Offseason Proves Once Again That No Deals Are Final Until Well After Paperwork

For the second time in as many years, a wide receiver agreed to terms with an AFC North team only to see the deal dissolve before it was fully consummated. Last year, the Baltimore Ravens actually signed Ryan Grant to a contract, but—conveniently after signing Michael Crabtree—they dissolved the contract after he failed a physical. Grant ended up signing a much less lucrative contract elsewhere after that and probably wasn’t too pleased about the whole thing.

Just yesterday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Breshad Perriman agreed to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract. But then soon after doing so, the Browns made a blockbuster trade for Odell Beckham, Jr. After that was wrapped up, both parties elected to move on, and Perriman agreed to an identical contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who agreed to trade DeSean Jackson to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Note the number of times that I use the word ‘agreed’ here. Even this latest scenario hinges on a series of promises. The Giants and Browns have to complete the Beckham trade tomorrow, which would be the grounds for not signing Perriman. And the Buccaneers have to finalize the trade with the Eagles for Jackson, otherwise they likely would not add Perriman.

Then there was the Anthony Barr case from earlier. He agreed to terms on a giant contract with the New York Jets on the opening day of the tampering period, only for the Minnesota Vikings—the team he’s played for his entire career—to continue negotiating with him, upping their offer until he chose to sign with them. And because he is their player, he is already able to sign.

This just goes to show you that nothing is truly complete until there’s a signature on the dotted line—and a physical is passed. Rosters are being built like a house of cards with now, including the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trading of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert and the signing of Steven Nelson.

While the vast, vast majority of deals that have been agreed to on principle will be completed as intended, there are enough examples from just the past couple of years to emphasize the importance of the reality that, technically speaking, nothing has yet happened, and thus it could be that nothing happens in any given scenario.

The NFL initiated the three-day ‘legal tampering’ period several years ago to address the unacknowledged reality that players and agents are in contact with other teams prior to the start of free agency with regularity.

But all this has really accomplished has been to create a three-day circus of probabilities. And players and agents continue to talk to teams prior to the tampering window, which would be the only way to explain how players could agree to terms on contracts with other teams literally minutes into it. Even Ramon Foster seemed to make a comment that may have indicated prior knowledge of his market before he agreed to re-sign with the Steelers ahead of the tampering window.

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