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Key phrase for next few days: “Agreement in principle”


After the 2011 lockout ended and the league allowed teams to negotiate with free agents before actually signing them, the term “agreement in principle” became commonplace.

Though not enforceable until signed, some teams were announcing the tentative deals, presumably to ensure that the player or his agent would not renege.

Now that the NFL is launching a three-day legal tampering window, the key term will be “agreement in principle.” Even though contracts can’t be signed until Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, non-binding deals can be struck -- like the non-binding arrangement between the 49ers and Chiefs to trade Alex Smith once the new league year begins.

With the league trying to create an NCAA-style “signing day,” it’s safe to say teams will be discouraged from announcing agreements in principle with players who can’t be signed until Tuesday. Still, it’s inevitable that word of agreements in principle will leak; even if teams don’t issue a press release, they’ll be wise to get the word out, so that other teams will back off.

That said, any agreements reached before Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET will have to happen without the player visiting the team, or even directly talking to the team. No visits may occur until free agency officially opens; indeed, travel arrangements can’t even be made until checkered flag officially has been waved.