Once upon a time (actually, before 2006), June 1 of every year brought a second wave of free agency. Now, for entirely different reasons, a second wave of free agency comes after May 7.
But where June 1 free agency was about teams cutting players for cap-management purposes, May 7 is about free agents who already are available — and who had been for nearly two months.
May 7 has relevance because that’s when the compensatory draft-pick formula shuts off, allowing a team to sign a player without the acquisition affecting its potential haul of extra draft picks, a facet of the labor deal about which more and more teams have become sensitive in recent years. Basically, any free agent signed after May 7 doesn’t count, either for the new team or the old team, toward the compensatory picks either team will, or won’t, receive for 2020.
The compensatory draft-pick formula applies to players who became free agents on March 13, via the expiration of their contracts. Unsigned this long, they surely won’t be signed before Tuesday, and this year’s list is topped by the likes of former Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and former Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
So how do certain players end up being the ones who remain available after May 7? Their financial demands surely are a factor, as are their interest (or lack thereof) in being under contract for offseason workouts. Health, as it appears to be for Ansah, also can delay the process.
Regardless, every year a group of free agents not signed in the first wave of the process end up remaining available past May 7, because teams have figured out that it’s better to wait, since it makes better the chances of getting dibs on more young and cheap players the following year.