While 2013 NFL free agent contracts don't expire until March 12 at 4:00 PM Eastern, a new provision approved this past October means free agents can negotiate with other teams before their contract runs out. Beginning on March 9 at 4 PM, players with expiring contracts are free to talk contract with any team they desire.
At the NFL's fall meeting, owners approved a three-day "tampering" window. In reality, these conversations have been happening illicitly for years, but this is the first time it will be legislated in this fashion. No new deals can be announced until 4PM on March 12, but with this window thrown into the mix, we could start hearing about agreements this coming weekend.
This could actually be beneficial to both players and teams. Players can get an accurate gauge of their true worth and pecking order, while teams who don't want to pony up top dollar can let their players field offers from other teams to set the market.
Bills fans will surely remember the two-and-a-half day courtship of Mario Williams a year ago. While fans waited breathlessly and media had reports wrong left and right, Williams stayed in Buffalo to hammer out the deal. This type of extended negotiation period probably would not have happened with this year's system in place.