Football Basics – The Combine

Football Basics: NFL Combine

What is the NFL scouting combine?

Short answer: Large athletic men running around in tight clothes.

Longer answer: An annual event held by the NFL to evaluate top league prospects. Affectionately referred to as the “Underwear Olympics,” the NFL combine is an opportunity for college athletes to impress NFL personnel through a series of physical and mental tests.

Today we’re answering some of your basic questions about the combine so that when you see pictures of large men in tight clothes, you know what just went down.

 

Where is the combine held?

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Eventually it will be moved to Los Angeles.

 

Who goes to the NFL combine?

Typically about 335 of college football’s best athletes. The combine is invite-only and participants are determined by a selection committee that votes on each player. Some players with injury concerns choose not to attend.

 

What kind of physical tests do the players go through?

The 40-yard dash, the bench press, the vertical jump, the broad jump, 3 cone drill, the shuttle run, and position-specific drills. The players are also physically measured and undergo drug screenings and physical evaluations.

 

What else do the combine participants go through?

Team interviews – Each team gets 15 minutes with up to 60 participants. Each participant can have up to 15 interviews. Coaches and team management put participants through the ringer, asking questions about everything from their performances in college games to their personal lives. (Jenny Vrentas of MMQB gives us an insider’s view of one of these interviews in this post.) Players also take the Wonderlic test, which is an intelligence test used to test their aptitude for problem-solving.

 

What is it like to participate in the combine?

Obviously, I don’t have a personal experience to share here, but here’s a really great first-hand account from The Players’ Tribune.

 

Does participating in the combine guarantee a player will be drafted?

No. In fact, sometimes a poor combine performance can hurt a player’s chances of being drafted. About 250 players are drafted each year, so if you do the math, there will definitely not be enough draft spots to go around for all the combine participants.

 

What’s the future of the combine?

Lots of people question how well combine activities predict a player’s future success in the NFL. For instance, the 40-yard dash probably means less for an offensive lineman than it does for a running back due to the nature of the position. Many teams place more weight on college performance and interviews than the combine’s physical tests.

 

What else goes on at the combine?

There are lots of press conferences by coaches/GMs/team personnel types, in addition to behind-the-scenes schmoozing and talks with agents of players.

 

What’s The Snap’s take on the combine?

Eh, take it or leave it. The meat market feel is a bit of a turnoff and no one really wants to see some of those linemen in tiny tight UnderArmour. Sports media hypes it up too much because their news cycle is pretty slow this time of year for the NFL. We understand how aspects of the combine would be really helpful for teams in their decision-making, especially the interview time, but we’re not seeing any of that stuff on camera.

 

For more info about the combine, check out this site and this site, both of which I used to help write this post. 

– Michelle

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2015 Fantasy Football Year-End Summary

Hi Mom…and hi to other Snap readers who have been anxiously waiting for our return from our unplanned hiatus. There was a lot that happened over the last month in the NFL – the regular season came to an end, new coaches got hired, existing coaches got fired (Chip Kelly! Did anyone see that coming before the last game of the season? NOT US) and St. Louis lost its football team. Just like the Rams in LA, we’re baaaaack and just in time for the start of the playoffs. Yay football.

(I promise you – there is a point to this post, but first I’m going to ramble. I figure it’s the best way to get you caught up on the last month and get the writing juices flowing.)

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and the conclusion of the 2015 NFL season. Our holidays were great, thanks for asking. Admittedly, they would have been better if we both didn’t get sick. We both became “one with the couch” for a few days before Christmas and it sucked. Not only did it interfere with our motivation to blog, but it also interrupted our holiday baking plans. Is it really Christmas if you don’t have Christmas cookies? I’m not quite sure it is.

We got to catch up on some movies (Jurassic World – awesome. Mad Max – terrifying and confusing and weirdly empowering at the end.) We enjoyed not having to look at our computer screens for hours a day. We watched a few football games and some us were able to finish our fantasy football seasons on a high note.

Generally speaking, people don’t care about any fantasy football team but their own. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to zone out when people are talking about their latest waiver wire pickup unless there’s an opportunity for me to jump into the conversation and talk about my own fantasy team. (The firm exception to this rule is my mother’s fantasy team. We’re all emotionally invested in the success of her fantasy team. She is not a happy camper unless she is dominating the poor unsuspecting souls in her league. Life is just easier when she’s got a winning record.)

Now that I’ve established that you probably don’t care about other people’s fantasy teams, I’m going to tell you all about the fantasy results for our family.

