March Will Come In Like A Lamb

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The fun off-season that is known as the “NFL league New Year” is about a month and a half away.  That is when free agency starts and the 2010 season along with it.  It will also mark the first time since 1994 that the league will not have a salary cap in place.  It will also start the proverbial countdown clock to a 2011 lock0ut.  For now though, this March, won’t roar like a lion.  It will come in the same way it will go out…like a lamb.

Rumors persist that teams around the NFL will use this year as a dumping of salaries.  That more veterans will end up on the streets as teams drop overpriced contracts without the repercussions of a salary cap hit.  While that may indeed occur, it will also prohibit a slew of first time eligibile candidates from testing the waters.

The NFL has a provision in place for this season that will keep the current teams remaining in the playoffs out in the cold come March.  Any of these teams can only sign a restricted free agent if they lose one of their players and then, they can only sign the new player to a contract that is equal to the one that they lost.  In other words, the NY Jets will not be going on a spending spree again this offseason…but Dan Snyder likely will.

The other issue at hand that prevents teams from throwing money at free agents is 2011.  Should there be a cap renewed for that season, teams who load up contracts with money guaranteed outside of this season could get hit hard next year. 

The real problem is that it teeters on 99% that this season will end without an agreement.  The NFL and the NFLPA are so far apart that it’s unlikely even an extension could pass at this point.  The owners no longer want a salary cap and the NFLPA does.  Go figure that one out. 

In any case, don’t get your hopes wrapped around names like Vince Wilfork out of NE.  While he may very well hit the open market running, each team will be given one extra tag to use on a player because of the un-capped season.  So chances are, many other players will simply be slapped into a contract.

The league/players deadline should also significantly reduce the trend of early morning signings shortly after the mid-night kickoff of free agency as teams will likely be a little more frugal with their spending.  More and more it looks appears that teams like the Miami Dolphins will have to continue their re-building campaign through the draft.

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