With a lot of help, the two sides of the NFL labor deal trying to come up with a new CBA have managed to iron out a lot of differences between them. The players seem to be willing to agree to any deal so long as its not something ridiculous. Well they have found something that trips them up and the issue is the owners demands to right of first refusal that they want in addition to the Franchise tag.
So what is the ‘right of first refusal’? Simply put, the owners want to be able to retain a player who has put his contract time in and receives a good offer from another club. The team who has rights to the player has the right to MATCH the offer and retain the player.
How is that different from Franchise Tag? Under the Franchise Tag, a team must pay a player the average of the top 5 players salaries at that position, and that gets the team the services of that player for only one year. When it was first introduced the players loved the Franchise Tag, now they hate it, because they realize it means they are NOT going to get a long term contract that the player wants.
The Rights of First Refusal comes from the need for a rookie salary cap. Rookie wage scales are going to be controlled, but the debate is what to do with that saved money. Players want the owners to send that money back to players after someone finishes their initial contract, but thats another stumbling block. How long can a contract be before free agency kicks in; currently top players get 5 year contracts, but when an NFL running back has an average shelf life of 3 years, he may never see Free Agency. Owners want 5 or 6 year contracts, thus holding players off even longer before they can get that big payday they were put off from.
So is the Right of first refusal bad? Depends on who you ask. Super Agent Drew Rosenhaus was on ESPN Radio the other day and talked to Colin Cowherd about the subject. The owners want to have 3 R.O.F.R. Tags to put on players, and the NFLPA finds that not only unreasonable, but a deal breaker.
The biggest drawback is in logistics of the whole deal, or rather, the lack of a deal for some players. For example, lets say Arizona wants a QB and can probably get a deal with Kevin Kolb, QB for Eagles. But they find out that Drew Brees is going to be a free agent. So they offer Brees a major contract, say 10 million dollars a year. Now the Saints have the right to match that offer, and while in the process of going over that, keeps Arizona on the hook, waiting to find out what New Orleans is going to do. In the meantime, the Vikings go ahead and sign Kolb, while the helpless Cardinals are unable to do anything as they wait for the Saints do do what they are going to do.
Strategy: a division opponent can stall in a situation similar to the one above, preventing a team from going after the next best guy.
A team may not go after the “top” guy because it may be a waste of time, so they go after the second best guy. This hurts the top guy at any position.
Anyone remember how ticked off Jeff Garcia was in 2008 when he thought the Bucs were going after Brett Favre? With this ‘out in the open’ negotiating, you’ll have more of the same situation.
We could find ourselves in a situation where clubs wont waste their time offering players money that is just going to get shot down. These players are now going to lack opportunities. That is NOT Free Agency.
Great players coming out of college will no longer be getting their big payday for 5 or 6 years, and they will be stuck in the city they were drafted. Right of First refusal is NOT Free Agency, and players are not going to budge on this one. Unless the owners are willing to budge on some of the particulars, this is going to be the issue that holds up things the most.