24 Feb 2010
by J.I. Halsell
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they will be parting ways with running back Brian Westbrook. It subsequently was reported that Westbrook’s termination would not be official until March 5, the first day of the 2010 league year. My first thought when hearing this peculiar piece of information was that perhaps the Eagles were trying to avoid a Joey Porter situation.
Earlier this month, the Miami Dolphins tried to release Porter, but the transaction was reversed by the NFL Management Council. The Dolphins have $4.1 million in 2009 cap room, and the Porter termination would have been considered a 2009 league year transaction. Accordingly, by virtue of being terminated in February, the Dolphins would have had to take on an additional $4.8 million in signing bonus acceleration in 2009. Given their $4.1 million cap room, the February Porter termination would not fit under the cap.
With Joey Porter in mind, I thought that perhaps the Eagles did not have enough cap room to take on the acceleration associated with terminating Westbrook in 2009. However, as I found out, the Eagles have $4.2 million in cap room, and by terminating Westbrook, would have incurred $1.5 million in acceleration. So the Eagles clearly could have made the termination effective on Tuesday, but it appears that the Eagles are looking to use that $4.2 million in cap room for other purposes. Perhaps the Eagles are looking to use that cap space to release other players in 2009 or simply would prefer to take on Westbrook’s dead money in 2010 rather than 2009.
It appears Saints safety Darren Sharper will hit free agency without being precluded by the $6.5 million safety franchise tag. Last offseason, 35-year-old Denver safety Brian Dawkins signed a five-year contract with $5.8 million in guaranteed money and an average per year of $3.4 million. Just like Dawkins, most people believe the 34-year-old Sharper has remained a productive player as he approaches his mid-thirties -- although Bill Barnwell disagrees -- so it would be reasonable for him to expect at a Dawkins-like contract. Not to mention, teams may be willing to pay a premium for Sharper because signing one of the stars of the Super Bowl champions is sure to ignite the fan base.
If Sharper were to leave, one would expect the "Who Dat" nation to question the prudence of such a departure. However, keep in mind that the Saints, Vikings, Colts, and Jets are the most restricted teams in free agency by virtue of the Final Eight Plan. As part of the Final Eight Plan, the Saints cannot sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose an unrestricted free agent, and the first-year value of the acquired UFA by the Saints cannot exceed the first-year value of Sharper’s contract with his new team. The Saints could be hoping a team overpays for Sharper, which would allow the Saints a lucrative one-for-one UFA match at their disposal. The newly acquired UFA to replace Sharper does not have to be a safety. It could be a linebacker possibly to replace Scott Fujita or, if Malcolm Jenkins will replace Sharper at safety, it could be used on a cornerback such as Dunta Robinson or Leigh Bodden which could allow the Saints to have three strong cornerbacks in a pass happy league.
We recently discussed the upgraded tender’s impact on restricted free agency. One question that came up about the upgraded tender was this: Do all former first- and second-round restricted free agents for a certain team receive at least their respective draft-round tender if one player on their team does? Here's an example to explain: If the Redskins tender former sixth-round pick defensive tackle Kedric Golston at the first-round level, then the Redskins must tender quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Carlos Rogers at a minimum of the first-round level if they hope to receive a first-round pick in return for a Campbell or Rogers departure via restricted free agency. Under the same scenario, in which Golston gets tendered at the first-round level despite the upgraded tender, former second-round pick linebacker Rocky McIntosh could be tendered at the original round level and the Redskins could still receive a second-round pick for McIntosh. Golston’s upgraded tender of a first-round pick only has an impact on the club’s former first-round picks. If the Redskins were to extend a second-round upgraded tender to another one of their restricted free agents, then McIntosh would have to be tendered at the second-round level.
Regarding undrafted players who are restricted free agents and who receive a tender higher than the low-level, right-of-first-refusal-only tender, the CBA is not clear as to whether or not an undrafted player who receives a second-round tender equates to an upgraded tender. The language of the CBA in defining the upgraded tender refers to "Restricted Free Agents originally selected in a draft round lower than the first round." For example, if the Colts tender undrafted safety Melvin Bullitt at the second-round level, then the letter of the CBA says that the club could tender former first-round pick Marlin Jackson at the original round level and still receive a first-round pick in the event of his departure. The interpretation of this scenario will have to be determined by the league, but the spirit of the rule would seem to indicate that, despite the actual language, the Bullitt tender should be considered an upgraded tender and accordingly Jackson should be tendered at a minimum of the first-round tender.
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16 comments, Last at 26 Feb 2010, 10:52pm by Brendan Scolari