The NFL’s new “tampering window” allowing contact between teams and agents for pending free agents from other teams opened early Saturday morning like a half-cocked auction.
You can look and even make an unofficial bid, but you can’t agree to buy.
An NFL memo sent to all 32 teams has placed a chilling effect — at least publicly — on just how much can be accomplished before the start of Tuesday’s free-agent signing period. As first reported by CBS Sports and ESPN, the league has sternly warned that no verbal agreements can be reached between clubs and free agents from other squads.
If the league gets wind of such deals being made or the news becomes public through the media, the NFL has threatened to conduct a tampering investigation that could result in penalties.
The net result: While reports of players being linked with teams will continue as the start of free agency approaches, such information will probably come in a trickle rather than through what some had speculated would be a flood of contract agreements verbally accepted over the weekend.
The “tampering window” was instituted by the NFL this year in hopes of reducing the amount of rampant dialogue that was being done illegally between teams and agents well before the signing period opened.
It would be naïve to think that this move would completely put the kibosh on tampering. As per usual, such contact quietly continued between teams and agents last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
However, an official 88-hour negotiating window before the start of the signing period at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday should help set the market value for a slew of players and generate quicker contract agreements either with the current team or elsewhere.
Teams do not have to wait until Tuesday to re-sign their own free agents. Also, club officials still cannot speak directly with players under contract to other clubs before free agency begins. — Alex Marvez
Falcons reach deal to keep Moore
The Atlanta Falcons are keeping one of the top young safety duos intact.
The club has agreed to a five-year contract with strong safety William Moore, FOXSports.com has confirmed. ESPN first reported the signing on Saturday morning.
Moore, 27, and Thomas DeCoud anchored the secondary during Atlanta’s run to the NFC Championship Game. Moore finished his fourth NFL season with 75 tackles, four interceptions and eight passes defensed.
The hard-hitting Moore was considered one of the top safety prospects in free agency. San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson, Detroit’s Louis Delmas and Miami’s Chris Clemons are among the safeties set to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday when the NFL signing period begins. Adrian Wilson — a four-time All-Pro selection in his 12 seasons with Arizona — was released Friday by the Cardinals. — Alex Marvez
Source: Boldin faces pay cut
A Super Bowl XLVII hero is being asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Baltimore Ravens.
A source told FOXSports.com that the Ravens want wide receiver Anquan Boldin to renegotiate the $6 million base salary he is set to earn in 2013. Otherwise, Boldin will be released before Tuesday’s start of the free-agent signing period.
Boldin was one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets during the postseason, especially in third-down situations. Boldin caught six passes for 104 yards and one touchdown in Baltimore’s 34-31 championship victory over San Francisco.Read more — Alex Marvez
Report: Chiefs strike first
Kansas City didn’t wait until the start of the free-agent signing period to bolster its secondary.
ESPN reported Friday night that the Chiefs will sign cornerback Dunta Robinson to a three-year contract.
Robinson was one of the NFL’s top free-agent signings in 2011, inking a six-year, $57 million contract with $22.5 million guaranteed to leave Houston for the Atlanta Falcons. Robinson, though, was recently cut after a nondescript 2012 campaign.
Because he was released, Robinson could immediately sign elsewhere as opposed to pending free agents who must wait until Tuesday before hitting the market.
The Chiefs didn’t sufficiently address their secondary last season after cornerback Brandon Carr left to Dallas via free agency. A Twitter posting by Indianapolis cornerback Vontae Davis stated that Sean Smith, his former Miami Dolphins teammate, was drawing interest from Kansas City. Smith and Davis then both denied that was the case.
The Chiefs now seem unlikely to bid for Smith, who is expected to draw robust free-agent interest with the Dolphins not strongly attempting to re-sign him. The same goes for the potential selection of Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft. — Alex Marvez
Cardinals give tender to Hoyer?