  • Our mom won her fantasy league again this year with her team, Wilfork You Up. Not only did she win, but she dominated the finals with a season-high number of points. This year she displayed some mad draft skills and had some impressive pickups early in the season that paid dividends later. (Her fantasy intuition, as well as her smack-talk, are reasons why I will not be in a league with her.)
  • Our brother was in the same league as mom (glutton for punishment that child is) and he didn’t do quite as well. Actually, he probably wouldn’t want me to share just how far behind our mom he finished, so I won’t.
  • Val didn’t have a fantasy team, but I’m going to give her the GM of the year award for helping Momma O manage her team. Thank goodness you didn’t screw up too badly or else you might have been looking for new fantasy football employment on Black Monday.
  • I was only in three leagues this year.
    • We’re going to skip going into too much detail about the one I did with some college friends, as it was the worst performance I have ever had in a fantasy league. Completely mortifying. Where’s my cone of shame?
    • I made it to the semi-finals in my work league and finished in 4th place overall, which wasn’t terrible considering the number of injuries I dealt with (and by that I mean injuries the real life players dealt with) and the large number of people in the league.
    • For research purposes, I joined a Battle Red fantasy league. Battle Red is the Texans women’s fan club. I’m happy to report that I won that league and I will be receiving an autographed picture of a Texans player in the mail to recognize my accomplishment. Booyah.

Speaking of fantasy football results, our Weekly Pick ‘Em Challenge is continuing through the playoffs. While Val and I are secretly competitive and enjoy sitting on top of the leaderboard, we realize that this is not a good way to make friends or get people to join our league in the future. I would promise to not try as hard next year, but realistically that won’t happen. Here are the standings as of the wild card weekend:

Weekly Pick 'Em 2015 - Wild Card

We’ll try to be better about blogging through the playoffs. Let us know what you want us to write about in the comments below and we’ll do our best to give the people what they want.

– Michelle

Join The Snap’s 2015 Weekly Pick ‘Em League!

Weekly Pick 'Em 2015

Can you believe the start of the 2015 NFL season is FINALLY here? We’re freakin’ out here at Snap headquarters.

Seriously, we can’t find our chill. I repeat, our chill is nowhere to be found.

In order to celebrate the 2015 NFL season kickoff (Steelers at Patriots this Thursday, September 9 at 8:30pm EST), we are giving all of our Snappers (a.k.a. readers of this blog) the chance to win some free swag. All you have to do to be eligible is join our free Weekly Pick ‘Em league on NFL.com.

Weekly Pick ‘Em is like fantasy football 101 – all you have to do is pick the teams you think will win each each week. At the end of the season, the person (or maybe people depending on the total participation) with the most correct picks will be crowned winner of the league.

Easy, right?

You will need to create an account on NFL.com. If you’re worried about the time commitment, you shouldn’t be. Unless you agonize over your picks, it will take you less than 2 minutes each week. Worrying about forgetting to enter picks is a non-issue since you will receive a weekly email reminder from NFL.com.

We’re not sure what the prizes will be yet, but they will be good – like something legit that will get shipped in a box to you.

The league is open to everyone, so feel free to tell your boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, brother, sister, coworker you like, coworker you hate, physical therapist, babysitter, elderly neighbor, dog groomer, person who grooms your elderly neighbor, priest, and/or laser hair removal technician about our league.

Soooo….what are you waiting for? Click here to join our Weekly Pick ‘Em league on NFL.com!

– Michelle and Val

Football Basics – The Defense

Football Basics Defense

The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. The 1985 Chicago Bears. The 1971 Minnesota Vikings.

What do these teams have in common?

Besides probably rocking some questionable fashion choices off the field, they were all known for their defense. Hard-hitting, offense-frustrating, big boy, go-cry-to-yo-momma defense. Yeah, baby.

Surprise! Today we’re talking defense. This post is to help you recognize who is who on the field.

The defense is responsible for stopping the offense from scoring. What makes them so interesting is that their job is completely reactionary. What they do (formation and personnel-wise) is determined by how the opposing team’s offense lines up.

These are the dudes that make up the defense:

Defensive Lineman – The big boys lined up directly across from the offensive line. They weigh an average of about 300 lbs. These guys usually start a play with one hand on the ground (3-point stance).

