One of the many issues lurking in the stagnant (at least until last night) stew of collective bargaining relates to an effort by teams to finagle three or four “rights of first refusal” designations to be applied to free agents with four or five years of experience. Under 2010 rules, those players (like Vikings receiver Sidney Rice) would have been restricted free agents. Though some teams had the foresight to apply the franchise tag to such players, others assumed (ass, you, me) that the 2010 rules would still apply.
So with the threshold for unrestricted free agency expected to move back to four years, those teams in the NFL will be SOL when the time comes to squatting on players to whom they failed to apply the franchise tag or, you know, sign to new contracts.
Tough beans. (Or, perhaps, that stuff which ingested beans eventually will become.) Teams shouldn’t get a pass for failing to read the tea leaves.
Besides, in the looming buyers’ market that will be 2011 free agency, applying the ability to match an offer that up to four four-year or five-year free agents would get from another team will essentially take the players off the shelf. Time will be of the essence when the time comes to sign new players; which team will want to negotiate a contract with a free agent and then sit back and wait for the original team to decide whether to thank the prospective team for negotiating the player’s new contract in his current city?
Then there’s the amount of time to match. Typically, it’s a week. That won’t work this year, when there possibly will be only a week, if that much, between the end of the lockout and the opening of training camps.
It’s not practical, and it’s not fair. If the owners want to get this deal done, they need to drop this issue, and move on. Even if it means plenty of key players will be moving out.