Hours after the Miami Dolphins opted to re-sign veteran backup Matt Moore with a 2-year, $8 million dollar deal, the Arizona Cardinals have given a second round tender to journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. After spending multiple seasons backing up Tom Brady in New England, Hoyer was surprisingly released by the Patriots during training camp last August. He spent most of the season waiting for the phone to ring, signed with the Steelers in December, was cut after three games, and finished the year by playing in two games for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals were impressed enough with those two performances that they gave him the second round tender, meaning he’ll make $2.02 million in 2013. The league’s 31 other teams have the right to offer Hoyer more money, but have to give up their second round selection to acquire him.
In a free agent quarterback class that now features less than dazzling names like David Garrard, Rex Grossman, and Brady Quinn — Hoyer is an intriguing option. He’s still just 27-years-old, he soaked up great knowledge for years in that Patriots quarterbacks room, and he’s a smart, capable veteran. Arizona has still not announced whether it will keep starter Kevin Kolb on the books, set to make $13.5 million next season.
Don’t be shocked if another team comes in and takes a swing for the fences with Hoyer. With a less-than-stellar quarterback draft class ahead of us, he becomes an even more viable option. — Peter Schrager
Bears’ Melton accepts franchise tender
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton has accepted the Chicago Bears’ $8.45 million tender after being hit with the franchise player tag.
Melton’s agent Jordan Woy posted on Twitter that they will still try to negotiate a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline. The Bears placed the franchise tag on Melton on March 1.
The 26-year-old Melton made his first Pro Bowl last season, tying for third among defensive tackles with six sacks while forcing two fumbles. — AP
Veterans on the chopping block
Even with a slew of veterans cut through Friday afternoon, the bloodletting isn’t quite over yet as NFL teams prepare for the start of Tuesday’s free-agent signing period.
Here’s a quick look at five big-name players whose release is either imminent or expected to happen without agreeing to restructured contracts:
1. Pittsburgh outside linebacker James Harrison: As the Steelers deal with a salary-cap crisis (again), USA Today reports that Harrison is on the verge of being whacked unless he agrees to a pay cut from his scheduled $6.57 million base salary. Harrison is 35 years old and struggled with injuries in 2012, which helped limit him to only six sacks. Harrison would have appeal elsewhere as a short-term fix at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Jason Worilds, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, would likely assume Harrison’s starting spot.
2. Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha: This isn’t a matter of if but when. Multiple media reports say Asomugha is set for release after failing to reach agreement on a restructured contract. Once considered the NFL’s best cornerback while with Oakland, Asomugha was a major free-agent flop after signing a five-year, $60 million contract with $25 million guaranteed to join the Eagles in 2011. Asomugha will join what already is a crowded market of free-agent cornerbacks. Read more — Alex Marvez
Spencer, Melton sign tenders
Two of the eight veterans designated as franchise players by their respective teams have already decided to sign their tender offers.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton will soon be inking one-year contracts with their respective teams, agent Jordan Woy said Friday afternoon in a Twitter posting.
Spencer was tagged for a second consecutive year by the Cowboys after notching 11 sacks in 2012. Set to earn $10.6 million this season, Spencer will be converting to defensive end in the 4-3 scheme being installed by new coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Melton is coming off his best season with the Bears, emerging as one of the NFL’s top interior pass rushers. His franchise-tag salary will be $8.5 million. Read more — Alex Marvez
Broncos part ways with FB Gronkowski
Chris Gronkowski became an unrestricted free agent after the Denver Broncos declined to issue a contract tender to the third-year fullback.
The Broncos tendered running back Lance Ball, punter Britton Colquitt and backup offensive tackle Chris Clark. The Broncos also issued contract tenders to defensive tackle Mitch Unrein and cornerback Tony Carter as exclusive rights free agents who can’t negotiate with other teams.
The Broncos obtained Gronkowski, the brother of Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, in a trade from the Indianapolis Colts for defensive back Cassius Vaughn last spring.
