February 24, 2010

Free Agency opens next Friday

The most bizarre opening day of free agency will begin on Friday, March 5.

That is, unless a miraculous kumbaya happens today, February 25, at a CBA negotiating meeting in Indianapolis. What is far more likely to happen after that meeting is an escalation of the combative rhetoric that has history's most successful sports league barreling towards a cliff.

A 2010 offseason referred to in the CBA as the "Final League Year" that was crafted to force both sides to re-up the CBA before it could exist will exist. Here's some ways that the uncapped offseason will affect the Super Bowl XLIV champions:
  • The Final Eight plan: constrains the final eight finishers in the 2009 playoffs in terms of signing free agents. The Saints (along with Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New York Jets, and San Diego) cannot sign a free agent before one of their own free agents is signed away from them.
  • Additionally, an NBA-like rule constraints them: new free agent contract values for year one cannot be greater than the year one contract values of the free agent lost. That means the Saints would not be able to sign a big-money contract after losing a lesser free agent to another team. (And on that note, don't expect the Saints to be signing any big-money contracts.)
  • That stipulation also applies to trades. The Saints cannot trade for a player whose contract would violate the above rule, that is, the Saints couldn't trade for a big-money player after losing a lesser free agent to another team.
  • The Saints are permitted to trade for a big-money player under one condition: they give up two first round picks for a franchise tagged player. Also not likely.
  • The one respite the Top 8 teams get is for players who were released from their contracts. (Hello, ex-Charger LaDainian Tomlinson.)
  • All teams have access to a franchise tag and a transition tag. The Saints don't appear to using either on their two major unrestricted free agents, FS Darren Sharper and LB Scott Fujita.
  • There is no salary cap. There is also no salary floor. Of the two extremes, which do you think Tom Benson will lean towards? Teams like the Steelers and Lions will constrain themselves to self-imposed salary caps, which may be a smart move if the salary cap ever returns.

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