The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been talking with their own pending free agents, culminating in at least one done deal, as defensive end Will Gholston re-signed on Monday. On Tuesday, they can begin talking to other team's potential free agents…or at least, to the agents of those free agents.
Since 2013, the NFL's free agency rules have included a "negotiating window" prior to the official beginning of the new league year. Originally a three-day period, it is now just a little over two days long, beginning at noon ET on Tuesday and lasting up until the start of free agency on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.
Photos of the 2017 Buccaneers Free Agents.
During that time, teams may discuss contract parameters with players' representatives (not the players themselves), though they are not allowed to extend an actual offer until free agency begins. Teams also may not bring players in for visits or even set up travel arrangements before the Thursday deadline. Finally, this only applies to unrestricted free agents (UFAs); restricted free agents (RFAs) have to wait until the market opens.
Of course, this also means that other teams can begin talking to agents for Tampa Bay's potential UFAs. The Bucs do maintain an advantage over the next two days in regards to those players, as they can arrange meetings with them and extend contract offers. Even after the re-signing of Gholston, that list includes such prominent 2016 Buccaneers as Bradley McDougald, Chris Conte, Russell Shepard, Josh Robinson, Joe Hawley, Akeem Spence and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Even with the restrictions of the negotiating window, significant progress can be made during those 52 hours. Last year, such big-name free agents as Bruce Irvin, Alex Mack, Brock Osweiler, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins agreed to contract terms with new teams not long after the bell was rung to open the market. The Buccaneers' big move on the opening day of free agency a year ago was the re-signing of Doug Martin, but they also added guard J.R. Sweezy, defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Brent Grimes over the following 48 hours.
The vast majority of the NFL's coaches and personnel professionals have been in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine since last week. Most will be returning to their respective team headquarters on Monday or Tuesday. When they do, there won't be much time to rest. Free agency may still be a couple days away, but the courtship begins on Tuesday.