Chicago - Free agent tampering is the worst kept secret in the NFL. League owners approved a rule at the fall league meetings that allows player agents and teams to have a three-day window prior to the start of the league year to start talking about deals.
Players themselves will not be allowed to visit or even talk to suitors during that window. Negotiations are allowed, but the contract cannot be completed until the actual start of the league year.
The actual rule itself reads:
Nothwithstanding the foregoing, during the period that begins three calendar days prior to the expiration of NFL Player Contracts, clubs are permitted ti contact the certified agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the current League Year and enter into contract negotiations with them. A contract, however, cannot be executed with a new club, or submitted to the League office, until after the beginning of the new League Year. During this three-day period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than his current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee representative of a club (other than his current club).
The idea behind the rule change is to create a fairer system and more competition for free agents. In reality, the change is only a tacit nod to an established practice already happening under the table, out from under the league's tentacles. As someone in the media room here in Chicago put it, "those three days are three weeks after teams and agents actually start negotiating."