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Final Eight Plan limitations apply to trades, too

As the first year without a salary cap since the arrival of the salary cap approaches, we’re spending plenty of time picking through the details of the current labor agreement.

And here’s something we found that we hadn’t previously seen anywhere.

Article XXI spells out the terms of the Final Eight Plan, a provision aimed at preserving competitive balance in the uncapped year by preventing the teams that made it to the division round or better from buying up a bunch of unrestricted free agents.

For the final four teams (Saints, Colts, Vikings, Jets), no unrestricted free agents may be signed from other teams until one of their current unrestricted free agents is lost to another team.  Complicating matters is that the value of the first year of the replacement free agent’s contract must be no more than the first-year salary paid to the player who was lost, with annual growth of no more than 30 percent.

For the next four teams (Cardinals, Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers), one unrestricted free agent may be signed at a base salary of $5.5 million or more, and an unlimited amount of others at a first-year salary of $3.7 million with a 30-percent limit on growth.

It had been assumed by many that these teams nevertheless could trade for an unlimited amount of players. 

Under Section 7 of Article XXI of the CBA, they can’t.

Here’s the key language:  “No Club subject to the provisions of this Article may, for one League Year, trade for a player it otherwise would not be permitted to sign as an Unrestricted Free Agent as a result of the provisions of this Article.”

That said, Article XXI, Section 8 expressly permits teams to negotiate with and sign unrestricted free agents limited by the transition or franchise tag.  But Section 7 apparently restricts the ability of the final eight teams to work out a trade for a franchise player for something less than two first-round draft picks — a common approach that multiple teams have used when shipping franchise players to new teams.

Keep in mind that none of this affects the ability of the final eight teams to sign or trade for restricted free agents, since the Final Eight Plan applies only to unrestricted free agents, and unrestricted free agency applies only to players who have six or more years of service.

[UPDATE:  We’ve asked the league for an official interpretation of Article XXI, Section 7.  For example, it might only prevent the final eight teams from trading for a 2010 unrestricted free agent who has signed a new contract.  Absent such a rule, a team like the Buccaneers could act as a straw man, signing Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers and then trading him to the Jets.  Under a broad interpretation of Article XXI, Section 7, the final eight teams might not be permitted to trade for any player with six or more years of service.]
 

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18 Responses to “Final Eight Plan limitations apply to trades, too”
  1. madsqgrdn says: Feb 15, 2010 9:57 AM

    haha this wasnt a competitive balance move..This whokle final eight nonsense was a poison pill for the players..you want no cap ..fine..we want to keep …”competitive balance”

  2. KevinKolb4SB says: Feb 15, 2010 10:05 AM

    They better get something done. I am beginning to like this uncapped year less and less, and I am hoping players, owners, and agents feel the same way.

  3. Drithe says: Feb 15, 2010 10:08 AM

    Yo mike. What does all this mean for Julius Peppers getting on any of these 8 teams? Just tell it in lamemen terms because your wall of text just did 9999 damage to me.
    End of Line.

  4. Vikes#28Owns says: Feb 15, 2010 10:10 AM

    Wow, this is getting insanely confusing. Correct me if I am wrong though. This rule doesn’t apply if the free agent has been cut by his respective team, right? Or am I confusing this? Anyone know for sure?

  5. Shawn says: Feb 15, 2010 10:12 AM

    I like the final eight plan only cause the last eight teams had a team built for the playoffs and it prevents one of those teams from signing all the top free agents. Players want to be on a playoff team, but if they want more money its better if they go to a team that has potential to be in the playoffs in the 2010-2011 season and make more money than what they would signing with lets say for example the saints. Of course if one of the top eight teams unrestricted free agents was paid well and they lost them than any unrestricted free agent at the same position would get a good contract.

  6. Bill In DC says: Feb 15, 2010 10:32 AM

    I think you may be wr, wro, mista … er not entirely correct about RFAs not being subject to the final eight rules. I believe that they come under the salary restrictions just the same as UFA. I think the CBA language refers to ‘free agents’ not ‘unrestricted free agents’, so, the top 4 teams can’t sign an offer sheet to an RFA that involves a 1st year ‘salary’ (salary + prorated bonus — and the proration of bonus rules are VERY different this years from years past) in excess of $5.5mil. For the teams in 4-8 spot they can only offer 1 over 5.5 mil and none of them can arrange a ‘trade’ for fewer draft picks. I think this really restricts the top 8 from going after RFAs.
    Of course most decent RFA will get the 1&3 tender so other teams will have to surrender massive draft picks as well as pay huge money, which I think they will be hesitant to do (Jets didn’t want to surrender a #2 pick for Miles Austin last year, think they regret that now?).

  7. No_Man says: Feb 15, 2010 10:32 AM

    “Keep in mind that none of this affects the ability of the final eight teams to sign or trade for restricted free agents, since the Final Eight Plan applies only to unrestricted free agents, and unrestricted free agency applies only to players who have six or more years of service.”
    That’s not how I read it. Signing? Yes. But trading? XXI.7 states that they cannot trade for a player that they couldn’t otherwise sign AS an Unrestricted Free Agent. It says nothing about whether or not the player in question actually IS an Unrestricted Free Agent. In other words, XXI.7 makes the Final Eight Plan teams treat every trade as a signing of an Unrestricted Free Agent and limited to the previous stated terms. That would apply to players under contract, URFA’s, RFA’s, and UFA’s.

  8. frox says: Feb 15, 2010 10:35 AM

    Keep digging through that CBA Mike. Who knows what you will find.

  9. Hap says: Feb 15, 2010 10:41 AM

    This is kinda dizzying. Okay, these are rules that attempt to restrict good teams from getting better. Sounds like another attempt at parity to me.

  10. shulby55 says: Feb 15, 2010 10:55 AM

    does this rule include players are going to be cut in the next few weeks?

  11. Treima says: Feb 15, 2010 11:14 AM

    Amazing. I guess I’m glad New England lost to Baltimore. It may have shattered 31 years of home playoff perfection, but at least my team can trade and spend on free agents.

  12. tazman1996 says: Feb 15, 2010 11:26 AM

    Actually it would seem as if this comes to pass, “un-capped” year, the owners will be able to spend as much as they wish to improve their teams. No cap limit etc. Without restriction, it would seem as if the players will have a great argument, the teams seem to have money to spend, and plenty of it.

  13. bigbolt says: Feb 15, 2010 12:37 PM

    this is friggin ridiculous…

  14. madsqgrdn says: Feb 15, 2010 1:09 PM

    Amazing. I guess I’m glad New England lost to Baltimore. It may have shattered 31 years of home playoff perfection, but at least my team can trade and spend on free agents.
    ——————————————-
    way to look at the glass half full, Belicheck is an awsome talent evaluator without pioli.

  15. roadkill98 says: Feb 15, 2010 1:35 PM

    p[o

  16. TryTheVeal says: Feb 15, 2010 1:51 PM

    I will care about this when the NFL pays me to care about it.

  17. Treima says: Feb 15, 2010 6:55 PM

    @madsqgrdn:
    In Bill We Trust, man. How are the Knicks doing? Looks like their talent evaluation system could use an overhaul.
    Heck, they oughtta just flush the whole team.

  18. coz says: Feb 15, 2010 10:49 PM

    sucks if you made the playoffs this year bahahaha

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