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What the Uncapped Year Will Mean

We're turning to offseason mode here in GGN. We'll start talking about potential roster moves. Before we do that, though, let's talk about a 2010 season without a salary cap, which is starting to look more and more like a reality given the direction of CBA negotiations between owners and players. Over the past four days, I've read as much as I could and even had an e-mail exchange with the league office to try and figure out exactly what the rules will be. It's not going to be a free for all hot stove league like baseball without any limitations on teams.

This is a very complex issue. In fact, I'm starting to think the only thing that might be more complicated to figure out than the NFL's salary cap is how the league would function without a cap. The following is the way the league will change to the best of my knowledge to date on the topic.

More after the jump.

First let me provide you with some links I found helpful.

2010: An uncapped year odyssey
It seems like a long time before the 2010 free agency period will be upon us, but it is amazing to me how many players haven't even started to think about how it relates to them.

NFL releases Q&A on uncapped year - Bleeding Green Nation
The 2010 season is the final season covered by the current collective bargaining agreement. That means there's a whole host of possible changes to free agency, the salary cap, the draft ect. To try and make sense of it all, the NFL has released this Q&A.

Life in an Uncapped World - The Phinsider

Word From the Birds Blog

Jets 2010 Uncapped Rules
2009 Jets Uncapped Rules and Regulations.

Jets 2010 Free Agency Limitations
2009 Jets Free Agency Limitations.

The NFL Salary Cap: The Future of the Cap - Gang Green Nation


What does this all mean? How does this affect the Jets? Here are some of the key points.

Final Eight Rule

By making the Divisional Playoffs, the Jets severely limited the damage they will be able to do in unrestricted free agency. By making the AFC Championship, the limitations grew. It appears the Jets may only sign one unrestricted free agent for each unrestricted free agent signed by another team. In other words, Gang Green can sign one UFA for each UFA it loses. In addition, the free agent the Jets sign cannot earn a higher first year salary than the player lost. For example, if Jay Feely signs somwhere for $1 million, the team can sign another player for $1 million or less. It doesn't seem like the Jets can split $1 million between two players. Say Larry Izzo signs somewhere else for $1 million. The Jets couldn't combine the dollars to sign one player for $2 million. It has to be one for one. In addition the team cannot backload deals to try and get around the system. Contracts can't increase annually by more than 30%.

From what I gather, the Jets can spend freely in restricted free agency, but the lack of a cap will make it very difficult to craft a deal that will prevent teams from matching without going crazy.

The Jets will not be limited at all in going after players released by other clubs.

The bottom line is the Jets will need to spend wisely on the unrestricted free agent market. Here's one example. A lot of people want Chad Pennington back as a backup. Will the Jets be able to use one of their valuable free agent spots on a luxury like a backup quarterback? Will they even have a slot with as much money as a guy like Pennington would command?

Six Years for Unrestricted Free Agency

With a cap players could become unrestricted free agents after four years of service. That becomes six without the cap. Players who hit free agency before six years become restricted, meaning their original teams can make a one year qualifying offer and then have the ability to match any contract. That is to say the team retains the option to make a one year contract offer to restricted free agents. Depending on the amount of money offered, that can be worth first and third round picks, a first round pick, a second round pick, or a pick from the round a player was drafted. Players are free to negotiate contracts with other teams, but the orginal team has the right to match any contract offer and retain the player.

If the player turns down that offer and ends up signing with another team, the team that signs the player surrenders a Draft pick to the original team worth the value of the one tender.

The following are the Jets whose status changes from unrestricted to restricted depending on whether or not there's a cap.

  • Quarterback Kellen Clemens
  • Cornerback Drew Coleman
  • Wide receiver Braylon Edwards
  • Defensive tackle Howard Green
  • Tackle Wayne Hunter
  • Wide receiver Brad Smith
  • Safety Eric Smith
  • Running back Leon Washington
  • It explains why the Jets weren't in any rush to get a deal with Leon Washington done even if you disagree with the decision (which I do).

    There are 212 players in the league who will lose unrestricted free agency in all. Think about all the players that will take off the market. It's simple supply and demand. With less supply, the players who do hit unrestricted free agency will see their prices go up. Even without playing in the final eight, it would have been tough for the Jets to do much in unrestricted free agency. Now it will be exceptionally difficult. They'll be bidding in a thin market against teams with no restrictions.

    One loophole that appears to exist is the ability for the Jets not to tender one of their restricted free agents. That player would become unrestricted. If that players signed with another team, I am led to believe from what I have read the Jets would be able to sign a replacement.

    Dead Money

    This year could serve as manna from heaven for teams with bad contracts. It looks like teams can release players without any money counting against the cap in the future. In capped years, bonuses for released players can count for years.

    No Floor

    Unlike capped years, there is no minimum for teams to spend. Some small market clubs being hammered by the economy could be enticed to slash payroll, creating interesting free agent targets. 


    Those are some basic key points. That's by no means a comprehensive outline on the uncapped year. The league has been kind of vague on some issues. They aren't giving concrete answers for a lot of questions. Much of this has been educated conjecture based on what I have read.

    The point is we need to discuss the offseason thinking in this context. This post is just a starting point.