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NFL’s Tampering Window Contains Signings, Speculation And Confusion

Washington Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen (82) has signed a new deal with the Washington Redskins. Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen (82) has agreed to a new deal with the Washington Redskins within the opening of the “tampering window.” Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

We are currently in the midst of a “tampering window”; a small, three-day opportunity for NFL clubs to enter into negotiations with the agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents.  The window opened on Saturday morning and closes at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12.  The opening of the window invites a bunch of speculation, with many in the media saying Player X will go to Team Y.  It led one football agent to Tweet the following.

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And another, who made an effort to advise the media of his competitors’ tactics.

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And what about the small number of players, such as Ed Reed, who are unrepresented?  The NFL has said,

“If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.”

The “tampering window” is not truly a tampering window.  It is more of a window to allow players’s representatives to enter into discussions about future contracts with the league’s 32 teams…as if that has not already been occurring since at least the start of the NFL Combine.

Many agents I have talked to seem to be rather upset and somewhat confused about the new tampering window.

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Why penalize players (by prohibiting them from having discussions with team personnel) for not choosing to sign with an agent?  Why create the tampering window only to threaten teams with a “tampering probe” should they violate a rule that stipulates, “prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year”?  The rumor is that this is all an effort to create an artificial “National Signing Day” in professional football.  There has to be a less confusing, back-door method to accomplish such a goal.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.