The National Football League's free agency period "officially" gets underway at midnight eastern time on Saturday with the "legal tampering" period. It's not actually called that, mind you, but for the first time since the league instituted free agency, there will be a window for teams to legally being engaging in negotiations before the actual singing period takes place.
What exactly does this mean for the National Football League teams, including the Minnesota Vikings? Well, here is the exact wording from the league itself, via a press release that it sent out a day or two ago.
Q. What is permitted during the new three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?
A. Beginning at 12:00 midnight ET on Saturday, March 9 (i.e., after 11:59:59 p.m. ET, on Friday, March 8) and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
During this negotiation period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.
Clubs (other than the player’s current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective Unrestricted Free Agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players’ 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential Unrestricted Free Agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.
So there you have it. While players can't start making visits to other teams until Tuesday, March 12, teams can start talking with their agents starting at midnight.
Will the Vikings be talking to player agents when things get going in a couple of hours? Will the team do anything with any of their own free agents? Hopefully we'll be hearing about those sorts of things before too long.