La Canfora: This Week Could Be End Of An Era

Free agency opens today at 4 p.m. and there are a handful of major talents hitting the open market. This is the last year before the league begins forcing teams to spend a higher percentage of their cap numbers and since the cap is going to raise, that means that there is even more money that needs to be spent.

That's why NFL.com's Jason La Canfora believes that this season's free agency period could mark the end of an erain the NFL as teams will have the money and a reason to spend it to keep their top free agents around.

This week could mark the end of an era, at least to some degree. Remember, a year from now teams have to start spending 90 percent of the cap number in actual dollars, and the cap is also set to rise big time when the new TV money starts kicking in. Teams will have to spend that money somewhere, and with franchise tags so affordable, the best talent won't ever hit the market. There will be more incentive than ever before for teams to extend their players, and clubs that otherwise used to sit on their hands will be forced to eat into that cap space. The best players in the mid-20s, already a dying breed in terms of unrestricted free agency, are likely to become even rarer in years to come. The guys who do hit the market before their third contract will increasingly have issues with injury, attitude, off-field problems, etc.

From now on, it's more likely that teams are going to be able to re-sign and extend their own free agents, stopping them from leaving. This means that it's likely that players like Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, Brandon Carr, Mario Williams and other top free agents won't become free agents again because their teams will have the ability to keep them around.

This also means that the draft will be more important than ever. Since the only players that enter free agency are likely to be the players that teams decide not to re-sign, the draft will be the primary source of top-notch talent for each team. This is potentially good news for the Bengals since they've never really been big players in free agency and, at least for the past few years, they have done well in the draft.

Knowing this may cause teams to go for broke this afternoon and throughout the next couple days, and it will be interesting to see how the new salary cap affects free agency in the future.

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