Tom Marino is a veteran of 35 years in the player personnel field, most recently with the St. Louis Rams. He has worked in three professional leagues (NFL, USFL, and WFL), and among his many accomplishments, is credited with the discovery of Eric Swann, the first non-collegiate player since 1946 to be selected in the 1st round of the NFL college draft.
OK students, take your seats and welcome to Salary Cap 101. Over the next few
weeks I, and the staff at Scout.com, will try and explain the NFL free agency
system to you, the elite football fan.
As I'm sure you are already aware, this is a graduate level course, totally
befitting Scout.com subscribers. This semester, we will evaluate both the
unrestricted free agents (UFA's) and the restricted free agents (RFA's), assess
individual team needs, review last years' free agency signings, discuss each
teams current cap situation, and for the first time ever, rate both the NFL Pro
Scouting Departments and Salary Cap administrators.
Before doing so it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the
new "Collective Bargaining Agreement" (CBA), a parting gift from Paul
Tagliabue, along with some very important dates. OK, I know what you are
thinking right now…… "BORRING," and to tell you the truth, in many
ways I agree with your initial reaction, but the process of choosing players via
free agency, is not as simple as just determining if their Free Agent offensive
tackle is better than the current player at that position for your team.
So bear with me and let's get through with process as painless as possible.
In no time we'll get to the fun stuff; giving our opinions and deciding who just
might be that one Free Agent that can put your favorite team over the top!
For starters next season's Salary Cap figure is a whopping $109, 000,000.00
up seven million dollars over the 2006 cap figure!!! Not quite what a football
scout or sports writer makes, but closing the gap very quickly…
There are three distinct types of Free agents in professional football and
they are as follows:
1) Exclusive Rights
And within these categories there are two very important subsets:
Today, let us address the Exclusive Rights Free Agents and both the
Transitional and Franchise designation.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Exclusive rights free agents (EFA) are
players with two or fewer years of experience who have no outside negotiating
power. His rights belong to his club, provided that club makes him a minimum
qualifying offer, which varies based on tenure. An EFA player may not speak with
other teams, and has no other NFL options open to him other than dealing with
his previous club unless he is waived.
Negotiating Rights of Players with Less Than Three Accrued Seasons:
Any veteran with less than three Accrued Seasons whose contract has expired may
negotiate or sign a Player Contract only with his Prior Club, if on or before
March 1 his Prior Club tenders the player a one year Player Contract with a
paragraph 5 * salary of at least the Minimum Active/Inactive List Salary
applicable to that player.
If the Prior Club has not by that date made the Required Tender or later
withdraws such tender, the player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign
a Player Contract with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to
negotiate and sign a player contract with such player, without any penalty or
restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between
Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period.
* Any reference to the term "Paragraph 5" in the CBA has to do with
the player's base compensation.
Any questions class, opinions? OK then, lets move on to the next topic.
His club must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last
season at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's previous year's
salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a
first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the
player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it
retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.
All right, I don't want to overload you today, so why don't we get to one
more topic, and we'll pick it up tomorrow at the same time.
A club can designate one (1) franchise player in any given year. The salary
level offer by a player's old club determines what type of franchise player he
is. An "exclusive" franchise player, not free to sign with another
club, is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the
player's position or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, again
whichever is greater.
If the player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries of
last season at his position, he becomes a "non-exclusive" franchise
player and can negotiate with other clubs. His old club can match a new club's
offer, or receive two first-round draft choices if it decides not to match.
A club decides to withdraw its franchise or transition designations on a player
they can not use them on other players in the same year: A club can withdraw its
franchise or transition designations and the player then automatically becomes
an unrestricted free agent either immediately or when his contract expires.
The club cannot name a new transition player (two allowed in 1993, one in 1994
and one in the final year of the CBA). It can name a new franchise player the
next year. A club can, though, designate a transition player in lieu of a
franchise player at any time.
Well class you did a great job today, but attendance tomorrow is mandatory! In
fact, I would go as far as to say if you don't attend tomorrow's lecture on
Restricted Free Agents, I don't see any way you can possibly pass this course!
And fans from Oakland and Detroit, please remember to bring a pencil and
It's no wonder you're in the predicament that you're in today!
And one final note; don't despair; we haven't forgotten about the college
draft and the upcoming Indy combine, not by a long shot. Scout.com personnel
will be at the scene giving you the exclusive daily updates from the
Indianapolis workouts and subsequent school workouts.
# # #
The Cleveland Browns took a major step forward with the hiring of former
Chargers standouts Wes Chandler as their receiver coach. Chandler, who has
previously coached professionally with the Cowboys and Vikings, is not only one
of the most astute individuals and a real class act, but also one of the great
teachers in the game today.
# # #
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other writers, and league
and teams sources was used in this report.
Salary Cap 101
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