March 4, 2010

Uncapped "final league year" begins

The uncapped season is upon us, designed as the final league year in the current CBA with special rules meant to discourage it ever happening.

The league owners and its player union were unable to agree on a new CBA in a series of bickering, fruitless meetings at and after the combine in Indianapolis. Read here for a good review of the new rules in place for 2010 and 2010 only. Should the two sides not agree on a new CBA before this time next season, there would be a work stoppage via a player lockout.

In a sense, the Saints got their Super Bowl in before all hell broke loose.

As has been discussed, the Saints are handcuffed in free agency this year, a product of being one of the Final 8 teams alive in the playoffs. Any player whose contract expired at the start of Free Agency at midnight on March 5 is not eligible to sign with New Orleans until the Saints lose one of their own players to another team.

The Saints can, however, sign any player whose contract was terminated before free agency opened. For example, the Chargers released RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Since Tomlinson is a free agent by way of being cut, not an expiring contract, all 32 teams have the opportunity to sign him immediately.

The Saints have two big free agent targets hitting the open market, starting free safety Darren Sharper and starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita. Sharper's availability has drawn the most attention on the free market.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis is likely taking a check-with-me approach to Sharper, Fujita and with RB Mike Bell, a restricted free agent the team chose not to protect. The Saints hope they have a tacit right of refusal agreement, will check the numbers of any offer that Sharper and Fujita garner and then make a decision to match.

The Saints are in essence letting the market determine the player's value, not a bad approach. Similar strategies work last year when the Saints were unable to seal a deal with MLB Jonathan Vilma or WR Devery Henderson before the market opened. Both received big offers, both from Tampa Bay, and the Saints were able to retain both players with competitive contracts.

Meanwhile, notes from around the league:
  • In the days leading up to free agency, these ex-Saints signed elsewhere: DT Marlon Favorite (Bills), QB Tyler Palko (Chiefs), DT Montavious Stanley (Jaguars). And these ex-Saints were cut: P Dirk Johnson (Bucs), RB Michael Bennett (Chargers).

  • Former Saints and ULL quarterback Jake Delhomme, who left the team after the 2002 for starter's money and a starter's job in Carolina, will be released by the Panthers, less than a year after signing a new contract extension with $20 million in guarantees.

    Could the Saints, with Mark Brunell hitting the open market, bring back a local son? Could Saints fans forgive Delhomme for going 8-3 against his hometown team as a Panther?

And a final note:

Saints FB Heath Evans, a University of Auburn graduate, wrote: "Charles Grant...gonna miss ya bro!! Great teammate! Great Player! Big dude w/ a big heart....even though he went to UGA!!"

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