Legal tampering starts at noon ET

Ready or not, here it comes.

At noon ET, the NFL's annual legal tampering period opens. For 52 hours, teams can negotiate with impending free agents before they become free agents. They can freely engage in what, but for this 52-hour fiction, would be regarded as tampering.

The players continue to be under contract with their current teams. But for the 52-hour window allowing these talks, any communications would be prohibited. It literally is tampering; new teams will deliberately interfere with the final days of an existing NFL player contract.

The player and his next team can reach a deal in principle. At one point, the NFL tried to force teams and players to stop short of that outcome, but it made no sense. Any negotiation can result in an agreement, even accidentally.

Now, the NFL allows the two sides to haggle over specific contract language. As long as the document is labeled "DRAFT" it's fair game.

So, yes, agreements can and will be reached between players who are still under contract with their current teams and new teams. No, those deals are not final and binding. Either side can back out. Few players do. Teams never do.

The end result is that, once noon ET rolls around, the green flag will be waved. Free agency will be opened. Legal tampering will begin.

And, of course, the illegal tampering has already happened. It reaches a fever pitch when everyone gathers in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.

Deals can be done. They will be done. They just won't officially be done until after Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.