I, like most of you, am ready for the offseason. Bring on the number 3 pick and our two second rounders. Let's address our needs through free agency! I'm sure you are with me as we look to the magical offseason of hope. The Chiefs seem primed to have a great offseason (a GM with a plan, loaded with four high first day picks, a comfortable margin under the salary cap). I've been checking and double checking mock drafts, making my NFL Draft wishes and sorting through the lists of potential free agents.
Then all of a sudden, I started paying more attention to this little blip on the NFL offseason horizon known as the uncapped year. If this thing breaks like it looks like it will, the Chiefs reconstruction project will depend all the more on the draft. I stumbled across this interesting article and noticed a few choice lines:
"Free agency's always been something for the players, always been a great thing. If you get one crack at free agency as a player, that's what you dream of," Orton said before Denver practiced Wednesday. "How it stands right now ... guys aren't going to be able to have that dream, to be a free agent. That's a shame for the players, I think."
In an uncapped year, a player would need at least six years in the NFL, up from the current minimum of four years in the league, to be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team.
So you can start crossing off a few names from that free agent wish list. Check out some of these guys on the less than four years in the league:
Miles Austin of Dallas, Brandon Marshall of Denver and six other Pro Bowl picks are among more than 200 NFL players who would lose their status as unrestricted free agents this offseason if the league and its union can't agree on a new labor contract.
Pro Bowl linebackers Elvis Dumervil of Denver and DeMeco Ryans of Houston are in the group of potentially affected players, as are starting quarterbacks Kyle Orton of Denver and Jason Campbell of Washington.
The other players announced Tuesday as selections for this season's Pro Bowl who could find themselves missing out on a chance to cash in this offseason are Packers safety Nick Collins, Patriots guard Logan Mankins, Saints guard Jahri Evans and Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver.
In addition to the NFL's sacks leader (Dumervil), and the NFC's leader in yards receiving (Austin), other prominent names on the list include Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, Jets receiver Braylon Edwards, Colts safety Antoine Bethea, Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
According to a list obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, there are 212 players who would be considered restricted free agents -- instead of unrestricted -- if there is no salary cap in 2010. There is at least one player from each of the NFL's 32 teams on the list.
The other thing this means is that the demand for the older free agents will be greater so a team like the Chiefs will be in a position to have to overpay to fill a need or otherwise we'll have to give up draft picks to get someone like Logan Mankins or Jahri Evans.
Pat Kirwan over at NFL.com gives a little more detail:
All you have to do to realize how lean the free agent market will be is go back and look at all the players from the 2005 draft who signed five-year deals, all the players from the 2006 draft who signed four-year deals and even players from the 2007 draft who signed four-year deals. None of these players, under the non-CBA trigger points, would be eligible for unrestricted free agency when their originals contracts expire. Here are some examples of whom it might affect if the owners choose not to continue the current CBA and a new CBA isn't negotiated:
Second-round picks from 2006 such as DeMeco Ryans, D'Qwell Jackson, Rocky McIntosh, Thomas Howard, Deuce Lutui, LenDale White, Cedric Griffin, Marcus McNeill, Greg Jennings, and Tarvaris Jackson should be the core of the free-agent market in 2010, but unless they have the ability to "void" their contracts, they will not be free as planned. They would stay with their teams as restricted free agents and it might mean two more years of service before they experience the big payday.
The 2007 draft, especially in the second and third rounds, already has a number of budding stars such as Justin Blalock, Trent Edwards, Eric Wright, James Jones, Tony Ugoh, Samson Satele, Sidney Rice, Steve Smith, David Harris, Zach Miller, LaMarr Woodley, Brandon Mebane, and Arron Sears, to name a few. All are scheduled to be free in 2011, but all would fall short of the five years of service required under the trigger points.
There are at least another 30 to 50 quality young players from later rounds of the '06 and '07 drafts who will not see free agency -- players such as Elvis Dumervil, Willie Colon, Dawan Landry, and Antoine Bethea from 2006, and Marshal Yanda, Kevin Boss, Michael Bush, Cliff Ryan, and Tanard Jackson from '07.
The other problem with an uncapped season is the inclusion of three tags instead of one. So this will further restrict the movement of the veteran free agents like a Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork or others. Kirwan continues...
Currently, a team can put either a franchise tag (average of the top five salaries at his position) or a transition tag (average of the top ten salaries at his position) on any one player on the club to protect the team from losing the unrestricted free agent. If the NFL gets to an uncapped year in 2010 and 2011, teams will have use of one franchise tag and two transition tags. So not only would none of the young players with less than six years of service be free, but now the top three players who are eligible for free agency on a roster can be protected.
So in free agency the pool of players that meet the Chiefs' needs will be limited and much of signing these players will be dependent on Lamar Hunt opening his wallet. What remains to be seen is if he will be willing to do this.
In 1993, the last season without a cap, player payroll spending reached 70 percent of revenue, an amount even higher than the 60 percent figure of today that the owners contend is too high. That happened despite the existence then of the very type of restrictions that would be in place for 2010.
It also, however, happened with the owners’ knowledge that a cap could be triggered for 1994 by their spending in 1993.
“There was a cap coming in that next year,” Pash said. “If you assume 1993 was at a certain level, then the cap came on in 1994.”
Whether you like Pioli or not, it seems his ability to manage this offseason will be critical to whether the Chiefs will return to prominence or continue to languish at the bottom of the league. Charley Casserly assumes that this system will have longer term ramifications:
"I don't think you'll see any significant change next year," said Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans. "Over the long term, it would depend on what the rules are. If it's six years for free agency, I still think the better-managed clubs will win. But you would see a tilt toward the better-managed rich clubs."
There is so much more to consider with this uncapped year but the key is this: Hope and pray we get it right in the draft because free agency is beginning to look very sparse.