ALLEN PARK - Today's scheduled start to the free agency signing period was moved back until Monday in a last ditch attempt to get an extension to the collective barganing agreement and to stave off a wholesale release of veteran players in an attempt to get under an unexpectedly restrictive $96 million cap.
The owners, who put on a united front in a press conference called yesterday by NFL commissioner Paul Taglibue, are squarely divided into two camps, the over-spenders and the under-spenders.
The under-spenders would not at all mind if their is no agreement reached by Monday and the expected "Black Thursday" begins on Sunday evening. That would mean that teams who routinely pushed large signing bonuses and base salaries into future years would be forced into getting into this year's cap number - not one they expected to be as much as $10-12 million higher.
Teams like the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, who are all more that $15 million over the projected $96 million cap, would be forced to release some of their top players in order to get under the cap by 12:01am Monday. These teams are among the leadership who went to Tagliabue and requested that the league work harder for an extension.
Teams like the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns, who are all more than $20 million under the cap, stand to get a talent windfall and reap the benefits of signing players let go by teams over the cap.
Adding insult to injury, if a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) extension isn't reached by Sunday evening, most free agents will be looking to sign short-term deals so that they can reap the big signing bonuses when the new CBA eventually is reached. That's a win-win for teams under the cap because they can take advantage of a short term cap advantage and then have the right to franchise key players if and when a new CBA is reached.
Even the Detroit Lions, who are some $10 million under the cap, can benefit from the short term lack of a CBA. They could add two or three key players at positions such as quarterback, guard and defensive end that could turn their flagging fortunes around quickly.
Neither the owners or the players want to see an uncapped year, but the situation is worse for the players. Players who would normally become free agents after four years of service would not be free in 2007's uncapped season until they would have attained six years seniority. Owners could not match the players pensions plans in an uncapped year and signing bonuses, which formerly could be pro-rated over six years, in an uncapped year only be pro-rated over four.
Additionally player contracts can only rise by 30% per season.
Look for the NFL and the NFLPA to spend long hours this weekend behind closed doors in an attempt to get a deal done quickly.