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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
7-time All-Pro lineman Hutchinson retiring — 11:55 p.m. ET
As first reported by Fox NFL Sunday insider Jay Glazer via Twitter, seven-time All-Pro offensive guard Steve Hutchinson is retiring from the NFL. A 12-year veteran, Hutchinson played for the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings before finishing his career with the Tennessee Titans in 2012.
Hutchinson texted Glazer late Monday evening, indicating that he was waiting to see how his knee, injured 13 games into the 2012 campaign, was faring before calling it a career. He retires as one of the greatest to ever play offensive guard.
Hutchinson was scheduled to make a base salary of $4.75 million in 2013, and had a $500,000 bonus. Retiring now, as opposed to later in the off-season, could aid the Titans in the free-agency signing period that starts Tuesday.
Hutchinson, a unanimous first-team All-American at the University of Michigan in 2000, was one of the few offensive guards taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Selected by Seattle with the 17th pick in 2001, he was an All-Pro seven years straight, from 2003 to 2009. He was a key member of the decorated offensive line in Seattle during the early 2000’s and started at guard in Super Bowl XL, his only Super Bowl appearance.
A restricted free agent in 2006, Hutchinson was signed by the Vikings over the offseason and earned All-Pro honors in his first four seasons with the team. Known around the league as “Hutch”, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native started the first 157 games of his NFL career.
There’d been widespread speculation about Hutchinson’s NFL future since the end of last season. He signed a three-year deal with Tennessee prior to the start of the 2012 campaign, but suffered a devastating knee injury vs. the Houston Texans in Week 13. At a luncheon last week, Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Hutchinson’s teammate in both Tennessee and Seattle, told reporters, “He’s been kind of in the group of guys I’ve been working out with. He’s been working out really hard.”
“I know for him, the position he plays is so physical that it’s going to be one of those situations where (he says), ‘Are they going to work with me?’ — that kind of thing,” Hasselbeck said. “I would assume that played a part in his coming here to Tennessee, knowing you’ve got a head coach in Mike Munchak who understands what it’s like to play the position and what it takes to be successful. Sometimes you have people that don’t help you take care of your body and be your best on Sundays. But if there was any team he would play for, it would be (the Titans) I’m sure.”
Hutchinson is 35 years old. He’ll be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2017. — Peter Schrager
Fallout from Cruz's first-round tender -- 7:30 p.m. ET
Here are the basics:
• The Giants have the right of first refusal. If another team offers Cruz anything — anything — the Giants have the right to match that offer. Due to the new CBA, signed in 2011, New York has up to 5 full days to match.
• If Cruz is offered a long-term deal by another team and the Giants opt not to match it, the Giants will receive that team’s 2013 first round pick. On top of giving up a first round pick, a team would have to ink Cruz to the new, lucrative deal. Vincent Jackson signed a 5-year, $55.5 million deal a season ago. Brian Hartline inked a reported 5 year, $31 million deal late last week. Cruz’s expected new salary would likely be somewhere between those two endpoints. A team would have to be willing to a) give up their first round pick, and b) step up with a new contract. Read more -- Peter Schrager
Jets sign Garrard -- 6:10 p.m. ET
Garrard, 35, hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL game since the 2010 season. He was expected to battle for the Dolphins starting quarterback job in last August, but saw that fight cut short due to a knee injury suffered in training camp. He was ultimately released by Miami and not picked up by any other teams.
A New Jersey native, Garrard was confident about his workout with the Jets and was quite public about his desire to join Gang Green a week ago.
"I definitely think it's the ideal situation," Garrard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last Thursday. "It was a great workout. Every drill they had me do, I did great in. I felt like my old self again. They loved what they saw." Read more -- Peter Schrager
Giants place tender on Cruz -- 5:56 p.m. ET
The New York Giants are allowing Victor Cruz to enter restricted free agency, placing a first-round tender on the wide receiver.
Team owner John Mara said Monday the Giants will risk having Cruz agree to a contract with another club. New York has the right to match any offer. If the Giants allow him to leave, they will get a first-round draft choice as compensation.
The tender is worth $2.879 million for 2012 for Cruz, who has not made half of that in his three pro seasons. But Cruz believes he can earn more on the open market.
''We hope that at some point we'll be able to reach a long-term agreement with him, but we're just not there right now,'' Mara said. ''Certainly we're taking a risk, but we would still have the right to match, No. 1. And if we decided not to do that, we're getting a first-round draft pick out of it. So, yeah, it is a risk for us and he is an exciting, dynamic player and it's not going to shock me if he gets an offer.'' Read more -- AP
Cardinals let Beanie Wells go -- 5:35 p.m. ET
The Cardinals continued their roster purge Monday by releasing running back Beanie Wells, the team's first-round pick in 2009 who started 23 games in his career but was slowed by numerous injuries.
