RFA tenders could be league’s next big power move

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In the near future, players with three, four, and five years of NFL experience are expected to be notified by teams that they’ve been “tendered” as restricted free agents.

In terms of player volume, it’s a major diversion from the norm.

Per traditional collective bargaining rules, only free agents with three accrued seasons are restricted. Adding four- and five-year veterans creates the largest restricted free agent pool in NFL history. Upwards of 300 players are affected.

Restricted free agent tenders are completely non-binding, one-year contract proposals usually in the $1 million to $2 million range. Tenders indicate that clubs intend to keep these players into training camp. But the players are guaranteed nothing.

Marquee talents since as four-year Vikings receiver Sidney Rice, five-year Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, and four-year Giants tight end Kevin Boss had planned to capitalize on the lucrative, unrestricted free agent market with long-term contracts containing $10-14 million guaranteed.

With no salary cap and CBA, these players are no longer in line to strike it rich. They could even be cut in the fall.

“The uncertainty is unsettling,” said agent Scott Smith of X-A-M Sports, which represents Boss and Falcons running back Jason Snelling, another unrestricted-turned-restricted free agent. “Not only do players not know when and if there will be free agency, a good number of them don’t even know what their free agency status currently is.”

What makes the situation particularly troubling for players is that tenders may mean absolutely nothing. The tenders’ value depends entirely on terms set forth in the next CBA. The owners and NFLPA seem to be nowhere near an agreement.

“I’ve been following things closely,” said Smith of the progress of Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions. “And I have absolutely no idea how close the two sides are to reaching an agreement.”

In all likelihood, the tenders will be worthless.

Perhaps it’s all psychological. NFL teams are well aware of the tenders’ tenuous-at-best value. So are owners instructing their front offices to apply them as a means of disrupting the players union? Could the increased uncertainty shatter the NFLPA’s mettle, potentially causing the players to cave at the bargaining table?

“Restricting four- and five-year players is clearly in the teams’ best interests,” Smith observed. “They would have plenty of reasons to attempt to do it.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently cited a plugged-in NFL person as saying, “This CBA has no chance. The owners don’t want a deal.”

Without contracts for 2011, these “tendered” restricted free agents, more than anyone else, are left twisting in the wind.

8 responses to “RFA tenders could be league’s next big power move

  1. This article is nonsense! Free agency is directly tied to the CBA, and if there is no CBA there is no Free Agency.

    If/when the two sides grow-up and sit down and actually negotiate (instead of making demands, posturing, and leaving the table) this will be a MAJOR negotiating topic. The owners want back their “cut” that they gave up 4 years ago, but the players “should” get their UFA status at 4 yrs. and a guaranteed modest retirement/health care package.

    Negotiate, give-take, and stop making demands. Give a little, take a little until everybody is only partly miffed. You’re all multi-millionaires already, don’t blow this… bring on the 2011 season!

  2. The union should tell its members. Under no circumstance should you sign with a team that put a restricted free tender on you when you had over 3 years of service. Even when the next CBA is reached tell the team beforehand you will refuse to talk with them about a contract.

  3. It isn’t nonsense at all, but rather another demonstration of why the owners hold all the cards and the players hold nothing but their own johnsons.

    Oh wait, they can get some of their big name members to picket the NFL draft. Or they can listen to the owners of this site and get one of their shyster friends to file a lawsuit against the 32 franchises on behalf of 32 different municipalites.

    The NFLPA is toast.

  4. This would make the Jets situation a lot better. Allowing the Jets to put a RFA tag on Harris, Cromartie and Holmes. Pushing Edwards up to 1st on the new contract list.

  5. pkrjones says: Feb 14, 2011 2:38 PM

    This article is nonsense! Free agency is directly tied to the CBA, and if there is no CBA there is no Free Agency.


    If the owners use an impasse they can impose the terms of their last offer. If their last offer made all 4th, 5th and even 6th players RFAs then they can do that. I would expect the owners last offer to be heavily tilted in their favor for 2011 and 2012 giving them even more leverage.

  6. The bottom line is this, the players work for the owners. If they don’t like it they can take the money they already earned and start their own business. Then they will see that it don’t matter how well you pay, it is never enough. it is really less about the money and more about the health benefits after the game is over. Quit paying rookies so much money for nothing, help the vets that made the game a success, respect your boss, respect your employee, and lets play some FRICKIN FOOTBALL PLEASE SIR!!!

  7. The bottom line is the owners own the NFL. Players only play in the NFL. Football unlike other sports doesn’t have the luxury of extending the season until its almost endless.
    Even and 18 game schedule doesn’t add a lot to the bottom line. Thus, the owners must take more out of the TV deal and give less to the players to make mo’ money. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
    I just hope if there is a big fight coming that the owners put a stop to gauranteed contracts like Mr Haynesworth got. That is whats killing them. Paying a guy 100 mil and he doesn’t show up.

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