  • Defensive tackle (DT) – Defensive tackles are on the inside of the defensive line. They stop running plays at the line of scrimmage and if they can break through the offensive line, have a direct shot at tackling the quarterback. Famous defensive tackles you might recognize include Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Dontari Poe.
    • Nose tackle (NT) – If you only have three guys on your defensive line, the one tackle in the middle is called a nose tackle. Generally speaking, the largest man on the defense. Vince Wilfork is a nose tackle.
  • Defensive end (DE) – These guys stand at the end of the defensive line. Their job is to rush the passer (a.k.a. quarterback) or to stop running plays from going out to the side. Famous defensive ends that you might recognize include J.J. Watt, Julius Peppers, Chandler Jones, Mario Williams, and Robert Quinn.

Defensive linemen can have jersey numbers 60-79 and 90-99.

Here’s a crazy video showing how strong these guys are:

Linebacker (LB) – Linebackers stand behind the defensive line. Yes, they stand in back of the line, hence the name. They can rush the passer, defend against runners, and also cover receivers. They’re quite busy.

  • Middle linebacker (MLB) – Also known as the inside linebacker, the middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. He is often the defensive player with a mic in his helmet, receiving play calls from the sideline and communicating them to the rest of the defense, making adjustments as needed.
  • Outside linebacker (OLB) – The job of the outside linebacker varies depending on the formation. If he is lined up across from the tight end, he’s a strong outside linebacker. If he’s on other side, he’s considered a weak outside linebacker.

Linebackers can have jersey numbers 50-59 and 90-99. Famous linebackers you might recognize include Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, Jerod Mayo, and Kiko Alonso.

Training camp defense NFL

Defensive back (DB) – Also known as the secondary, these guys stand behind the linebackers or on the sides of the field. Their primary job is to defend against the passing game (wide receivers and sometimes tight ends).

  • Cornerback (CB) – What they do depends on whether they are playing zone or man-to-man coverage (post coming soon on the differences!), but at the end of the day, they try to prevent wide receivers from making catches. Famous cornerbacks you might recognize include Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Joe Haden, Richard Sherman, and Patrick Peterson.
  • Safety (S) – They line up in the backfield, farthest away from the ball. They are considered the last line of defense and it’s up to them to prevent “go long” big plays. Famous safeties you might recognize include Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Troy Polamalu, Devin McCourty, and Eric Berry.
    • Strong safety (SS) – He is usually the bigger safety and will line up on the strong side (the side where the offense has a tight end), and closer to the line of scrimmage.
    • Free safety (FS) – He is usually the smaller and faster of the two safeties, and will line up a little bit farther away from the line of scrimmage.

Defensive backs can have jersey numbers 20-49.

Defensive Back NFL

The primary purpose of this post is to help you identify the individual positions within the defense, but I think it’s a great time to also introduce the concept of the 3-4 and 4-3 defense. These are two of the most popular defensive formations. The first number refers to the number of defensive linemen and the second number refers to the number of linebackers. Simple, right? We’re planning on doing a more detailed post on this concept in the future, but for now, this info will get you started.

If you’re a visual person and think it would be easier to understand some of these concepts via video clip, check out this one from the Football Wife:

A few reminders – these posts will be linked in our Football for Beginners section on the site, so you can easily find them if you need them during the season. Also, at any given time, there can only be 11 players from each team on the field. That goes for offense, defense, and special teams. 

OK, there you have it. That’s the defense.

– Michelle

Football Basics – The Offense

The Offense NFL

This week we’re channeling our inner Christina Aguilera circa 2006 and getting back to the basics. Yes, we’re finally getting around to our long overdue detailed posts on the different position groups in football – the offense, the defense, and special teams.

These posts will be linked in our Football for Beginners section on the site, so you can easily find them if you need them during the season.

Before we get in too deep here, let’s just remind ourselves that at any given time, there can only be 11 players from each team on the field. That goes for offense, defense, and special teams.

OK, here it goes.

The offense is responsible for putting points up on the board. They get control of the ball and it is their job to move down the field and get the ball into the other team’s end zone so they can put some points up on the board. When one team’s offense is on the field, the other team’s defense is also on the field, trying to keep them from scoring points.

These are the dudes that make up the offense:

Quarterback (QB) – The quarterback gets paid the most because as the leader of the offense, he’s responsible for a lot of things.