Gronkowski had one reception for 11 yards and no rushes last season. — AP
Ravens cut Williams
The Baltimore Ravens have terminated the contract of guard Bobbie Williams, who played in all four playoff games for the Super Bowl champions.
The 36-year-old Williams played 13 regular-season games with Baltimore after signing as a free agent before the 2012 season. The 13-year veteran played previously for Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome says, ”Bobbie is first-class in every way. … We thank him for helping us win the championship.” — AP
San Diego cuts ties with Bigby
The Chargers announced that they have released Atari Bigby.
The safety started 11 games in 2012 before going down with a groin injury and landing on injured reserve. The seven-year veteran finished the season with 79 tackles, which was good enough for fourth on the team.
Bengals keep two special teams pieces
Two down, one more to go for Darrin Simmons.
The Bengals re-signed punter Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris Friday, keeping two big pieces of their special teams off of the free agent market.
The Bengals and Simmons, their special teams coordinator, were looking at the possibility of having all of their specialists being unrestricted free agents when free agency officially begins next Tuesday but now the team can focus its attention on retaining one of its two kickers, Mike Nugent and Josh Brown.
Nugent, who set a club record with 132 points in 2011, had 92 points last season, including making 19-of-23 field goals, before a calf injury sidelined him in December. Brown replaced him and went on to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors. It was Brown’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining that gave the Bengals a 13-10 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 23 and clinched their second consecutive playoff berth. Read more — FOX Sports Ohio
Ross out in Jacksonville
Seven months ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars rallied around cornerback Aaron Ross as his wife competed at the Olympics.
Ross has now seen the finish line of his time with the franchise.
The Jaguars announced Ross’ release Friday just one season after he signed a three-year, $9.8 million contract to leave the New York Giants. Dawan Landry, who started all 32 games at strong for Jacksonville the past two years, also was cut as the Jaguars head in a different direction defensively under new head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell.
Ross, a 2007 first-round pick by the New York Giants, failed to make much of an impact during his time in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are in the process of overhauling their secondary and have also informed cornerback Rashean Mathis that he won’t be re-signed after 10 seasons with the franchise.
Ross left Jaguars training camp last August to see his wife Sanya Richards-Ross compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Jaguars players watched on video screens inside EverBank Field as Richards-Ross won a gold medal in the 400-meter dash. — Alex Marvez
Cardinals cut bait with Wilson
Adrian Wilson, a 12-year NFL veteran safety, was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. A salary cap casualty, the 33-year-old Wilson was set to cost Arizona $4.125 million on the salary cap in 2013. After starting the season out 4-0, the Cardinals limped to a 5-11 finish to the 2012 regular season. Wilson, a 5-time Pro Bowl selection and a 4-time NFL All-Pro with the Cardinals, saw his playing time diminish towards the end of the 2012 campaign with safety Rashad Johnson getting increased action in the lineup.
Wilson enters a free agent safety pool that is already deep with veteran names like William Moore, LaRon Landry, Ed Reed, and Kenny Phillips.
In 12 seasons in Arizona, the popular Wilson recorded 893 tackles and intercepted 27 passes. In a December loss to the Lions, he recorded a sack, making him just the sixth player in NFL history to record at least 25 interceptions and 25 sacks in an NFL career. He holds the Cardinals franchise record for forced fumbles with 15.
Looking to shave salary cap space, Arizona could be looking at their costly quarterback, Kevin Kolb, next. — Peter Schrager
Jets still very much a mess
He is a 10-year New York Jets veteran, a locker-room leader and one of the NFL’s highest-graded offensive linemen set to hit free agency.
New York’s scant interest in re-signing right guard Brandon Moore speaks more about the sorry state of the franchise than the player himself.
Admitting he hasn’t had “a lot of contact with the Jets surprisingly” this offseason, Moore is resigned to leaving the only NFL team he has ever known as New York begins the rebuilding process under new general manager John Idzik. Appearing with me and co-host Solomon Wilcots on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Moore said he spoke with Idzik for the first time earlier this week and “we really didn’t get into any (contract) specifics.”