The 24-year-old Wells played in eight games last year, starting seven, while dealing with knee and turf-toe issues and finished with just 234 yards on 88 carries. He was also benched after a fumble in the Cardinals' loss to the Bears in their home finale. That came after a career year in 2011, when Wells ran for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns on 245 carries while playing through a knee injury.
Wells also had knee problems in 2010, when an injury the team called a bruise was later revealed to be a torn meniscus that required surgery. In his four years with the Cardinals, Wells played in 51 games -- missing multiple games in all but his rookie year, when he missed part of training camp due to an ankle injury but finished with 793 yards while splitting time with Tim Hightower -- and had a cumulative 2,471 yards and 24 touchdowns. Read more -- FOX Sports Arizona
Broncos cut Williams -- 5:12 p.m. ET
The nine-year tenure of linebacker D.J. Williams in Denver is over.
Williams was released Monday by the Broncos, NFL Network first reported.
A 2004 first-round pick from the University of Miami, Williams started 114 of a possible 128 games for the Broncos in his first eight seasons. Williams, though, played in only seven games with one start in 2012 because of a nine-game suspension under the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The Broncos saved $6 million under the salary cap by releasing the 30-year-old Williams. -- Alex Marvez
Ravens trade Boldin to 49ers -- 5:01 p.m. ET
Boldin will now be wearing a 49ers jersey in 2013.
The Baltimore Sun first reported that the Ravens agreed to trade Boldin to San Francisco for a 2013 sixth-round pick. Boldin must first pass a physical for the deal to get completed.
As first reported Saturday by FOXSports.com, the Ravens asked Boldin to take a pay cut from his $6 million salary for 2013 or he would get released.
Boldin caught six passes for 104 yards and one touchdown in Baltimore’s 34-31 Super Bowl win over San Francisco. He was one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets during the postseason, especially in third-down situations. Read more -- Alex Marvez
49ers sign Williams -- 3 p.m. ET
The San Francisco 49ers have signed nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract extension.
San Francisco signed Williams as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in July 2011. He has seven tackles in four games over the past two seasons.
The 23-year-old Williams is a native of Altamonte Springs, Fla. He had 161 tackles, two interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks in 45 games for the Fighting Irish. -- AP
Cowboys release Connor -- 2:40 p.m. ET
The Dallas Cowboys have until 3 p.m. Tuesday to get below the NFL salary-cap ceiling of $123 million and are on Monday taking steps to do so with the release of backup linebacker Dan Connor (saving $3 million) and the restructuring of the contract of defensive back Orlando Scandrick.
The major focus at Valley Ranch is the extension of quarterback Tony Romo, which would offer huge relief from his $16.8 million cap impact – maybe cutting that in half. Dallas is also working on a long-term deal with defensive end Anthony Spencer, who was franchise-tagged last week.
Recently, the team cut safety Gerald Sensabaugh and restructured the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Brandon Carr, Jason Witten, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ryan Cook. Doing so dropped them under the ceiling until they tagged Spencer. Read more -- FOX Sports Southwest
Redskins cut ties with Hall -- 2:20 p.m. ET
Hall was cut Monday by the Redskins, who are over the cap because of an $18 million sanction for the way they structured contracts during the 2010 uncapped season.
Hall had two years remaining on the six-year, $54 million deal he signed at the end of the 2008 season. He was due to make $7.5 million in salary in 2013.
The talkative Hall was a thorough mix of big plays and blown coverages in his 4 1/2 seasons in Washington. The 29-year-old cornerback had four interceptions last season for a defense that ranked 30th in the league against the pass. -- AP
Glazer: Harvin traded to Seahawks -- 1:17 p.m. ET
The Seahawks and Vikings have agreed to a trade that would send wide receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle for draft picks pending he passes a physical, FOXSports.com has learned.
Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, has been adamant about an extension, but the Vikings looked to cut bait on the premier talent.
Seattle seemed like an ideal landing spot as Harvin has worked with Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who coached Harvin in Minnesota during his rookie season. Read more
Broncos keep Bruton -- 11:15 p.m. ET
Bruton has been the team's top special teams player since the Broncos selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Notre Dame.
On Monday morning, Bruton tweeted, ''Still a Bronco! Deals done! Blessed to continue a career in the NFL.''
The Broncos also are trying to re-sign defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson before he hits free agency and they've asked defensive end Elvis Dumervil to take a pay cut. If not, he'll be traded or released before Saturday when his $12 million salary for 2013 becomes guaranteed. Dumervil is also due $10 million in 2014 and $8 million in 2015. -- AP
Source: Giants land DT Jenkins -- 11:15 a.m. ET
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has signed a three-year contract with the New York Giants, a person with knowledge of the deal said Sunday.
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. -- AP