The Cardinals’ playoff win — plus the looming uncapped year given the impending end of the collective bargaining agreement — will affect the Cardinals in free agency.
Assuming there is no new CBA before free agency (and there likely won’t be), the NFL will have a season without a salary cap in 2010. The change also brings with it various rules that were designed to forced the two sides to the bargaining table in order to avoid a work stoppage in 2011. One was a limit on free agency for the top eight teams (the theory being, that way, the rich couldn’t get richer). Teams in the “Final Eight Plan” (page 76 77 of the official CBA), which are all the teams now remaining in the playoffs, can’t sign a new free agent unless they lose one, and then that player’s salary can’t be greater than the one the former player is getting.
What that means is the Cards could chase a big-ticket player if, say, LB Karlos Dansby leaves for big money. But if Dansby is waiting around and, for example, kicker Neil Rackers (also an FA-to-be) leaves for a less-than-huge deal, the Cards can’t make any kind of splash yet.
It will definitely make maneuvering the offseason more difficult. Then again, no one would trade a place in the Divisional round of the playoffs for the alternative.
UPDATE: There are a few questions below and I thought the best way to address them would be to throw in a couple more details: The uncapped year also makes it harder to become a an unrestricted free agent, meaning a player has to have six years in the NFL to avoid restricted status. That impacts two main contributors for the Cards: guard Deuce Lutui and nose tackle Gabe Watson. Each were scheduled to be unrestricted after their fourth season and now, they likely won’t have that option.
Rules like that will cut down on the amount of available free agents anyway, making the “Final Eight” rule less important, but, if I read the rule correctly, it’s a one-to-one swap; i.e., if Dansby signs a deal worth $5 million in salary elsewhere, you can’t then sign two guys for $2.5 million each. A team can re-sign all its own players, by the way, regardless if it is in the Final Eight or not.
Also, all teams get a franchise tag and two transition tags a transition tag for players, rather than just one (choosing between a franchise or transition tag). That will also restrict movement. There are further details here (HT to Sando). Ultimately, what it all means is that free agency isn’t going to be much of anything this year, and players are going to realize a salary cap situation is probably the best for them.
Tags: CBA, Deuce Lutui, free agency, Gabe Watson, Karlos Dansby, Neil Rackers
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