“I don’t know where they are or how they feel about me,” Moore said Thursday night. “I know they’re going through a lot of changes and have a lot of situations going on, but I’m really looking forward to free agency. I think what I add to a locker room and position group on the offensive line is something a team can take advantage of.” Read more — Alex Marvez
Browns await free agent frenzy
At this point it’s all immaterial. The Browns have $45 million in salary cap room and they either can’t, won’t or were told not to expend any of it on a veteran leader.
Where will the money go?
Well some will go to a kicker. And a punter to replace Reggie Hodges.
Need would point to a cornerback opposite Joe Haden and 3-4 outside linebackers.
Lots of rumors have the Browns interested in Baltimore outside pass rusher Paul Kruger. The rumors make sense, given it’s a need and it would weaken a division rival. Read more — FOX Sports Ohio
Dolphins sign Moore, but which QBs are left?
Quarterback Matt Moore has reportedly opted to re-sign with the Miami Dolphins prior to the start of the free agent signing period on Tuesday. Moore’s deal, a reported 2-year, $8 million agreement, marks a significant raise from the 2-year, $5 million deal he signed with Miami two years ago.
The 2013 free agent quarterback class is not particularly strong. Moore, who didn’t start a single game for the Dolphins in 2012, was viewed as one of the top names on the list of available signal callers. His signing leaves journeymen veterans like Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Drew Stanton, Brady Quinn, and David Garrard as the “top” names available.
Another journeyman, Arizona Cardinals restricted free agent Brian Hoyer, could fetch more money than expected come March 12th. Of course, quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel, and Kevin Kolb could all be released this off-season. Any of those names would be the top free agent available at the position.
Moore’s re-signing comes hours after the Dolphins made what Alex Marvez reported on Tuesday official, inking wide receiver Brian Hartline to a reported 5 year, $31 million deal. Moore appeared in two games last season, completing 11 of 18 pass attempts.
The Dolphins went 7-9 in 2012. They still have roughly $28 million in salary cap space at their disposal. — Peter Schrager
Panthers say goodbye to veteran
The Carolina Panthers found a way to get under the NFL’s $123 million salary cap: Long-time starting cornerback Chris Gamble was cut Friday morning.
The news was expected because the Panthers needed to create cap room and Gamble’s release cleared $7.9 million. Carolina saved another $2.5 million earlier this week when jettisoning defensive tackle Ron Edwards.
A 2004 first-round draft pick, Gamble is the franchise-record holder in interceptions (27) and games started by a cornerback (117). He was limited to four starts in 2012 because of a shoulder injury.
Gamble, who turns 30 on March 11, joins what is becoming a deep field of pending free-agent cornerbacks that includes Miami’s Sean Smith, New England’s Aqib Talib and Philadelphia’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Eagles also are expected to cut cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha before Tuesday’s start to the free-agent signing period.
While Gamble’s release provides cap relief, the Panthers will need to find a capable replacement. Captain Munnerlyn, who started 25 games the past two seasons and is a strong special-teams contributor, is a pending unrestricted free agent as well. No other cornerback on Carolina’s roster has more than two years of NFL experience.
In 2008, Gamble was signed to a six-year, $53.5 million contract that included $23 million in guaranteed money. Gamble was slated to earn a $7.9 million base salary in 2013. — Alex Marvez
Hartline given new contract
The Miami Dolphins have signed wide receiver Brian Hartline to a five-year deal, reportedly worth $30.8 million ($12.5M guaranteed).
Hartline, the Dolphins’ fourth-round pick in 2009, had the best season of his career in 2012 — despite missing offseason and preseason workouts due to an emergency appendectomy and a calf injury — catching 74 passes for 1,083. He became just the eighth receiver in Dolphins history to surpass 1,000 yards in a season.
He set a franchise record with 253 yards receiving in a Week 4 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Read more — FOX Sports Florida