I have been looking into this years restrictions on FAs and have seen a couple of posters make mistakes about what is and isn't possible to get one of these agents. I have used Askthecommish.com for most of my information. Lets review
The current CBA ( collective bargaining agreement) (Actual CBA Document) expires at the end of the 2010 season. The last year of the agreement is an uncapped year. In other words no team has a salary cap this year. In theory that would allow the profitable teams like Dallas to pay oodles of money to all of the top talent and the little teams would suffer. In order to keep the league from imploding ( like NHL) rules were put in place to limit the amount of Free agents available.
Here is how it works.
Previously any player that has played for 4 years becomes an Unrestricted free agent. A team could keep that player by
1) negotiating a new contract or
2) Placing a Franchise Tag on the player and paying him the average of the top 5 players at that position.( oodles)
In an uncapped year ( now) a player becomes an unrestricted free agent after his 5th year in the league. After 3 years the player becomes a Restricted Free Agent ( RFA) as soon as his original contract expires. An RFA can negotiate with any club he wants with certain restrictions. The restriction is as follows according to AsktheCommish.com
"The player's original team maintains the First Refusal Right if the team tenders a contract offer of one year at $1.01 M.
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.
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.
The time frame for RFAs to complete their contract negotiations is April 16, 2010. The original club has until April 23, 2010 to exercise the right of first refusal. From these deadlines you can understand why any draft choices given up to acquire a player will come from the THIS YEARS DRAFT. So just to be clear. If a Team would give up a first round draft choice for Brandon Marshall that draft choice is from the 2010 draft.
If a team does not have the available draft choices it cannot negotiate and make an offer with the player.
The last piece of the puzzle is the number of free agents a team can sign. A team is not limited to signing unrestricted free agents unless they were one of the 8 teams in the NFL playoffs. The four finalist are only allowed to sign a UFA if they lose a UFA. They are also restricted to not pay more for the replacement than the player who they lost got paid.
The bottom four playoff teams can sign one more expensive UFA than they lose. They can only pay one new UFA more than 5 million in the first year of the contract. In other words they can sign one big-time Free Agent. They can sign as many UFAs for 3 million ,first year salary, as they can find, but that UFA will have annual salary increases limited in the contract.
As a final thought we should all realize that any team can tag an UFA as a "Franchise Player" . This means the player will get paid an average of the top 5 salaries ( based on this years contracts) for his position the next year. He must play for his team. If a player is tagged as "non exclusive franchise" he can negotiate with other teams but they have to pay 2- #1 draft picks.
This year each team will have one additional "Transition" tag they can use to keep a UFA on their team. Although a transition player gets a little less money ( average of top 10 salaries) he can negotiate with other teams like an RFA. No draft picks are awarded if the original team does not match the offer.
Now if a New CBA contract is signed one can expect the old rules of players becoming UFAs after 4 years to be the new rule. Same as it was. For this to happen a new CBA will have to be signed prior to February 17,2010. This is not likely.
Ths is just some information to help you in your process as a GM. Hope it helps.
Please feel free to post any corrections or clarifications.
The third piece of the puzzle is that each team is restricted to the number of FAs they can sign.