The NFL ratified a measure Tuesday that creates a three-day window before the opening of free agency during which teams will be permitted to negotiate with free agent players from other clubs.
The measure was recommended by the sport’s competition committee and approved by team owners during their meeting in Chicago.
Under the new rule, which takes effect next year, a team will be permitted to contact the agent for a player from another team who is eligible for free agency during the three-day window before the free agent market opens. But a contract cannot be signed or submitted to the league office during that period.
No direct contact is allowed between a team and a player from another club eligible for free agency, and a player who is a prospective free agent cannot visit another team.
Previously, under the sport’s anti-tampering rules, teams and agents were not permitted to negotiate about a player under contract to another club until the opening of free agency. But people in the sport say that rule was widely ignored and such conversations took place every year anyway. The new measure represents an attempt by the league to regulate such activity and level the playing field in the yearly competition for free agents.
The Washington Redskins were cleared by the league after it investigated allegations that they had tampered with free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in 2009. The Tennessee Titans, Haynesworth’s former team, sent information to the league about the possibility that the Redskins contacted Haynesworth’s agent before free agency. But the league did not find evidence that the Redskins had violated anti-tampering rules.
The league stripped the San Francisco 49ers of a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 for tampering with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. The league also forced the 49ers and Bears to swap third-round draft choices that year as part of the penalty.