Several astute readers have raised an excellent question regarding the decision of the Patriots to apply the franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel.
Cassel falls within a group of players who, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, are eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2009 but, absent an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, only restricted free agency in 2010.
The glitch comes from the rule that limits eligibility for unrestricted free agency in an uncapped year to players with at least six years of accrued service.  Because Cassel as of March 2010 will have only five years of service, he won’t be an unrestricted free agent after his single season under the franchise tag expires.
But, in the end, it won’t matter all that much.  As we explained in May 2008, any attempt to keep Cassel’s rights via the restricted free agency rules would require the Pats to offer Cassel a one-year salary worth 110 percent of the $14.65 million that he’ll receive in 2009.
So even though the maximum RFA tender will be far less than $14.65 million in 2010, the Pats would be required to offer Cassel $16.115 million for 2010 in order to retain his rights (absent, of course, a multi-year deal).
There are still a couple of potential glitches.  For example, due to a conflict in the CBA as to whether the 110-percent rule applies to the “low” tender, it’s possible that the Pats could offer Cassel a far lower amount in 2010.  But this point is likely irrelevant as to Cassel, since the low tender would give the Pats only a seventh-round pick as compensation if they choose not to match an offer sheet that Cassel signs with a new team.
More importantly, the $16.115 million salary apparently would not be fully guaranteed, even if Cassel accepts the RFA tender.  Thus, the Patriots could cut him before the start of the 2010 regular season, and not owe him a dime.
The non-guaranteed nature of the RFA tender would create a dilemma for the Pats.  Under the RFA rules, their compensation for Cassel would be only a first-round pick and a third-round pick, but the $16.115 million tender would not be guaranteed.
Under the franchise tag (which they can use on Cassel even if he’s a restricted free agent), the compensation would be two first-round picks, but the $17.58 million tender (12o percent of his 2009 pay) would be fully guaranteed if/when he accepts the tender.
That said, look for the Pats to sign Cassel to a multi-year deal, or trade him to a new team.  But if he spends 2009 with the Pats, and if a new CBA isn’t negotiated, he’ll be a restricted free agent — and the procedure set forth above will apply.
After digesting all of that, our guess is that those who asked the question now regret doing so.
UPDATE:  As pointed out in this follow-up post, Cassel’s RFA tender apparently would be guaranteed.  We apologize for getting in wrong above.


  1. Get off Cassel’s dick already Florio, he is moving on to another team, your beloved Patriots will not have him come this season.

  2. That wasn’t nearly enough information. I think a companion site called CollectiveBargainingAgreementTalk.com is in order.

  3. I don’t think it will be a hard choice to Franchise or give him the RFA tender next year…. Saving 1.4 million in cap room plus making it not guaranteed is a no brainer. Nobody is going to give up 2 first rounders for anyone these days and I think if they thought he was worth more than a 1 and a 3 they would sign him long term. That should be plenty of compensation. They can easily get a good backup QB and another starter for a 1 and a 3.

  4. Are there any restrictions on contract renegotiations for Cassel after signing the tender? I think when Randy Moss was traded, he wasn’t allowed to renegotiate his deal in the league year he was traded. Is a player only allowed to renegotiate once or what are the regulations?

  5. uhhhh….you lost me.
    speaking of lost….do you think you could throw a browns story out there. I’ve been felling a little blue lately and could use some ridiculous nonsense to laugh at. you could even make something up if you want. I mean hell it’ll probably happen eventually anyway. maybe something along the lines of Randolph firing ManKok and deciding to just coach the team himself. you might even mention something about him playing safety for all the home games so the fans can see his amazingness in full force.

  6. Either way the pats are going to spend 25% on a single position in which 1 of 2 will be on the field at a time. SOMEONE’s worried about Braby’s full recovery.

  7. now whats the deal with the earth’s gravitational pull on mars and its moons? was copernicus right about earths force capturing phobos one day and giving us a second moon? me personally, I think its a load of crap but then again I didn’t attend the same college as florio and copernicus.

  8. So are you saying the Pats are only willing to part with Cassel for two first rounders? You mean if someone offered a first and a third this year, they definitely wouldn’t take it? That only a first and a third next year is really disapointing?
    Wouldn’t the fact that the money isn’t guaranteed put more pressure on Cassel to get a trade done with a long term deal if he is a tendered RFA next year? Doesn’t that hurt him more than the Patriots?
    I think it is moot. I think the Pats still trade him away this offseason no matter what Schefter is reporting. I don’t know how Cassel signing the tender makes it any harder to get a trade deal and a contract for Cassel with another team.

  9. Who was the idiot that said, “someone’s worried about Brady’s recovery.”? Of course they are. No sh@t buttmunch! He just blew out two(or was it three) major ligaments and had complications after the surgery. These things don’t follow any specific time table. It’s possible, look at the word, “possible”, Brady might not take a snap next year.
    His backup just went 10-5 and grew into the position and is poised to be an effective starter virtually anywhere(except for Detroit and Oakland).
    What would you? Franchise him, dumb@ss! I think there is at least a 20% chance Cassel is the starting QB for NE next year.
    And we are lucky to have him. Go Pats!

  10. Florio ….
    Keep digging in the CBA.
    A few years back, the Chargers were thinking of using the Transition tag on Drew Brees, the year he left for Free Agency. The prior year (2006) SD had used the Franchise tag on him.
    Tom Condom was about to file a grievance, citing a CBA clause that is loosely worded, which suggests ANY type tag used in the year after a franchise tag ensures that second year contract tender is also guaranteed. Something about not being allowed to offer lesser money, nor offer lesser agreements (such as the contract dollars being guaranteed) for subsequent seasons, is part of the Franchise tag rules.
    I’m not going to dig for the clause. You’re a lawyer, and much better at reading that legalese crap. But it’s there.
    If Cassel gets a tag in 2010, even an RFA tender, it will be guaranteed money.

  11. CBA Article XIX (f)
    Any RFA tender to Cassel in 2010 will be guaranteed, and will be 110% of his 2009 salary.

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