WRST Sports

Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh

NFL: 2013 Free Agency: Everything You Need To Know

With the free agency frenzy about to hit the NFL in just under five days now, it seems fitting that this week’s post be all about free agency and what NFL teams are doing during this time away from the field. While it may seem like a break from the normal fast paced game of football, free agency is still a very busy time for teams around the league. We’ll break down the process step by step, and by the end you’ll be all ready for your team to hit the free agency market on March 12th.

 First, we’ll address the salary cap that each team has to meet. Every season, each team in the NFL has to be under a certain amount of money that they pay to their players. That number differs each and every season. The more “under the cap” your favorite team is, the better off that team is. If they’re “over the cap,” that means that they have to do some shifting of contracts to get back under the cap or else they’ll end up being penalized by the league’s front office.

There are a few ways that a team can get under the cap. Let’s say that a team has just about $3 million in cap room. All of that money is going to go towards paying the rookie class that they draft that year, so they’ll have to make moves on the roster in order to get more money this season. One thing that they can do is cut players that are older and making more money, effectively clearing up a lot of cap room for that season. We’ve already seen this in the league this off season, with players like Charles Woodson getting cut by the Packers, or Dwight Freeny being cut by the Colts.

Another option teams have is to sign players to an extension. Now that may not make much sense at first, but at closer look, it makes sense in the short run. If a team owes a player a lot of money in the upcoming year, by giving that player a contract extension they can promise the money to the player in the future (in the form of guaranteed money), and decrease the amount he will make in the upcoming year. As bad as that may sound, the player is still getting a contract extension and still has more guaranteed money coming their way.

A final option teams have is to tack on “dummy years” to an existing contract of an NFL player. This means adding two years to the end of a current contract of a player, and pushing the money back then. It’s basically the same thing as a contract extension, but think of it more in terms of restructuring a deal. If a player is scheduled to make $12 million this season and $12 the next, by giving him two more years, the team can take $20 million of the guaranteed $24 million and give it to the player all at once as a “signing bonus”. This means that the player’s cap hit from that year goes from $12 million to just $2 million, and the team has $10 million in room to spend on other players in free agency.

Some of those players a team might want to get could be from their own team, in the form of UFAs, RFAs, and  ERFAs.

As an Unrestricted Free Agent, a player has the right to go to whatever team he wants to, and the current team he is with can only hope that they’re able to offer that player more than other teams are. Notable UFAs in the NFC North include players like Greg Jennings of the Packers, and Brian Urlacher of the Bears.

As a Restricted Free Agent, things get a little more complicated. A RFA is someone who has played less than four years in the league, and his contract is up. At that time, any team is able to offer him an “offer sheet”, which he can sign. The current team that that player is on, however, has seven days to match that offer, and if they do so that player is forced to stay on his current team. If they do not match the offer, and the player goes somewhere else, compensation in the form of draft picks are awarded to the team not matching the offer to keep their player.

Finally, there are Exclusive Rights Free Agents, or ERFAs. These players have perhaps the most complicated deal of all. They have only been in the league three or fewer years, and have a process sort of like RFAs to go through. First, the current team that a ERFA plays for must make an offer to that player by the league imposed deadline. If they do not, that player is free to go wherever he chooses. If they do make an offer, however, that player has two choices. He can either accept the offer and return to his team to play, or he can leave the league.

So what do NFL teams do if they want to keep a player but feel that a deal won’t get done by free agency? In that case, each team is able to place the “franchise tag” on one player each off season. By doing so, the player is forced to stay with his current team for one more season, and is paid a salary based on a complicated formula that includes the top five salaries at his position the past five seasons. Placing a franchise tag on a player can be detrimental to a team, because all of the money the player gets from it HAS to be paid that upcoming season, and would be a huge cap hit. For example, if a team has $16 million in cap room, but places the franchise tag on a player who is awarded $10 million for the upcoming season, the team now only has $6 million in cap room.

The franchise tag doesn’t have to be permanent, though. Even after placing the tag on a player, the team has until July 15th to reach a long term deal with that player. If they do so, then the tag is removed and the player is awarded a long term contract with more guaranteed money. It works out better for the team as well, because they could make a lot more in cap room by moving some of the salary that player would make next season to signing bonuses and future paydays in later seasons. This happened last year with Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who had the tag placed on him but ended up signing a 4 year/$32 million contract later on in the summer. 

That should be all you need to know about your team’s financial situation before they hit the free agency market. Remember: If your favorite team doesn’t have a lot of cap room right now, don’t worry. There’s still time for them to make room and hit the free agency market with room to make moves that can help make them Super Bowl contenders.

Wide World of Sports

The streak continues for the Chicago Blackhawks, and as an avid Blackhawks and NHL fan, I have to say I’ve been loving every second of it. Not only is it great for the team, but there’s no doubt it’s great for a league who has already seen their regular season schedule shrink to under 55 games. During the lockout there was a lot of talk about whether people really missed hockey or not, but now the Blackhawks are a top story on ESPN’s SportsCenter every day, and the NHL has got to be loving all of the publicity they’re getting from it.

That being said, how do they keep doing it? This team just won’t quit! In watching the team’s 3-2 victory last night over the Colorado Avalanche at home, I noticed one thing in particular that makes this team special: They hate, and I mean HATE, to lose. Streak or no streak, this is a team who just wants to go out and be the best each and every night. Last night, with the game tied and less than a minute to go, the easy thing to do would have been to control the puck, and go into overtime, effectively keeping the record in tact no matter if the Blackhawks won or lost. Instead, they put on an all out offensive attack, and scored a goal with 49 seconds to go, winning the game. Afterwards Captain Jonathan Toews said there was no added pressure, and that the team was just “having fun” with the streak. Patrick Kane said having Marian Hossa on the team really helped, because the younger players were able to look up to him and strive to be like he is. Any way you look at it, this is a team of special players and top tier competitors who just downright don’t like to lose, and don’t intend to do so any time soon.

Alexander Crowe –  Assistant Sports Director for WRST

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2013 by in NFL and tagged , , , , , , .
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