  • He receives the play call from the coaches and is responsible for communicating the play to the rest of the offense so they all know what to do once the ball is snapped.
  • The quarterback receives the ball when it is snapped (oh snap!) from the center, who is an offensive lineman that stands in front of him. Yes, the quarterback touches the center’s butt sometimes during ball hand-off. We can only assume this makes for a really close friendship.
  • When not getting up close and personal with the center, the quarterback is responsible for making adjustments to the play at the line of scrimmage if he notices something funky about the way the defense is lined up.
  • Once the quarterback has the ball, he will either throw it, hand it off for someone to run, hold onto the ball and run with it himself, or unfortunately, sometimes he will not have time to do any of those things and will get hit by a very large man from the opposite team.

Quarterbacks can have jersey numbers 1 – 19. Famous quarterbacks you may recognize include: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tony Romo.

Offensive Line (OL a.k.a. O-Line, includes Center, Guard, Tackle) – These are the guys that stand in a line in front of the quarterback. Their primary job is to protect the quarterback. This involves a lot of blocking of defensive players. Offensive linemen also create open spaces for running backs to run through. Except for the center, who snaps the ball, these guys usually don’t touch the ball during the play.

Offensive Line NFL

Generally speaking, the order of the offensive line is tackle, guard, center, guard, tackle, but that can change with different formations. It’s easy to remember that the center stands in the center of the line, but how do you remember that guards stand next to the center? Well, it sounds obvious, but since they are standing closer to the quarterback than the tackles, I always think about how they are guarding the quarterback. Here are some more details about each type of offensive lineman:

  • Center (C) – Centers snap the ball from the line of scrimmage back to the quarterback to start the play. They block defensive players. Centers can have jersey numbers 50-59, or when those are unavailable 60-79. Famous guards you may know include Alex Mack, Jason Kelce, and Mike Pouncey.
  • Guard (G) – If a quarterback is throwing a ball, it is the guard’s job to make a wall to protect him so that he can take his darn sweet time. If the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back, the guards move wherever they need to in order to create running lanes for the running backs. Guards can have jersey numbers 60-79. Famous guards you may know include Josh Sitton, Marshall Yanda, and Kyle Long.
  • Tackle (T) – Tackles are big boys and they usually have very long arms because sometimes they need to grab a defensive player who is sneaking around the outside to hit the quarterback. Tackles can have jersey numbers 60-79. Famous tackles that you may know include Joe Thomas, Tyron Smith, and Ryan Clady.
    • Left Tackle – The left tackle protects the blind side of the quarterback. If a quarterback is right-handed, he will turn to the right when throwing the ball. This means the quarterback has his back turned to the left side and can’t see when a very large man from the defense is coming to crush him. Left tackles have to be very good at their jobs because no one likes to see their quarterback on the ground. This position is generally paid pretty well.

Running Backs (RB) – On running plays (also known as rushing plays), the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back, and shocker, the running back runs with it. They are usually shorter in stature, but speedy because they need to be able slip past defenders. They are also pretty muscle-y because sometime they need to push their way through a crowd while everyone is trying to pull them down or rip the ball out of their hands. Some running backs specialize in 3rd down situations, where they are really good at powering through and getting the one or two yards needed for the first down. A lot of times you will see running backs line up near the quarterbacks before the ball is snapped because they need to be in close proximity for the hand-off. There are a few subcategories of running backs:

  • Tailback – Usually the primary running back on a play, they can also catch short passes.
  • Fullback (FB) – They can run the ball, but are usually bigger in size and will do some blocking. These are dying breed in the NFL.

NFL Running back training camp

Running backs can have the jersey numbers 20-49. Famous running backs you may know include LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch (a.k.a. Skittles), and Arian Foster.

Wide Receiver (WR) – The quarterback throws the ball and the wide receivers are supposed to catch it and run down the field with it. They are usually standing the furthest away from the quarterback when lined up at the start of the play. They are responsible for running different routes across the field. Some receivers are more of a deep threat – they are used in situations where the quarterback wants to throw the ball really far down the field and they need someone speedy to run down there to get it. Slot receivers line up between the big boys on the offensive line and the tall, lanky outermost wide receiver. They generally catch shorter passes.

NFL Wide Receiver

Wide receivers can have the jersey numbers 10-19 and 80-89. Famous wide receivers you may know include Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demariyus Thomas, Jordy Nelson, and Calvin Johnson (Megatron).

Tight End (TE) – This is my favorite position, and not only because of how the position’s name lends itself to so many inappropriate jokes. Tight ends can do a lot of things, which is what makes them so interesting. Some tight ends are primarily blockers and will stand closer to the offensive linemen. Others can primarily act as pass catchers. And then there’s Gronk, who is really just in a world of his own, both as a football player and a human being.

