In 22 days, teams will finally have a chance to legally make offers to free agents. In the meantime, we’re stuck waiting to see who will receive franchise tags (nobody thus far) and monitoring generally useless 40-yard dash times at the Scouting Combine.

But the football world threw us a bone today, with the first notable signing of the 2012 offseason.

See, because Stanford Routt was released from his contract in Oakland earlier this month, the starting-caliber corner was free to sign anywhere in America before the official start of free agency. Last week, he toured through Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati. And today, Routt and the Chiefs came to terms on a three-year, $20-million deal that will keep the 28-year-old former second-round pick in the AFC West.

Routt is getting starter money in Kansas City, a place where three talented cornerbacks already played in 2011. Routt will likely benefit from starting alongside the underrated Brandon Flowers, who is one of the best all-around corners in the game is only entering his prime after celebrating his 26th birthday this weekend.

Routt had a great 2010 season while playing opposite another top-end corner in Nnamdi Asomugha, so the Chiefs are surely hoping they can see the same results with Flowers, Routt and athletic 2010 second-round draft pick Javier Arenas.

There’s a ripple effect here, too. With Flowers, Routt and Arenas now on the roster for 2012 and beyond, this probably means that Brandon Carr’s time in KC has come to an end. Carr, who started all 16 games and picked off four passes opposite Flowers in 2011, will now inevitably have to find a new home when free agency begins March 13.

And with Routt under contract and Carr likely the odd man out, the Chiefs no longer have to sweat what to do with the franchise tag, which has to be slapped on either Dwayne Bowe or Carr by March 5. Unless the team can sign Bowe to a long-term deal by that deadline, they’ll surely franchise the 27-year-old receiver.