With the NFL offseason presently at a standstill – other than litigation between the parties – the strong possibility exists that the former NFLPA will be able to gain an injunction prohibiting a lockout by the NFL owners. If this happens, then the offseason will likely commence some time in May.
Under such a scenario, the NFL owners will be able to impose the rules under which the league would operate. Most reports seem to indicate that it is likely that the NFL would re-impose last year’s “Uncapped Year” rules. This would be the safest course for the league, since any rules they impose will be a basis for an anti-trust claim by the players. However, continuing the rules that the players had agreed to for the previous year (as part of the CBA) would seem to be the owners’ best bet for lessening the impact of that claim.
Those rules, instead of ushering in an era of spending, actually operated to reduce spending and limit the impact of Free Agency in 2010.
The Uncapped Year rules are as follows:
1. There is Salary Cap, so there is no spending limit; however, there is also no spending minimum as there was during the years that the Salary Cap applied. As such, teams can spend as much or as little as they’d like.
2. Players will need 6 years of service time in order to become Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs). Under the Capped Year rules, players only needed 4 years of service time to become UFAs. Now, again, as was the case in 2010, players will 4- and 5 years of service time will be Restricted Free Agents (RFAs).
This will greatly benefit most teams and will greatly restrict free agent movement. For the Ravens, this means that players like Guard Marshal Yanda, Offensive Tackle Jared Gaither, Fullback Le’Ron McClain and Cornerback Josh Wilson will now largely be under the Ravens control and will likely return for the 2011 season (or the Ravens will receive draft pick compensation if they leave).
3. The 30% rule will again apply, which will make it more difficult for teams to sign their own players to contract extensions. It will not hinder teams from re-signing players who have had their contracts expire, only those presently still under contract (like Joe Flacco, for instance).
4. Teams will have the ability to use an additional Transition Tag tender if they’d like. Normally, teams can use either their Franchise or Transition tender, but not both. Under the Uncapped Year rules, they can use one of each or 2 Transition Tags.
5. The Final 8 rules will again apply. Under the Final 8 rules, the Ravens, as a Final 8 team, are allowed to sign the following Free Agents:
•They may re-sign their own Free Agents;
•They may sign players released by other teams (known as “Street Free Agents”);
•They may sign RFAs to offer sheets;
•They may sign one (1) UFA to a big-money deal (with a 1st year “salary” of approx. $5.5M or above);
•They may sign any number of UFAs to minor deals (with 1st year salaries of less than approx. $3.7M);
•With regard to signing an additional big-money UFA or a middle range UFA (i.e. one with a 1st year salary between $3.7M and $5.5M), the Ravens can only sign any such UFA if they have already lost a UFA making the same salary.