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Bill O’Brien is right: Free agency rules need to change


The rule preventing players from talking to teams during the legal tampering period needs to go, in part because it’s routinely disregarded. But the NFL needs to do much more than simply allow the head coach of a team that wants to sign a free agent talk to the player before negotiations between team and agent result in an agreement in principle.

The NFL needs to allow players to make visits to teams during the negotiating window.

“There really should be a period where, say a week before free agency, a guy can make some trips,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien recently told Peter King of “Without that, you have to find a way to research guys, but without seeing him and talking to him face-to-face, there’s always going to be something missing.”

O’Brien is right. Though many were surprised by the fact that he didn’t meet Brock Osweiler before the Texans committed $72 million to the former Broncos quarterback, no one should have been surprised at all, because that’s the nature of the current system. For the most attractive free agents, the deals necessarily are done sight unseen during the negotiating window, because teams want certainty. If the player they’ve targeted won’t be signing with the team that’s trying to sign him, the team moves on to the next guy. And the next.

So why not expand the window and allow for teams and players to talk, to meet, and to otherwise reduce as much uncertainty from the process as possible?

What if Osweiler and O’Brien simply don’t click, from a personality standpoint? That same question applies to the Giants and their trio of high-priced free agents, and to any other team that negotiated an agreement in principle based simply on money.

The teams should want to know more about who they are paying, and the players should want to know more about the teams they’re getting the money from. The league’s current structure, however, creates a land rush that results in the flag being planted by a guy who is largely blindfolded.