It could happen... Re-visiting the Rules of 2010

In my prior post, I not-so-emphatically opined that the 2011 season will be played using 2010 rules.  I provided some links, and I pieced together my belief regarding the pending ruling on the Lockout Injuction.  Ultimately, my conclusion was that, from this fan's perspective, the essential fate of the 2011 NFL season has already been written.  As somewhat of a disclaimer, I do see a probable impact to off-season training schedules, and possibly a week or two delay before the real games begin.

In this post, I want to look back at the 2010 rules, and specifically focus on how they apply to our Panthers of today.

The Rules of 2010:
No Rookie Salary Scale: Well, this one bites the Panthers in the arse, especially if we keep the number 1 pick and choose a Quarterback. It also makes the trade up less attractive to other teams, which may have been our best shot at getting back into Round 2.  Last, and also least, if a deal on a rookie scale is reached for the 2012 draft, it would really suck for Luck (sad).

In 2010, teams were not subject to a salary cap, or a salary floor.  Some thought there would be a free agent spending spree, but it didn't happen.  Why?  I'm sure some owners (like J.R.) were being fiscally responsible, but others were just heavily impacted by the Free Agent rule changes...

Free Agent Rules: First, let’s remember what they were before 2010. If you recall, prior to 2010 teams could Franchise a single player, and accrued years of service for Free Agents worked as follows:
When a player with five or more accrued seasons (or with four or more accrued seasons in any Capped Year) reaches the end of his player contract, he becomes an UFA (free to sign with any team). 

A veteran player with three or more accrued seasons, but less than five accrued seasons (or less than four accrued seasons in any capped year)... becomes an RFA, subject to lots of rules you can read Here (good bedtime reading; I didn't realize how crazy complicated the RFA rules are, or were). 

A player with no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL becomes an ERFA (Exclusive Rights),  and may only sign with his prior team, provided, of course, that the team extends a minimum qualifying offer to the player.

Then, in 2010 and per the prior CBA, the Free Agent rules changed thusly (again, you can read here for more details):

  • Players would need six years of NFL service to become UFAs, as opposed to the four that were required when the salary cap was in effect.
  • Players with expired contracts and three to five seasons in the league would become RFAs.
  • Teams would have an extra transition tag on top of the one franchise or transition tag teams were allowed during capped seasons.
  • The "Final Eight Rule" limits what playoff teams can do in free agency -- sucks for those guys, huh.  What is the Final Eight Plan?

    The eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team (teams affected by this rule would be Green Bay, Pittsburgh, J-E-T-S, and da Bears
    For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters (teams affected by these rules would be the Pats, Ravens, Seahawks, and Falcons).  Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases. In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases. 

  • The “30% increase rule” is still in effect for player contracts signed in capped years. That rule restricts salary increases. For example: a player with a $500,000 salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010. (Not good for Beason)

Panther RFAs and Tenders:

ERFAs include  QB Keith Null, DT Ed Johnson, G CJ Davis, WR Charly Martin, LB Nic Harris, DT Nick Hayden

RFAs Include:

POS

PLAYER

EXP

ROUND (YEAR) DRAFTED

Tender Level
(Negotiable)

LB

James Anderson

5

Third (2006)

1st and 3rd?

WR

David Clowney

3

Fifth (2007)

 

S

Marcus Hudson

5

Sixth (2006)

 

LS

J.J. Jansen

3

Undrafted (2008)

 

DE

Charles Johnson

4

Third (2007)

1st and 3rd

TE

Jeff King

5

Fifth (2006)

      1st or 2nd

DT

Derek Landri

4

Fifth (2007)

 

K

Rhys Lloyd

4

Undrafted (2005)

 

CB

Richard Marshall

5

Second (2006)

    1st and 3rd?

QB

Matt Moore

4

Undrafted (2007)

 

TE

Dante Rosario

4

Fifth (2007)

     1st or 2nd

LB

Jordan Senn

3

Undrafted (2008)

 

RB

DeAngelo Williams

5

First (2006)

1st and 3rd

CB

C.J. Wilson

4

Seventh (2007)

 

Since the Panthers have so many potential RFAs, I guess I should provide some of the RFA rules and regs that apply under the expired CBA:

  • The player's original team maintains the First Refusal Right if the team tenders a contract offer of one year at $1.01 M.  (Would apply only to the Scrubs)
  • The player's original team maintains the Right of First Refusal and Draft Selection at the Player’s Original Draft Round (from the team with which he signs) if the team tenders an offer of one year at the same amount(s) listed above OR at least 110% of the player’s prior year’s salary -- whichever is greater. 
  • The player's original team maintains the Right of First Refusal and Second Round Draft Selection (from the team with which he signs) if the team tenders an offer of one year at $$1.545 million OR at least 110% of the player’s prior year’s salary -- whichever is greater. (Jansen, King, Rosario possibly would fit here, if not the next bullet)
  • The player's original team maintains the Right of First Refusal and First Round Draft Selection (from the team with which he signs) if the team tenders an offer of one year at $2.198 million OR at least 110% of the player’s prior year’s salary -- whichever is greater. 
  • The player's original team maintains the Right of First Refusal and First Round Draft Selection and Third Round Draft Selection (both from the team with which he signs) if the team tenders an offer of one year at $2.792 million OR at least 110% of the player's prior year’s salary -- whichever is greater. (Deangelo and C.J. for sure, probably Anderson and Marshall as well)

The rest of the RFAs are hard to project, as interest isn't likely to be high.  Thomas Davis would be our only UFA, as far as I can surmise.

I do see this as a net plus for the Panthers, because the only way we can lose any of our core players without considerable compensation would be an outright release.  Also, while we love our guys, we could parlay someone into a 2nd rounder or better (Williams, Deangelo is one example).

On the flip side, the Free Agent fishing hole just got a lot smaller, as the best young players would cost us picks if we landed one or more. The UFA pool of interest now becomes (see this link, which addresses this precise scenario):
Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck (also Bulger and Volek) (Short-time veteran stop gaps, possibly)
Tight end: Bo Scaife (Intriguing, for a TE friendly offense)
OGs : Robert Gallery (also Alan Faneca) (Could help for a year, maybe)
Center: Olin Kreutz (also, Jonathan Goodwin, Casey Rabach, David Baas) (Depth for Kalil?)
DEs: Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin (I like Jenkins inside when healthy, and he's got a ring)
DTs: Aubrayo Franklin and Anthony Adams (I like either of these guys, if the price is right)
CBs: Nnamdi Asomugha and Ike Taylor (Aso, I love, but does J.R.s wallet? Not likely a top 8 could sign him)

That's the best of the UFAs at the Panthers' need positions. But, there is some talent there. And while other teams will also be shopping, like last year they’ll be doing so knowing that a cap of some kind is still the end game, and Free Agency rules make it costly. Plus, the Top 8 are seriously restricted from shopping.  However, we've got the money to spend, and needs to fill.

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