Gronk Tight End NFL

Tight ends can have the jersey numbers 10-19, 80-89, or 40-49 if others are taken. Famous tight ends you may know include Rob Gronkowski (Gronk spike!), Jimmy Graham, and Greg Olsen.

If you are still struggling with some of these concepts, check out this video from the Football Wife:

OK, there you have it. That’s the offense.

(Yes, we know that most of our pictures comes from a certain team. If you would like to see other teams appear in our images, please feel free to send us game tickets.)

– Michelle

Football Basics – The Schedule

Football Basics - The Schedule

A few days ago the NFL released the schedule for the 2015 NFL season. A schedule release probably sounds like a pretty boring event, but I assure you that it is anything but in the world of The Snap.

I equate the release of the NFL schedule to the successful completion of signing up for classes in high school or college. There was something weirdly satisfying about seeing the final listing of classes – you got excited seeing the names of certain teachers/professors, you dreaded having two classes in a row that were on the opposite side of campus, and after comparing schedules, you could start planning a social life based on when you would see your friends.

There are a lot of quotes out there from players and coaches saying that the order of their games doesn’t really matter. Maybe they feel like they have to say this because every game in the NFL is important.

Personally, I think this blasé attitude is all for show.

You can’t tell me that players aren’t disappointed upon learning they will be playing outside in frigid Green Bay, Wisconsin, in December. (By the end of the month, the average high temperature in Green Bay in December is 26 degrees. Hell to the no.)

This MMQB article on the creation of the schedule is a must-read. Seriously, stop reading this post right now and click that link so you can gain a full appreciation of what goes into making the NFL schedule.

I’ll wait.

OK, you good? (I’ll know if you didn’t click – WordPress gives me statistics on things like that.)

Well then, now that you’re done reading the article, is your mind blown by how many things factor into the creation of the schedule? It should be.

Moving on, let’s talk about the important things we learn when the schedule is released.

1) Order of Opponents – It sounds obvious, but the schedule release tells teams when they will face their opponents during the season. Prior to the schedule announcement, teams only know who their opponents will be in the upcoming year.

How do they already know their opponents? Let’s get sidetracked here to discuss. Each year, a team will play the teams in their division twice during the season. So that’s 6 games. (For example, the Patriots play the Jets twice, the Bills twice and the Dolphins twice since they are all in the AFC East.) Then each division will play another division in their conference on a three-year rotating schedule. (The AFC East will play against all teams in the AFC South this year. Next year they will play against the AFC North and then the following year the AFC West.) That’s 4 more games. Another 4 games are added by a rotating schedule of divisions in the other conference. (The AFC East will play the NFC East this year, then NFC West, NFC South and finally the NFC North in the following years.) That gets us up to 14 games. The final two games are determined by win-loss records of the prior season. The purpose of this is to keep schedules competitive by forcing teams with similar win-loss records to play each other. 

OK, let’s get back to the other things we learn about when the schedule is released.

2) Challenges for Each Team – In Brian Billick’s More Than a Game, he has a quote from NFL Films COO Howard Katz. (If you read the MMQB article, you’ll know that Katz is one of the architects of the schedule.) “When just about everyone is mad at me,” he says, “I know I have done a good job.” Every team thinks the schedule makers are out to get them. Multiple games in a row on the road, a stretch of games against tough opponents, or even not starting or closing out the season at home are all reasons to be less than jazzed about your schedule.

3) Bye Weeks – The regular season is 17 weeks long. Each team plays 16 games and has one week off (the bye week). Bye weeks can occur anywhere from week 4 to week 12. If I were a player, I’d be happy with a mid-season bye week when injuries are starting to rack up and your body could use a break.

Last, but certainly not least, the schedule release is an exciting moment for fans because it helps us plan for which games we would like to attend. In our case, it’s usually all of them, but that’s besides the point.

In case you are hankering for specifics on how this year’s schedule was developed, you should check out MMQB’s 2015 edition of the article linked above. Also, here are some fun facts about the 2015 schedule and what it means for your favorite team.

The start of the season may be a few months away, but if someone were to ask me right now if I were ready for some football, the answer would be yes.

– Michelle

Football Basics – Free Agency

NFL Free Agency

If you see NFL headlines in March, more than likely they have something to do with NFL free agency.

Free agency is one of those things that sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Thank goodness for that.

