Combine didn't produce handshake deals like it has before

In previous non-lockout years the NFL Scouting Combine has ended with about a week to go until the opening of free agency.

That is why the combine has always been a breeding ground for contracts in free agency – big and small – as it’s a natural place for business to be conducted. All 32 teams are there and all of the agents are and they can talk shop.

It’s to the point for some teams that general managers will remain holed up in their hotel suites and never make it to the dome to watch the workouts that can all be viewed after the fact on video. They stay away from the public and meet all day and night with agents.

Often times it goes like this: An agent will call a team and say, “Would you like to meet?” The clubs know what players the agent represents. If there’s interest, they get together. In other cases, the teams will call agents and set meetings.

All of that happened at the combine last month but what two veteran agents said didn’t happen was a lot of deal making. That’s because free agency doesn’t begin until March 13. So over-the-top tampering that traditionally takes place was put on hold until maybe sometime next week. That’s for a couple reasons. For starters, teams don’t want to have their deals shopped. If they make an offer, they don’t want an agent to have two weeks to work for a better offer from a competing club. The agents don’t want to prematurely agree to a deal when the market could still expand for their clients. One agent said this happened with a team for his prominent client. They couldn’t even talk about a deal to return to the club because the team wasn’t certain what it was going to cost to re-sign other free agents.

No one is quite certain what the salary cap is going to be yet and some clubs are in tight spots being forced to shed contracts.

What does it all mean? Maybe deals start falling into place sometime next week. The market will be better defined after the deadline for franchise tags passes on Monday. We’ll see if some long-term contracts get done between now and then. But at the combine there was a lot of talk but not a lot of number crunching.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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