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NFL Free Agency 2017: What legal tampering means for the Bucs

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s official period of free agency negotiations opens later today with what is generally called ‘legal tampering’ — that is, negotiations between players and teams, with no finalized deals or contracts allowed.

NFL players set to become free agents aren’t allowed to meet with or discuss contract terms with teams other than their own until that period starts — though many have had at least tentative, informal contact with teams to see what the market is likely to look like.

That changes at 12:00 p.m. ET today, when teams and players can start talking and getting deals in place, though they can’t be finalized until this Thursday, March 9, 4:00 p.m. ET — when free agency officially starts, and teams will be allowed to sign unrestricted free agents to actual, real deals. Any deal struck before then isn’t official until it’s signed and turned into the league office on Thursday.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that means they’re likely to fly a few players in to see if they can strike a deal — and then see some of those depart without one, as we’ve seen in recent years. The most likely target is DeSean Jackson, who has been repeatedly linked to the Bucs and who fits their need for an explosive weapon on offense.

The Bucs have also been linked with defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Chris Baker, but they’re also likely to focus on re-signing a few of their own: running back Jacquizz Rodgers, safety Bradley McDougald, wide receiver Russell Shepard and center Joe Hawley are likely targets there.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is almost certain to lose quarterback Mike Glennon in free agency, as he appears to be headed for a monster contract with the Chicago Bears. It also looks like Vincent Jackson will try to get signed to get a better deal outside of Tampa. Bucs free agents taking visits elsewhere are not likely to return to town, of course.

We’ll keep you informed of all the Bucs-related free agency rumors and coverage over the next couple of days.