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Will the Final Eight Rules Return?

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John Clayton of ESPN speculates on what the league might look like if the players win their case, and the lockout gets lifted. He talks about another year of the Final Eight rules.

If the league does impose the 2010 system, it will be interesting to see if it brings back the "Final Eight" plan. In an uncapped year, the top eight finishers from the previous season are handcuffed in free agency: The four teams that played in the title games can sign a free agent only if they lose a free agent, and the four teams that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs can sign a player at a modest cost, roughly $3.8 million in the first year.

This did not apply to restricted free agents, even those not tendered by their original club. It also did not apply to players under contract who were released. It went both ways. Losing one of the guys who fell into one of those categories did not allow the team to sign an additional free agent. Signing one of those guys from another team did not technically count as signing a free agent.

The quiet free agency the Jets had last year can be partially attributed to the big spending they had done the previous two years. Few teams are big buyers three straight years in free agency. The final eight rules forced Mike Tannenbaum to use the trade market more heavily, though. He only signed Jason Taylor as a free agent and added Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie through trades.

Final eight rules would be the downside to such a system. Jets fans should still root for its implementation because it would likely make David Harris, Holmes, and Cromartie restricted free agents, much easier to retain and subject to big compensatory returns if they do not.