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2016 NFL Free Agency Legal Tampering Starts Today

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What is "legal tampering" and what are the Rams doing about it?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We're here. The 2016 NFL Free Agency period is upon us.

Starting at 12pm ET today, the "legal tampering" period begins, and with it (behind the scenes and perhaps unreportedly) a flurry of activity that will begin to shape the rosters of all 32 teams heading into the draft.

Per the official NFL Calendar, here's what begins today with the "legal tampering" window:

Beginning at 12 noon, New York time, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2015 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9.

So the key here is that only unrestricted free agents are available for tampering. Per a memo obtained by Pro Football Talk:

Teams cannot execute an NFL contract, execute an agreement in principle or other similar document, announce that an agreement in principle or other similar agreement has been reached, or reach agreement on any undisclosed terms. Also, teams cannot make travel arrangements with a prospective free agent before the launch of free agency, at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

So what can they do? Talk to agents. And while the two sides can't reach an agreement in principle that can be documented (emphasis mine), there's nothing really stopping a verbal agreement from being reached between a team and a player's agent.

This only applies to teams under a contract that expires on Wednesday, not to players who have been released outright like DE Chris Long, MLB James Laurinaitis or TE Jared Cook who were all released last month or those who voided their contracts like Browns C Alex Mack.

So while the Rams will be out shopping to fill some needs, it's also worth keeping an eye on who is still under contract that might be talking to other teams as well. Here's the list of the 11 Rams set to hit free agency as UFAs on Wednesday:

Name POS Exp (w/ Rams) Age 2015 Salary
Tim Barnes C 4 (4) 27 $660,000
Mark Barron SS 4 (2) 26 $2,362,704
Nick Fairley DT 5 (1) 27 $2,500,000
Cory Harkey FB/TE 4 (4) 25 $1,542,000
William Hayes DE 8 (4) 30 $3,105,000
Janoris Jenkins CB 4 (4) 27 $660,000
Rodney McLeod FS 4 (4) 25 $2,356,000
Brian Quick WR 4 (4) 26 $1,124,536
Eugene Sims DE 6 (6) 29 $1,900,000
Wes Welker WR 12 (1) 34 $456,470
Greg Zuerlein K 4 (4) 28 $691,102

CB Trumaine Johnson was headed toward UFA status as well, but the Rams used a franchise tag on him last week keeping him around for 2016.

So at noon today, we're heading into the mix.

Let the tampering begin!