The idea that the league will be applying modified rules, based on an expiring collective bargaining agreement, hasn't really hit home yet. After all, the Saints had just won their first Super Bowl and guys like me, that really can't get into basketball or hockey, are rotating in circles because of a sudden shortage of sports is like a lizard pumping fatal poison in our veins. Or something like that. Either way, some of us are really bored. While the idea of an uncapped year is known, the reality is that we're not completely sure what will happen based on doomed forecasts from experts, analysts, observers, front office junkies and guys that drive through the snow while talking about the Bengals through an iPhone.
Doom. That's what's going to happen. Doom. Change. More doom. Things are going to change. In early March, less than a month from now, the league will apply updated CBA rules; the two notable changes are status updates between restricted and unrestricted free agents and a dissolving salary cap. For a player to reach unrestricted status, they must have five accrued seasons (aka, entering their sixth season). Exclusive Rights free agents are forced to wait another year to be given restricted free agent status. What's an accrued season? Six or more regular season games on the team's active/inactive, injured reserve of PUP lists.
As interesting as the idea of having no salary cap might be, it's not that great of a prospect. For one thing, terrible teams will be able to sign as many players as they want with little necessity to limit exploding salaries. Think Daniel Snyder. For one thing, they're terrible for a reason and scouting, not money, and the application for smart contracts that allows even distribution weights heavily in the seperation between free and smart spenders. For another, many of the really good players are probably back to being restricted free agents and will be otherwise, unavailable. Lastly, there's also no salary floor. True, owners will be allowed to spend as much as they want. But now they can bury player salaries to new levels if they want to save money. Based on your favorite political talking heads the economy is 1) the best it's ever been 2) getting better, but people are still out of work or 3) we're all going to DIE!!
The idea of parity, or fairness as some would call it, would still exist. Teams that are labeled the final eight -- teams that played in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs -- are heavily restricted in free agency. Indianapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans and the New York Jets can't sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose one and the first-year has to be relatively similar to the player they lost. The other four teams, Arizona, Dallas, San Diego and Baltimore receive exceptions from the above rule -- they can sign an unrestricted free agent from another team where the first-year pay is more than $4.925 million. Furthermore, they can sign any number of unrestricted free agents, provided the first-year pay isn't higher than $3.275 million. First-year pay is the money earned through base salary and bonuses on the first year of a new contract.
Teams will also be allowed to apply a second transition tag. Before this season, teams could either tag a player as either a transition or a franchise a player. Now teams will have a second transition tag designation. No, there's no second franchise tag, as has been confused before.
Are you still with me?
The Bengals have 21 free agents heading into free agency this year -- 13 of whom will either be restricted or exclusive rights free agents. Remember. A player can't be an unrestricted free agent until they're entering the sixth season in their NFL career.
So what can the Cincinnati Bengals do with their 13 restricted free agents -- five of whom are exclusive-rights free agents?
First thing is first. Per PFT, the compensation numbers were released today.
For players with four years of experience in the NFL.
|First and Third Round||$3.168 million|
|First Round||$2.521 million|
|Second Round||$1.759 million|
|Original Pick||$1.176 million|
For players with five years of experience in the NFL.
|First and Third Round||$3.268 million|
|First Round||$2.621 million|
|Second Round||$1.809 million|
|Original Pick||$1.226 million|
Based on the change above -- which separates players with four or five years of experience -- the Bengals can tender a one-year contract on any of the four levels. The higher the tender, the more the Bengals would be compensated if that player left for a new team.
Let's use Brandon Johnson as an example. Johnson has four years of experience in the NFL. The Bengals tender him a contract based on the compensation they'd be given if Johnson signs a contract with another team. If the Bengals were smart, they'd tender the maximum to Johnson, which would be $3.168 million. Instead of signing immediately, Johnson can find a team willing to sign him to a long term deal. Thankfully, the Bengals would receive maximum compensation with a first round pick and a third round pick. If the Bengals tender Johnson $2.521 million, then their compensation would only be a first round pick if he signs with a new team. So forth and so on.
Along with Johnson, Rashad Jeanty, Frostee Rucker and Abdul Hodges are all four year players. Evan Mathis is the team's only player with five years of experience not under contract for 2010.
While I'm not shocked that we're at this point with the CBA, I am somewhat surprised that it's getting to the point of openly acknowledging that a work stoppage is more than likely. And if that happens, I may have to take up another sport in the meantime.