably things appear to be unfolding. Then another team will throw its hat into the ring, prompting that player to cool on the first team and become enamored of a second or third suitor.

So, beware: rumors of a team communicating with a player certainly don’t mean an agreement is imminent. In the old days, such pre-free agency talks were kept quiet (yes, tampering happened all the time, and still may take place in some instances), and then multi-million dollar deals were suddenly struck right at signing time. Now, however, there will be time for interests to be broadcast by players and their representatives. Of course, teams will try their best to keep talks secret. Some will succeed and some will not.

While this could make teams less secure, it’s believed that it will benefit players. Now, they can gauge interest and weigh options before making a decision about where they’re going.

“I like it,” said Redskins free-agent-to-be Lorenzo Alexander. “It allows you time to go over all the deals and you don’t have to feel like you’re up against it. For a lot of guys – unless you’re a Peyton Manning or somebody, who’s in high demand and has the luxury of sitting back and waiting – you feel like you’ve got to make a decision in a couple hours, or else the team moves on and you’re out of a deal. Now, you get to line all the offers up and really decide what’s best for your family.”

As of Friday, Alexander and a number of his teammates, including Fred Davis, Kedric Golston, Tyler Polumbus, Kory Lichtensteiger, Rob Jackson Darrel Young and Logan Paulsen, were waiting on the Redskins to make a move past the initial talks that took place early in the offseason.

It seems as if others, such as Chris Cooley, Chris Wilson and Madieu Williams, and possibly Brandon Banks, could be moving on.

Meanwhile, players such as DeAngelo Hall and Santana Moss had yet to hear whether their contracts would be restructured or terminated as part of Washington’s effort to get under the salary cap.

The Redskins have until Tuesday to comply with the salary cap and lock up their players before other teams can sign them.

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