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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
Report: Giants reach agreement with DT Jenkins — 11 p.m. ET
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Giants haven't announced the agreement, told The Associated Press that the two sides had reached a deal. It covers three years and is worth $8 million, $3.15 million guaranteed, with a $2 million signing bonus.
Free agents can't get new contracts until March 12, but Jenkins had no such restriction because he had been cut by Philadelphia.
The Giants, who missed the playoffs in 2012 after winning the Super Bowl the previous season, finished 31st in defense last season. They have cut veteran tackle Chris Canty and linebacker Michael Boley and reworked the contracts of cornerback Corey Webster and center David Baas, opening an additional $5 million in cap space.
The signing of the 32-year-old Jenkins gives the Giants a run stopper to play in the middle with Linval Joseph.
Jenkins had signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Eagles in 2011 and started every game the last two seasons. The brother of Kris Jenkins spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career with Green Bay.
—The Associated Press
Bengals re-sign veteran K Nugent
No terms of the deal were announced Sunday.
A nine-year veteran, Nugent has been with the Bengals for three seasons. A calf injury kept him out of the team's last four games of 2012 and its playoff loss to Houston.
In 2011, Nugent set a Bengals records for points with 132 and field goals with 33 in one season. He tied a Cincinnati record with a 55-yard field goal against Oakland last season.
Nugent has made 83.8 percent of his field goals as a Bengal, the second-best career percentage in club history.
—The Associated Press
'Skins lock up long snapper — 5:30 p.m. ET
Long snapper Nick Sundberg has agreed to a four-year deal to remain with the Washington Redskins.
Sundberg on Sunday became the fifth Redskins player in two days to get a new contract and avoid free agency.
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger signed a five-year contract, fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen each got three-year deals, and linebacker Rob Jackson also reached terms to stay with the reigning NFC East champs.
Sundberg has played three seasons in Washington and was set to become a restricted free agent when the free agent market formally opens Tuesday. He broke his left arm in the first half of last year's season opener but returned for the final seven games as well as the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
—The Associated Press
Titans have eye on Bills' Levitre — 12:27 p.m. ET
The most attractive free-agent guard could soon be playing under a head coach who made the Hall of Fame at the position
Levitre, 26, graded out well last season in his fourth consecutive year as a 16-game starter in Buffalo. The Bills wanted to keep him but opted to use their franchise tag instead on safety Jairus Byrd, paving the way for Levitre to hit the free-agent market that opens at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The Titans are seeking to upgrade their interior offensive line under head coach Mike Munchak, who became a Hall of Fame guard after playing for the Houston Oilers from 1982 to 1993.
Tennessee’s current left guard is Steve Hutchinson, who is set to earn a $4.75 million base salary in 2013 with a $500,000 roster bonus. If Levitre were signed, there is the chance that the 34-year-old Hutchinson would be released.
— Alex Marvez
What's next for Abraham? — 10:16 a.m. ET
The NFL’s active leader in sacks probably won’t be out of work much longer.
Defensive end/outside linebacker John Abraham has taken free-agent visits with Seattle and San Francisco following his recent release by the Atlanta Falcons. Profootballtalk.com reported that New Orleans and Tennessee could be his next stops with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also showing interest in a 13-year veteran with 122 career sacks.
Here is a look at how the 34-year-old Abraham would fit with all five franchises:
Seattle: Because of the lousy playing surface at Fed-Ex Field, the Seahawks lost top pass-rusher Chris Clemons to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in January’s first-round playoff win over Washington. Clemons is expected to make a full recovery but it’s too early to tell whether he’ll be completely healthy by the start of the regular season. Abraham has experience playing the hybrid LEO position (outside linebacker/defensive end) that ex-Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley says suits the athletic Clemons to a T. Abraham also would serve to bolster the outside pass rush in rotation with Clemons and 2012 rookie standout Bruce Irvin.
San Francisco: Three of San Francisco’s top defenders (Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks) were banged up entering the postseason. Aldon Smith didn’t have a sack in San Francisco’s final six games after notching 19.5 through Week 15. The decline stems from a shoulder injury as well as the torn triceps that limited Justin Smith’s effectiveness in paving lanes to the quarterback for his teammates. Abraham would join Aldon Smith and Brooks as a trio of pass-rushing threats at outside linebacker.
New Orleans: The Saints are switching to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan. Junior Galette, who was re-signed to a three-year contract Saturday, is being converted from defensive end to man one of the outside linebacker positions. The other OLB spot is up for grabs, although Abraham might not be ideally suited as an every-down starter at this point in his NFL career.
Tennessee: The Titans notched 39 sacks last season, but adding depth at defensive end would be attractive. Derrick Morgan (6.5 sacks) and Kamerion Wimbley (6) led Tennessee’s pass rush in 2012 after the team failed to make a successful run at signing Mario Williams in free agency.
Tampa Bay: Defensive end Michael Bennett appears headed for free agency after a nine-sack season in 2012. Tampa Bay has the salary cap room to re-sign Bennett so either the Bucs knows something that interested suitors don’t or have made a poor talent evaluation. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers were Tampa Bay’s first- and second-round draft picks in 2011. Clayborn is coming off a season-ending knee injury; Bowers was arrested this offseason in Queens, N.Y. for bringing a loaded gun to the airport. Abraham would provide insurance in case there are issues with either player and serve as a nice complement off the bench in pass-rushing situations.
— Alex Marvez