There is plenty of news that will come over the next few days about free agents from other teams, but the Jets have to tend to a bit of a housekeeping regarding their own restricted free agents.
The details of restricted free agency are a bit complicated and nuanced so I will do my best to keep explanations as simple as possible.
What are restricted free agents?
To define the phrase with the phrase, they are free agents who can sign with other teams but have restrictions on their availability.
To actually answer the question, players need to have four years of service time in the NFL before they are eligible to sign with other teams with no strings attached.
When the contract expires for a player with three years of service time, his team has some options to keep him.
What sort of options does the team have?
In order to gain these options, the team has to offer the player a one year contract (also known as a tender).
By offering the tender, the team gains the option to match an offer if a player signs with another team.
Say Player A was offered a tender by the Jets and then signed a 3 year, $9 million contract with the Colts. If the Jets wanted to keep Player A, they could simply match the offer. Player A would return to the Jets on that same 3 year, $9 million contract.
If the Jets chose not to match, they might be entitled to Draft pick compensation.
What kind of Draft pick compensation?
It depends on how much money the Jets offered in that original one year tender.
There are three options.
Over The Cap estimates a $4.149 million tender would attach a first round pick to a player as compensation, a $2.914 million tender would attach a second round pick, and a $1.907 million tender would attach a pick in the round the player was originally drafted (or nothing if the player was undrafted).
What sort of strategy is involved in offering these one year tenders?
The tender value is essentially a calculation of the lowest Draft compensation that would scare off another team. You have to remember that while players who receive tender offers can seek contracts with other teams, they also have the right to simply sign the one year contract offered to them. So you don’t want to offer a backup a first round tender just to scare off other teams. You could easily end up with the backup signing that tender and then having him count over $4 million against the cap.
Most players do simply sign the one year tender because other teams don’t want to pay the Draft pick obtaining the player would cost them.
After the player completes the one year contract, he will have four years of NFL service time and become an unrestricted free agent.
Can tendered players be traded?
It is relatively rare, but it can happen.
The trade the Jets and Saints made in 2013 was one such deal. The Saints put a second round tender on Ivory. The Jets were not interested in Ivory at that price.
The Saints decided to deal Ivory for a fourth round pick instead. Why did they do that when Ivory had a second round pricetag? They realized nobody would be willing to give up a second round pick to sign Ivory. Yet they also knew they would likely lose the running back one year later for nothing after he became an unrestricted free agent.
So New Orleans took what they could get, which was a fourth round pick.
Is the tender guaranteed?
What happens if a team chooses not to tender a player?
Then he becomes an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team with no strings attached.
Does it make sense to not tender a player even if you want to keep him?
It is possible. You might not think a player is worth the value of the tender but worth the minimum. The player is free to re-sign with his original team as an unrestricted free agent.
Which Jets are restricted free agents?
What should the Jets do?
I’d give Enunwa a second round tender. Look, I like Enunwa. But if some team out there wants to give the Jets a second round pick for a guy coming off a serious neck injury with one 800 yard season to his name, that’s a great deal. Otherwise, they’ve got him back on a relatively cheap deal.
The rest should either get the original round tender or no tender at all (and I’d lean strongly on the side of no tender at all for Qvale in particular).