According to Joe Reedy, the Bengals made qualifying tenders to cornerback Johnathan Joseph, linebacker Brandon Johnson and offensive guard Nate Livings on Wednesday. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Joseph and Johnson are restricted free agents with only five years of experience.
A restricted free agent is a player with five accrued seasons or less in the NFL, allowing the original club to match any contract offer from another club. For example, Joseph can negotiate with any team, but the Bengals have an opportunity to match any deal within seven days. If they decide not to, then the Bengals are compensated with whatever level the Bengals placed on the player. In Joseph's case, the Bengals would receive a first and third round draft pick in compensation. Brandon Johnson would be a second round pick while Nate Livings would offer nothing in return.
In truth, the gesture is largely meaningless, considering that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement would likely wipe out the restricted free agent tenders. A new CBA could also reset pre-uncapped year restrictions back to three accrued seasons before a player becomes an unrestricted free agent after their fourth season.
Once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached though, the tender could become a moot point since players going into their sixth season are expected to become unrestricted free agents.
After Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha, Joseph was considered the second best among free agent cornerbacks. And now that Denver has signed corner Champ Bailey to a four-year contract worth $43 million, Joseph may have a measuring stick of how much he'll ask for from any team that attempts to sign him. If he does sign for a similar contract, will the Bengals elect to pay him or let him walk and receive first and third round draft picks instead?