Salary Cap Update: Restrictions, Schmestrictions

Sad though it is to see TJ let loose, which we’ll undoubtedly be providing you with more coverage of later, who wants some good news?

The salary (non)-cap situation continues to move every day and the the latest development could dramatically increase the pool of players available to the Jets this offseason. We’ve continually said that these final eight restrictions are not as restricting as is being widely reported, but it may be that they are even less restricting than we thought.

Florio’s latest article contains this tasty morsel, direct from the horse’s mouth:

Per NFL director of corporate communications Dan Masonson, “If an RFA is not tendered, he’s a free agent, but not a UFA. . . . So Final Eight teams can sign him.”

This is not what we thought, as teams seemed to believe the opposite as recently as last week, so this is a surprise. To reiterate, any such players can apparently be signed freely by the Jets and they don’t need to lose a free agent of their own first.

It’s possible that some of the decisions on which RFA’s should not be tendered were made by teams unaware of this rule. For example, the Chargers may have decided not to tender Darren Sproles in order to prevent the Colts from being able to sign him as a UFA. If that’s the case, they still have until March 5th to change their mind, although in many cases, the only RFA tender available will be Right of First Refusal only, because all other tenders require a salary bump to 110% of last year’s earnings.

One side effect of this revelation is that a non-tendered RFA that gets picked up will not be a UFA loss for a final 8 team that needs to match each UFA signing with a loss. This only really affects Drew Coleman, although we had previously wondered whether the Jets had considered non-tendering Braylon Edwards or Leon Washington for this purpose.

After the jump is a summary of the options open to the Jets this offseason.

1. The Draft (where the Jets have picks in rounds 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 and will also receive at least one UFA compensatory pick)

2. Undrafted Free Agents

3. Anyone not with a team at the end of last year (eg Travis LaBoy)

4. Any trades, as long as it is not for a guy whose contract expired at the end of the 2009 season.

5. Any restricted free agents, which usually means you have to give up draft pick compensation, but not necessarily (eg Elvis Dumervil, Lance Moore)

6. Re-signing their own UFAs without restriction (eg Tony Richardson, Marques Douglas)

7. Signing anyone who is or has already been cut (eg LaDanian Tomlinson, Joey Porter)

8. Signing a larger than you might expect UFA to replace an outgoing UFA. Note: This revelation makes me wonder if Lito will qualify as a UFA loss after all, so I am looking into that, but the post still serves as an example of how the size of the contract for the replacement UFA can be much bigger than you might expect, although if Lito does not qualify as previously thought, then the size of that contract will reduce because it’s unlikely any of the Jets UFAs will command a first year cap figure as high as the $3m used in the example.

9. Signing an RFA that has been non-tendered with no restriction (eg Kevin Dockery, Darren Sproles)

10. Signing a UFA from another final four team with no restriction. Note: There is still some debate over whether or not this is the case.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that nobody was expecting this and some of the language is so ambiguous, it’s possible that the Union could challenge certain clauses. The confusion seems to be increasing daily, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them hastily negotiating a (temporary) salary cap or some alternative transitional rules, which would completely change everything again!

Once again, our thanks to Jason from the unofficial Jets salary cap site for his input.