What will it take to keep Haye, Pearson?

They were valuable members of last year's team. But both Jovan Haye and Kalvin Pearson are restricted free agents. What does that mean? Well, Bucsblitz.com reveals the delicate formula used to determine how the Bucs can benefit — and be hurt — by the RFA process. Plus, find out the RFA tenders for 2008 right here in this premium article.

Bucsblitz.com has learned what it may cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to keep restricted free agents Antoine Cash, Jovan Haye and Kalvin Pearson.

A league source revealed that the following tenders — and compensation — will be used for restricted free agents in 2008:

$927,000: Original Round Drafted (or simply right of first refusal if player was undrafted)

$1.47 million: Second-Round Pick

$2.017 million: First-Round Pick

$2.562 million: First and Third Round Pick

So how does this work? It's actually simpler than it looks:

Say the Buccaneers would like to retain Haye and offer him a tender of $2.017 million. That means the Bucs are committed to paying Haye that money if Haye receives no other offers.

But let's say Haye does receive an offer. In fact, let's say Haye gets a better offer.

Now what do the Bucs do? Well, because they tendered Haye an offer that means they have a choice.

The Bucs can either match that offer to retain Haye.

Or, they can refuse to match the offer. In return, the Bucs would receive that team's first-round pick, based on the formula outlined above.

The process ensures the Buccaneers have a chance to match an offer to a player they want to retain, or receive compensation when they don't. Teams will also use the tender offer to attempt to protect a player they want to keep by offering him a tender that makes it difficult for other teams to match the offer, since they would give up a matching draft pick if they make a better offer and the Bucs don't match it.

Haye entered the league as a sixth-round pick, so the Bucs would only need to offer him $927,000 to receive compensation if he were signed to another team and they refused to match the offer. Cash and Pearson were undrafted free agents. So even if the Bucs offered them the $927,000 tender, the Bucs would not receive compensation if either was offered a better deal and the Bucs refused to match it.

Haye and Pearson were valuable members of the roster last year. Haye registered half-a-dozen sacks and four fumble recoveries in his first full season as a starter. There's a good chance the Bucs will look to lock up Haye in a longer contract, but don't expect any movement on this before the scouting combine next week.

Pearson will be an interesting case. He's been their special teams leader the last two seasons and that could make him a valuable commodity to other teams. He's certainly worth the $927,000 tender. But do the Bucs consider him worth, say a larger tender that might scare other teams off? We'll see.

There probably won't be much competition for Cash's services on the open market, as he's coming off a season-ending knee injury. If the Bucs would like to retain him, they would likely only need to offer him the $927,000 tender.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.

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