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NFL Free Agency 2016: What's the "legal tampering" period?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agency doesn't begin for real until Wednesday at 1:00 pm PT, but starting today at 9:00 am PT, the NFL's "legal tampering" period will begin, and this means that teams and agents can begin discussing parameters of new potential deals. They can negotiate, express interest, do all of that fun free agency stuff, but they cannot actually sign on the dotted line until Wednesday. It's a weird little rule.

Per NFL, this is what "legal tampering" means:

Beginning at 12 noon, New York time, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2015 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9.

Last year, the legal tampering period lasted three days, but this year it's just two two days. There are also a few new rules. Per Pro Football Talk:

"During the two-day negotiating period, all clubs may negotiate all aspects of an NFL Player Contract with the certified agent of any prospective UFA," explains the March 2 memo to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained. "However, a new club may not execute an NFL Player Contract with a prospective UFA until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9, when the player's 2015 contract expires."

The memo then explains that "the only valid, binding and enforceable employment agreement between an NFL player and an NFL club is an NFL Player Contract that has been fully executed by the parties in compliance with all applicable League rules and the CBA," and that any discussions regarding possible employment or terms of employment "are non-binding and are unenforceable by the player or the club."

So, in effect, this means that you're going to see a ton of rumors over the next two days but no real signings until Wednesday. It also means that because a lot of the legwork is getting done over these next two days, a lot of free agents will get scooped up at 1:00pm on Wednesday because deals will be all set up to be signed.

Seattle has Seattle has 17 unrestricted free agents hitting the open market in early March. There are eight key guys to keep an eye on most closely during this persiod: left tackle Russell Okung, cornerback Jeremy Lane, punter Jon Ryan, receiver Jermaine Kearse, linebacker Bruce Irvin, right guard J.R. Sweezy, and defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane.

The rest of Seattle's free agent list are back-of-roster types that shouldn't be too difficult to re-sign, if that's what the team wants. Guys like Michael Morgan, Tarvaris JacksonAnthony McCoyBryce BrownChase Coffman, Lem Jeanpierre, Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, and Fred Jackson are secondary or backup options, and will not be receiving big-money deals.

Here's the full list. Seattle already tendered six of their eight Exclusive Rights Free Agents, so apart from Jesse Williams and Marcus Burley, the Seahawks' ERFAs will be back next year.

Player Type ▴
Michael Morgan UFA
Russell Okung UFA
Tarvaris Jackson UFA
Jon Ryan UFA
J.R. Sweezy UFA
Jeremy Lane UFA
Jermaine Kearse UFA
Ahtyba Rubin UFA
Anthony McCoy UFA
Brandon Mebane UFA
Bryce Brown UFA
Chase Coffman UFA
Lemuel Jeanpierre UFA
Will Tukuafu UFA
Demarcus Dobbs UFA
Fred Jackson UFA
Bruce Irvin UFA
Alvin Bailey RFA
Ricardo Lockette RFA
Nick Moody RFA
Christine Michael RFA
Jesse Williams ERFA
Patrick Lewis RFA
Derrick Coleman RFA
Mohammed Seisay ERFA
A.J. Francis ERFA
Steven Terrell ERFA
Cooper Helfet ERFA
Marcus Burley ERFA
Eric Pinkins ERFA
Deshawn Shead ERFA