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Key NFL dates, rules in NFL free agency

Here are a few of the guidelines that teams must adhere to with the new three-day negotiating period this weekend:

March 9-11: Negotiating period

Clubs are permitted to enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the current league year. The period begins at midnight on Saturday morning.

March 12: All 2012 contracts expire, and free agency and trading periods begin at 4 p.m. By that time, all NFL teams must:

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• Exercise 2013 options on all players who have option clauses in their contracts.

• Make qualifying offers to restricted free agents with expiring contracts with whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal.

• Submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2012 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.

• Be under the salary cap.

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