The start of unrestricted free agency is still two days away but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can begin speaking with the representatives of pending free agents on other teams on Monday at noon.
The new league year is currently scheduled to begin this Wednesday, March 18, at 4:00 p.m. ET, bringing with it the start of free agency. Prior to that, there is a 52-hour window, beginning on Monday, in which teams and player representatives can discuss the parameters of a potential deal. This window is often referred to as the "legal tampering" period, because such contact before the 52-hour window would be actual tampering.
During this period, teams and player agents can discuss all aspects of a potential deal and can even exchange contract language as long as it is marked as a draft. Teams cannot actually execute contracts with players until free agency begins, but the two-day negotiating window will allow that to happen quickly with many players across the league on Wednesday.
Notably, during this period teams are not allowed to announce that they have reached an agreement with a free agent from another team. This includes team web sites and social media accounts. The reason: Doing so could possibly discourage other teams from pursuing the same player, believing that he has already made a final decision. No contract discussions from the two-day negotiating window are binding for either side.
While this negotiating window can obviously be very fruitful, it is also narrow in scope. The only contact permitted is discussion of contract terms. Teams may not make travel arrangements for potential signees, have coaches speak to the players, arrange physicals or exchange medical information with other teams until the start of free agency. Teams may only speak to a player's representative, with the exception of players who represent themselves, which is never a large percentage of the free agent pool. Also, this only applies to potential unrestricted free agents, not restricted free agents or players who have received a franchise or transition tag.
Of course, teams can openly negotiate with and sign potential free agents from their own roster, as is always the case. The Buccaneers have 19 players who are headed for free agency this week, though the team did place its non-exclusive franchise tag on linebacker Shaquil Barrett on Monday. That list includes quarterback Jameis Winston, linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, all sizeable contributors in 2019.