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Tuesday, January 12: Rooting For … The Cowboys?

Posted by Matt Terl on January 12, 2010 – 11:21 am

An interesting item on ProFootballTalk this morning about the provisions put into the CBA to prevent an uncapped year from turning into the rich getting richer. I hadn’t been thinking about it much because it was so far from relevant to the extremely non-playoff 2009 Redskins, but it boils down to this: teams in the final eight will be faced with certain limitations in the upcoming 2010 free agency period.

Here are the four major restrictions as cited in PFT, with me attempting to do a lawyerese-to-English translation on each one.
(Note that this entire post revolves around the assumption that there will be no progress in negotiations and 2010 will be an uncapped year as is currently slated.)

First, the Final Eight teams may sign any unrestricted free agent who obtained that status by being released and clearing waivers.

That is, the F8 teams can sign players who were cut from their previous teams, not guys whose contracts were up. In some years, this would be extremely limiting. In the case of the uncapped year, though, there are likely to be a lot of cuts. Possibly, like, a LOT-LOT of cuts, if teams use the opportunity to dump some bloated contracts and the like. On a restrictiveness scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being absolute chaos and 10 being life under an oppressive regime, this is probably a 4. Maybe a 6 in other years, but we’ll go with 4.

Second, the Final Eight teams may sign any unrestricted free agent who was under contract with that team at the conclusion of the 2009 league year.

You can re-sign your own free agents. Fair enough; the point of these rules isn’t to cripple existing good teams. Restrictiveness quotient: 1.

Third, one unrestricted free agent may be signed for each unrestricted free agent that a Final Eight team loses, but only at the same first-year salary the departed player receives elsewhere, with limitations on future growth of the deal.

You can only have to lose a guy in free agency for each unrestricted free agent — a guy who is on the streets because his contract was up, as per Item the First — you sign. And you’re going to be signing guys of roughly the same caliber as the guys you lose, based on first year salary.

Here’s a Redskins example, if the 2009 Redskins were in the final eight. If a non-starting unrestricted free agent — someone like, say, Anthony Montgomery — were signed by another team to a contract commensurate with his expected contribution, that would free these hypothetical playoff Redskins to sign someone to a comparable contract. So in this example, you wouldn’t be able to sign, say, Vince Wilfork to replace Anthony Montgomery.

And from what I can glean, the “limitations on future growth” are relatively stringent; these non-existent playoff Redskins wouldn’t be able to just give Wilfork the same first-year salary as Montgomery and then quintuple the money in year two.

Restrictiveness quotient on this one is pretty severe. Let’s call it an 8.

Fourth, the Final Eight teams may sign one unrestricted free agent at a first-year salary of $4.925 million (plus the annual percentage increases in total football revenue since 2006), and an unlimited number unrestricted free agents at a first-year salary of $3.275 million (plus the percentage increases of total football revenue since 2006), with limitations on future growth of the deal.

F8 teams can sign one $5 million dollar-a-year guy, and as many $3 million-a-year guys as they want. But, again, those “limitations on future growth of the deal’ may be stringent enough to prevent players from wanting to sign multi-year deals. Which isn’t that restrictive at all, and in fact may reduce the restrictiveness of Items One, Two, and Three. We’ll arbitrarily assign a restrictiveness quotient of -1.

Not that any of this matters to the 2009 Redskins, who haven’t been able to talk realistically about the final eight in, like, months.

Which brings us to the somewhat provocative title of this post, actually. Teams that advance to the Conference Championship games, aka the NFL final four teams, aka the winners of this weekend’s games, lose Item The Fourth. Meaning that they will be even more restricted this offseason.

The Cowboys, being in the final eight, are already operating under all four of these items. The suggestion from ProFootballTalk is that Redskins fans should actually be rooting for the Cowboys to win this weekend, advancing them to the final four and further restricting their offseason maneuverability by removing the liberating fourth item.

I’m not sure that I buy it. I could root for the Cowboys in maybe two circumstances:

1) If a Cowboys win secured the Redskins a playoff birth while a Cowboys loss or tie eliminated the team, or;

2) If my life or the life of someone I cared about depended on it.

A possible 3) would be if the Cowboys were facing the ever-irritating Brett Favre, so I suppose I’ll find out this weekend if that’s true or not. But I don’t think that 4) To further limit their offseason spending freedom actually makes much sense to me. All of that said, at least it’s one small good thing about missing the playoffs this year.

But that’s me. What do you think?

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