Ravens success this season could handcuff their offseason

Salary Cap Ravens success this season could handcuff their offseason

Posted in Salary Cap
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Now that the Ravens’ season is over and the offseason is officially upon us, the Ravens surprising victory in
New England in the wildcard round of the playoffs did come with one significant drawback.  Because next season is slated to be “uncapped”, the Ravens are now subject to the Final 8 Plan which limits the types of free agent transactions that the team may pursue. 

Mindful of what an “uncapped” season might look like, and the potential damage that it could do to the league’s competitive balance (i.e. parity), the NFL Players Association and the league owners decided to create a specific set of rules that would act as a safeguard against teams going hog wild when no longer constrained by a salary cap.  These rules found in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (“
CBA”), aim to limit free spending clubs and allow the lower revenue teams to remain competitive. 

One of those measures is the “Final Eight Plan”, which sets out to limit what the best 8 teams can spend, and when they can spend, on Unrestricted Free Agents (“UFAs”).  Contained in Article XXI of the
CBA, the Final Eight Plan places limits on those teams advancing to the Divisional Round of this year’s playoffs and then further restrictions on the 4 teams that advance to the Conference Championship games.

Since the Ravens advanced to the Divisional Round, they reached the final 8 and are now subject to the following limitations:

  • The team may sign only one “middle range”

    , whose first year salary is in the $5-6M range, and an unlimited number of UFAs whose first year salary is in the $3-4M range or less.  Those ranges are approximate and will be indexed based on the increases in league’s total revenue since 2006; and
  • The team may not sign a higher priced

    , or any additional “middle range” UFAs, unless the team has lost a

    that makes a similar first year salary.  The requirements for the similar nature of the UFA lost and signed are that (1) the first year’s salary of the player signed (base salary, roster bonus, signing bonus proration) does not exceed that called for in the new contract of the player lost, (2) all future years’ salaries of the newly signed UFA do not annually increase by more than 30% of the player’s first year salary and (3) the contract cannot be renegotiated to raise the player’s compensation until at least one year after it’s signed.
  • The team may not trade for a player who they would have been otherwise unable to sign based on the above prohibitions.

The Final 8 Plan does not limit the team from signing the following types of free agents:

  • They may re-sign an unlimited number of their own UFAs;
  • Any free agent who has been released by his prior club.  These FAs are often commonly referred to as “Street Free Agents”; and
  • A Restricted Free Agent (RFA).  The team may sign an unlimited number of RFAs to offer sheets because there will be draft pick compensation owed if the player’s current team does not match the Ravens’ offer sheet and allows the player to sign with the Ravens.

These limitations are in place if the 2010 season remains “uncapped” as it is now set to be.  If the NFL owners and the NFLPA find a way to reach an agreement on a new
CBA before March, then these prohibitions will most likely go away.

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Brian McFarland

About Brian McFarland

Known on Ravens Message Boards as "B-more Ravor", Brian is a life-long Baltimorean and an avid fan of the Ravens and all Baltimore sports.  A PSL holder since 1998, Brian has garnered a reputation as a cap-guru because of his strange (actually warped) desire to wade through the intricacies of the NFL's salary cap and actually make sense of it for those of us who view it as inviting as IRS Tax Code.      Brian, who hails from Catonsville, MD and still resides there, is married and has two children. More from Brian McFarland


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