Countdown to Free Agency
With the Super Bowl now mercifully behind us, NFL teams (and their fans!) will finally turn their full attention to the new league year. While the 2019 league year does not technically begin until March 13th, there are many key NFL calendar dates – actually starting today. The following are the key dates on the league calendar between now and late July when training camp begins.
As of February 4th, teams can start releasing players with the aim of improving their Salary Cap for 2019. In reality, teams rarely do so this early, and instead wait until March to start making such moves. All players released between February 4th and the start of the new league year on March 13th are subject to waivers. If they clear waivers, they immediately become free agents and are free to sign a contract at any time (even if before March 13th).
With the new league year set to commence on March 13th, expect the Ravens to start making moves at some point during the 1st or 2nd week of March.
FEBRUARY 19th – MARCH 5th
As of February 19th, teams can start designating a soon-to-be free agent player with the Franchise or Transition Tag (can only use one or the other on one player). If a team wants to use either Tag, they must do so by 4:00 pm on March 5th.
The Ravens only really have one candidate for the Franchise Tag – C.J. Mosley. If the Ravens are unable to sign him prior to March 5th, they will have a major decision to make since the Franchise Tag for Linebackers is projected to be around $15.5M. That’s an awfully high number, basically because the Linebacker franchise tender calculation takes into account all linebackers and is largely based by the more expensive edge rushing OLBs. Presently, the highest yearly average for an ILB is Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, averaging just over $12M a year. Mosley is very likely to top that amount – it’s just a matter of by how much and if the Ravens are the team that is willing to go there.
FEBRUARY 26-March 4h
NFL Combine in Indianapolis. This is obviously a key date for all draftniks out there, but is also has significance for trade purposes since Compensatory draft picks can now be traded. As such, the NFL now announces the list of Compensatory draft picks right before the Combine (didn’t used to happen until late March), thus allowing teams to enter trade discussion now knowing their entire slate of draft picks.
The “legal tampering” window opens. As of March 11th, other teams can start discussing contract offers and terms with potential free agents, but a contract cannot be agreed upon (*wink-wink*) until March 13th.
Deadline to exercise CB Brandon Carr’s 2019 Option. If the Ravens exercise Carr’s Option, he will receive a $1.5M Roster Bonus on March 17th (5th Day of League Year). If the Option is not exercised, Carr becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent on March 13th (and will part of the Compensatory Pick calculation).
At 4:00 pm on March 13th, the 2019 league year begins:
- Teams must have submitted tender offers to all of their Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) and Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs) who they want to retain.
- Teams must exercise all 2019 contract options tied to the first day of the league year.
- Free agency begins for veteran players and the trading period begins.
- Teams must be under the Salary Cap and the Rule of 51 Cap computation begins.
At this point, prior to any roster moves, the Ravens are projected to be around $10-14M under the Salary Cap (assuming a Salary Cap of $187-191M). Obviously, though, there are more than a few moves that will be made before then that will change that number.
Deadline to pay WR Michael Crabtree’s $2M 5th Day of League Year Roster Bonus. If Crabtree is on the Ravens Roster on March 17th, he is owed $2M Roster Bonus. To avoid owing Bonus, Crabtree most be off of Roster prior to March 17th.
The deadline for teams to sign Restricted Free Agents to an offer sheet. If another team signs a RFA to an offer sheet, the player’s present team has five days to match that offer or potentially (depending on the tender given to the play) receive draft pick compensation if they decline to match. With the draft starting on April 26th, the deadline to sign a player to an offer sheet and allow for the required five-day match period is April 20th.
The NFL Draft, to be held in Nashville this year.
May 2nd is the CBA-mandated date by which 5th Year Options must be exercised for 4th year players who were drafted in the 1st round. For the Ravens, this would be the deadline to exercise the 5th Year Option for OT Ronnie Stanley. Unlike last year when the Ravens declined to exercise the option for WR Breshad Perriman, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the Ravens will exercise Stanley’s option.
The “May 7th Tender” date. This date, which was moved forward from June 1st a couple of years ago, is essentially the last date that the signing or losing of a free agent will count toward the Compensatory Draft pick calculation. The May 7th Tender – which rarely happens – is a way a team can potentially obtain exclusive negotiating rights with a player later in the summer. It also provides extended Comp pick eligibility if the player is tendered a contract of at least 110% of his prior year’s compensation by May 7th. Otherwise, if the player is not given the May 7th Tender, he no longer counts toward the Comp pick formula and the team cannot gain any special negotiating advantage later in the off season. As a practical matter, very few free agents who remain unsigned by May 7th are worth such a tender.
This is the last day that teams can release a player and have all of the dead money from that release count against the present year’s Salary Cap. If released after June 1st, only the present year’s bonus prorations count against the Cap in that year and all future bonus prorations would count against the following year’s Cap.
This is the deadline for signing a player who has received the Franchise or Transition tag to a long-term deal. If no long-term deal can be reached by this date, the player must play that year under the 1-year contract provided under the Franchise/Transaction Tender and cannot sign a long-term deal until after the season is over.
NFL training camps start opening.
Final cutdown date, when all teams must cut down to 53 players.
SEPTEMBER 5th, 8th-9th
Week 1 of 2019 NFL season.
Right around the corner, right?