Quite simply, free agency is the time for players who do not have contracts (“free agents”) to sign a contract somewhere. These players have come to the end of an existing contract and have yet to sign a new contract with their most recent team or a new team.

Why is free agency important?

First, free agency is the time for teams to fill roster holes from the prior year. Sure, teams will fill some of their needs through the draft in April, but most rookies aren’t going to make as immediate of an impact as a more experienced player.

Secondly, this is an opportunity for players to make big money. If negotiations with their most recent team aren’t going well or a team has flat-out told a player they won’t re-sign him, free agency is the time for that player and his agent to test the market and see what kind of deal he can make elsewhere.

Deals with other teams are largely affected by 1) the type of free agent the player is and 2) the free agency timeline. 

For the sake of our discussion and keeping things simple, free agents usually fall into one of two categories:

1. Unrestricted free agents (UFA): Players with expired contracts that have completed four or more accrued seasons of service. They are free to sign with any franchise and there is no draft choice compensation owed to his most recent team. Some of 2015’s most notable free agents (and most recent teams) include DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions), CB Darrelle Revis (Patriots), TE Julius Thomas (Broncos), and RB DeMarco Murray (Cowboys).

2. Restricted free agents (RFA): Players who have three or fewer accrued seasons of service and whose contracts have expired. Not gonna lie – these are a little more complicated than unrestricted free agents, so I won’t blame you if you skip the next paragraph.

RFAs get a “qualifying offer” from their most recent team. This is a predetermined amount of money dictated by the CBA (collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union). RFAs are free to negotiate with any team up until right before the draft (this year it’s April 24). If a new team makes an offer, the old team has the chance to match the offer of the new team and retain the player. If the old team does not match the offer, the team can get draft choices from the new team in exchange for letting the player go.

Whew, that was a lot. Let’s take a break and watch players talk about their favorite types of Girl Scout cookies. (Video will open up in a new tab because the NFL doesn’t like it when people embed their YouTube videos onto their sites.)

Just for the record, I am #TeamThinMint and #TeamTagalong. While Val has occasionally played for #TeamThinMint, she is really #TeamSamoa and #TeamTagalong. Bottom line is that we both have mad respect for Antonio Brown after he declared his love for Taglongs.

OK, back to business here…

Most of the sexy free agency headlines come from unrestricted free agents because there are a heck of a lot more of them than restricted free agents.

As I alluded to earlier, the other thing that plays a substantial role in free agency is the timeline imposed by the league.

(Let’s keep in mind that players are allowed to negotiate deals with their existing teams at any time during the year, so the deadlines imposed by the league are kind of only used to help speed negotiations along if a player or team is in a rush to get the deal done.)

Truthfully, behind-the-scenes negotiations start at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, as described in this interesting post by an NFL agent. These aren’t exactly legal, but if your agent doesn’t start talking you up right after the season ends, you risk missing out when it comes to contract negotiations.

In order to curb the amount of early unofficial deal-making, the NFL introduced a Negotiating Period in 2013. It’s also referred to as the “legal tampering” period. Per this helpful post, the following things can happen during the negotiation period:

• Agents can negotiate numbers and years, but not actually sign a deal
• Teams can talk to agents, not the player
• Players can’t visit other teams (except their own)
• Only applies to UFAs

The negotiating period started at noon EST on March 7 this year.

Three days after the Negotiating Period starts is the official start of free agency. This is the point where all hell breaks loose, or at least it will seem that way on Twitter. Once free agency starts, teams are free to host visits with and negotiate with all unrestricted free agents. Any deals that were set up during the Negotiating Period cannot be announced until the official start of free agency. This year, the start of free agency is 4 PM EST on March 10.

It’s also important to note that teams must be under the salary cap as of the start of free agency.

The whole salary cap thing is key because it often limits how aggressive teams can be with their negotiations.

Just a quick reminder definition for those that need it – the salary cap is the total amount of money a team can spend on player salaries for a given year. The 2015 salary cap is $143,280,000 per team.

If you have limited cap space, it can be difficult to offer the type of money that attracts big names.

That, my friends, is my high-level take on free agency. Hopefully this helps you navigate some of the NFL headlines you will be seeing over the next few days.

Although I didn’t even get into it on this post, the franchise tag is also important factor in the free agency discussion. Val has a special post on that topic coming your way. Oh, and in case you were wondering (I’m willing to bet you weren’t), the definition of an accrued season is “six or more regular season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform list.”

– Michelle