The new NFL league year, and the opening of free agency that comes with it, doesn't hit until Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.
But, after a weekend that saw future Hall of Fame receiver Antonio Brown traded to the Raiders, the football offseason gets another jolt of energy on this National Napping Day.
As of 12 p.m. ET today the NFL opens up what many have referred to as the "legalized tampering" period that leads into free agency.
The league defines this window prior to the start of free agency as the period when "clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon expiration of their 2018 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 13."
While the Patriots have had the ability to talk to their own impending free agents all along – a list of 19 guys that includes such key names as defensive end Trey Flowers, tackle Trent Brown and kicker Stephen Gostkowski – the other 31 teams will now be able to also begin talking to them as of this afternoon.
Flowers, seen by many as a true top-tier option on the open market this offseason, can find out exactly how much money might be out there. ESPN projected late last week that Flowers could be in line for a five-year deal worth $85 million with $35 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, can begin the process of free agency that during the season the mammoth tackle compared to hitting the lottery.
As players look to cash in their lottery tickets, teams have plenty of money to spend. The 2019 salary cap has officially been set at $188.2 million. According to the NFLPA's website the 32 NFL teams have more than $1 billion is cap room heading into free agency, with an average of just more than $33 million per team. Seven teams have more than $50 million in cap space, led by the Colts $102 million in cap room. The NFLPA listed the Patriots with $23 million in cap room, but that's before the reported trade for veteran defensive end Michael Bennett, which would carve around $7 million off that number.
Fasten your seatbelts, as the NFL offseason is about to heat up and the dollars are going to start flying around.