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NFL, Cardinals Preview Free Agency With 'Tampering' Time

Players can start talking with other teams starting Monday

Coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim talk in the Cardinals' suite at the recent NFL Scouting Combine.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim talk in the Cardinals' suite at the recent NFL Scouting Combine.

The soft opening for NFL free agency is here.

No deals can be executed until Wednesday – at 1 p.m. Arizona time, the start of the new league year – but teams can start talking to agents of free agents from other teams at 9 a.m. Monday without it being tampering.

Over the next two days, a handful of names will be attached to new teams. It's a time of rebirth for hopes across the league.

What it means for the Cardinals has to be determined. By this time last year, the Cards had already signed defensive lineman J.J. Watt, sparking an offseason of news. This year, with the Cardinals holding less salary cap space, General Manager Steve Keim might not be quite as active.

As of Sunday, had the Cardinals with about $11 million in cap space. That was prior to the Zach Ertz agreement, and before lowering Justin Pugh's salary cap number.

The Cardinals have 20 of their own unrestricted free agents, among them outside linebacker Chandler Jones, running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds, wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green, and backup quarterback Colt McCoy.

That doesn't include the players the Cardinals might want to add.

"You can maneuver," Keim said. "But at some point and time you're going to have to address (the cap), and that's usually through dead money and guaranteed money you have to pay. We've tried to minimize dead money as much as possible. We have to continue to try and do better and hit on draft picks.

"Where you get into a problem is if you don't draft well and you're having to pay out the ear. At some point, the bill comes."

The Cardinals would like to bring back a chunk of their own free agents, although by now, it's worth seeing what other teams might want to pay. Kirk's best season, for instance, has led to speculation he could find a deal for $13 million to $15 million a season, which likely would be out of range for the Cardinals with DeAndre Hopkins' big deal already in place.

There also figures to be a quick market for Jones, who said recently it is scheme-fit more than money that he seeks.

Conner is a key player the Cardinals want back, and the running back market remains fickle even for established players.

By the end of the week, the NFL will know where the big names are going, and what holes might be left to fill. For the next two days, it'll be about speculation and reports until pen can be put to paper.

In the "tampering" period, teams can talk to agents of players from other teams, but not the players themselves. By rule, an outline of a contract can be discussed, but none can be offered and no players can make visits to a new team until the new league year begins.