Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Final Eight Free Agency

One of the most underreported stories heading int0 the NFL offseason this winter is the NFL plan for the final eight teams (all teams that played last weekend) and free agency heading into the uncapped year. I first heard about this last week and found it startling. Now that the NFL has released details I am even more startled. It imposes much more draconian limitations on those teams in the free agent market than I initially expected.

From the NFL release:
During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team.

For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.

In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.
This is really limiting for those eight teams. Not only can they not sign free agents until they lose them, they also can't sign them for bigger contracts than those they lost. The teams that lost last weekend will be permitted a sign one UFA, if I am reading this correctly.

This also provides opportunities for rivals of those teams to depress the markets, or at least to delay them until free agents that they may be contending for have gone elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how this develops but I expect significant unintended consequences from this.


  1. Yeah, we've been hearing about this in dribs and drabs for a few months now in Baltimore. One of the columnists was even saying, heading into the Wild Card round, that it could be to the Ravens advantage to lose that game.

    Harbaugh said in his post-season presser that their approach to this stuff was to make it a priority to re-sign their own guys. But that doesn't upgrade their WR corps.

  2. Banks did an in-depth article on this a couple months back. The owners have the players by the short-and-curlies this off-season. There will be an exclusive few that benefit from an uncapped year, but they took a lot of measures to make sure Snyder and JJ didn't go crazy-buck-wild and blow things up. Dallas is probably the #1 team most hog-tied by these new rules.

    Harbaugh's right that re-signing their own guys is the key. But like you said, this doesn't do anything for our WR corps. One option I sorta like is to sign a guy like Floyd, re-sign Mason and draft a receiver high...particularly trading down in the first/early second and taking one of those receivers.

    I didn't really think the Ravens would be too active in the FA market, other than at the receiver position, so I don't think this will have much impact on them, other than at that position. And honestly, it could be pretty big, if they can't address that position because they beat the Pats.

    I don't think this will have unintended consequences. The owners (specifically JJ) said they put these in place to keep the rich from getting richer. They don't want a Yankees in this sport, and this certainly prevents that from happening. The players get the shaft here. They think they're all about to enter a windfall. Reality is, many - the 4th - 6th year guys - will get ultra-shafted as they're now RFAs rather than UFAs. And restrictions on who can be signed will result in less money in the pool. I find it tough to imagine more than a handful of guys will see the ridiculous money that I would bet a lot of them thought they would see.

    I think this is likely the owner's strategy. Let the players see what they're getting into here, to force them onto the negotiating table immediately and get something hammered out.


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