Final eight berth changes free agency UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2010 – 6:37 am

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.

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Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »

27 Responses to “Final eight berth changes free agency UPDATE”

  1. By Thomaldo on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Do a huge deal and a small deal allow two less-than-huge-but-more-than-small deals? Is it the big picture, or are the deals directly connected to each other one on one?

  2. By William Lutz on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Very interesting entry. I am wondering with the new set of rules, if the franchise tags are still in place or if they have been enhanced (maybe more for weaker teams)? Also, I am wondering if the team is in any type of position to actually compete on the free agent market without the cap. I would assume with three home playoff games over the past two years and extra merchandise sales, the team has to be in better shape than they otherwise would have been.

    Personally, it’s way too early to look at free agency, but it definitely makes the off season fun to watch.

  3. By Steve on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Do we have any players that would have been FA but because of the uncapped rules aren’t going to have enough time played.

    It may change what happens with Dansby though. I didn’t think there was a shot he would be around next year with what he is making now.

  4. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Signing big-ticket free agents doesn’t really seem to be in this team’s DNA, or at least not since Whiz arrived. Seems like the FAs brought in are to bolster depth, competition, and veteran leadership, and as such, aren’t the big-ticket, big-name FAs most fans get excited about. Of course, you don’t have to be a big name to make a big contribution.

    Personally, I think we’ve got a very solid roster with good depth and young players ready to step up an challenge for a starting role next year. Yes, some upgrades are needed, but I’d prefer to see the Cards take care of their own and extend contracts for core players like Darnell Dockett.

    It’s amazing to see how many starters and key players on this team were drafted by the Cardinals and haven’t been anywhere else but with the Cardinals (Fitzgerald, Boldin, Dansby, Dockett, Wison, Breaston, Hightowner, DRC, Wells, Campbell, Rolle, Lutui, and others). That’s how you measure a great GM and personnel department.

  5. By Wampag on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    top 10 wildcard games

    I know it was the largest come back in NFL history but I still think we should have been #1 on this


  6. By Pay Dockett! on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    are you kidding? not to slam management or something but bidwell needs to stop being cheap and pay the players he’s got! We are a good team right now, just pay your players! This is how the cards got so good: they drafted right, got warner luckily, and our underpaid players dont fuss about it! if you want to continue to grow the fan base for your team mr. bidwell, reach down in your pocket and just pay your players!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Pay Dockett —

    Your message always carries more weight when you spell the owner’s name right. It’s Bidwill. And that’s not supposed to be a shot at you; I’m surprised how many die-hard fans do the same.

    I’m not going to argue that the key players need to get paid, but your point that “our underpaid players don’t fuss about it” seems a little disingenuous, don’t you think? Have you been following the same team I have?

  8. By cards fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    What’s the chances of Dansby getting resigned? Slim to none?

  9. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Cards fan —

    I wouldn’t say that. It depends on the market. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used a transition tag on him though, which would give the Cards the right of first refusal on any contract he signs.

  10. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Speaking of great free-agent additions, how about the game Bertrand Berry had last weekend? The ageless one always shows up in the big games. Character guys with a high-motor like Berry, Robinson, and Haggans are the guys Whiz will be looking for.

  11. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Pay Dockett –

    Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Dockett all have been given contract extensions that each player agreed to. The Bidwill’s certainly paid out for Fitz (4 years and 40 million, most of it guaranteed?), and Dansby the past two years with his primo franchise price.

    I do agree 100% that we need to extend Dockett (a second time) and it would be wonderful to get our defensive QB (Dansby) under wraps for the next few years. Dansby’s leadership and experience in the system is going to be hard to replace quickly.

    Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees – and even it if did – there has been a salary cap to work within. The judgement of the personnel department is key when deciding whom to pay and how much, and the Cards seem to be doing a good job of it. It’s a high-stakes chess match for everyone involved.

    We seem to survive the loss of free agents pretty well, IMO. I wonder if the Texans (Antonio Smith) and Jets (Calvin Pace who had a 4 game drug suspension this year) are convinced those players have earned their primo FA salaries?

  12. By CardsFan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    “bidwell needs to stop being cheap and pay the players he’s got!”

    That would carry more weight if we hadn’t been salary-capped out each year for the past several year.

  13. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Pay Dockett –

    How much money did the Bidwill’s sink into Warner’s new contract earlier this year? Wasn’t it something like a $23 million deal, with $19 million of the contract guaranteed?

  14. By Wampag on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    hey Darren what’s the word on Q…you see him yet?

  15. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Wampag —

    It’s on the blog now.

  16. By graves on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks for keeping up with this blog…I come here every day and during the games to catch updates. Go Cardinals!

  17. By RedSea on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Darren (or anyone else for that matter) –

    Two questions, thanks in advance for your responses –

    * I was at the game on Sunday and forgot to Tivo the game. Is there a rerun airing anytime soon on TV?

    * I’m heading to New Orleans for the game. Are there any Cardinals functions that will take place this weekend in New Orleans (pep rally, official bar/tailgate, etc.)? Longshot but I figured I’d ask considering there probably won’t be too many Cards fans down there so trying to find some in advance.

  18. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    RedSea —

    NFL Network is replaying the game tonight at 6 p.m. Arizona time.

    There are no official team functions. Check out our Facebook page, though. Maybe you can connect through there.

  19. By greg on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    i’m not really interested in money right at the moment i’m more concerned with our zone D it seems every time we go zone were picked apart why dont we just cover straight up and apply the pressure

  20. By Logan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    I liked you before and i like you even more after that gem of a response to pay dockett!!

    That made my day an even better one and for that i thank you.

    On a side note…I think from what i have seen in last years playoffs and this years Whiz is a genius when it comes to gameplanning in the playoffs.
    You hear about players stepping it up in big games well whiz as a coach steps it up in big games as well.

  21. By FORMER Steeler Fan on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply


    How much are Bill and Michael Bidwill involved in the preliminary, intermediate and final discussions with Rod Graves and other management personnel regarding which players to keep e.g. Dansby and how much to pay them?.

    In an off-topic subject, what do you hear about other teams pursuing Russ Grimm for a head coaching job? I read the other day that the Bills were considering him.

    I also feel VERY justified about cutting my fan ties with the Steelers when Whiz wisely left for AZ. I believe that he has definitely proved that he would have been the better coach for the Steelers.

  22. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Former Steeler fan —

    Michael Bidwill is kept abreast of all those situations and, in the case of the high-dollar players, I would say he has input.

    As for Grimm, the Bills have asked for and received permission to interview Grimm, but the timing isn’t good (nothing has been set as of yet) and I am not sure Buffalo is indeed the job he would want to pursue.

  23. By TucsonRedBird on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply


    I have one thing I would like to suggest at UofP Stadium. I have been to many other Stadiums and many have TV or at least Radio coverage in the restrooms. Can you ask for them to implement in the off season?

  24. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    TucsonRedBird —

    I will do that.

  25. By Tbru on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    If Kurt retires does that open up a spot to sign a FA?

  26. By darrenurban on Jan 12, 2010 | Reply

    Tbru —

    No, that wouldn’t count.

  27. By AussieCardsFan on Jan 13, 2010 | Reply

    So the uncapped year will restrict free agency…but will it allow teams to spend more to keep their own players. If so, then the off-season will be the perfect time to show Dockett, Dansby…and maybe even Boldin some money. Come on Cards…we’ve been filling the stands make sure you keep some of the players we come to watch!

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