That sounds a lot better than saying, “We screwed something up.”
On Friday, we suggested that the Chargers’ decision not to offer the lowest-level restricted free agency tender to running back Darren Sproles might have been motivated by a desire to keep him from the Colts. As a final four team that is prevented from signing an unrestricted free agent until one is lost, the Colts nevertheless can pursue restricted free agents at will.
The flaw in our thinking? The decision not to issue a restricted free agency tender to Sproles doesn’t make him an unrestricted free agent.
Per NFL director of corporate communications Dan Masonson, “If an RFA is not tendered, he’s a free agent, but not a UFA. . . . So Final Eight teams can sign him.”
In this regard, the CBA isn’t crystal clear. As best we can determine, a restricted free agent always is a “restricted free agent,” regardless of whether their teams take advantage of the devices for restricting their movement.
This means that the Colts and the Vikings and the Saints and the Jets and the Ravens and the Cardinals and the Cowboys can pursue Sproles without having to figure out how signing him might or might not fit within the restrictions of the Final Eight Plan.
That same reality will apply to any other restricted free agent who receives no tender.
So why wasn’t Sproles tendered? Apparently, the Chargers believe that even the right of first refusal requires offering to Sproles 110 percent of his 2009 salary. (The union believes it does not.)
In other words, we’re not the only ones who have screwed something up.