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Bears’ Manning takes hard line

Understanding the complicated nature of tenders. Andrew Brandt

Print This March 17, 2010, 01:05 PM EST

A bit of a fallout has begun in Chicago, where the Bears’ one-day spending spree of nearly $54 million in guaranteed money on other teams’ players on March 5 has left some in the locker room wanting. This may be a trend worth watching around the league as the 212 players who have been tendered one-year contracts are feeling a bit cornered by the new uncapped system in the NFL, and some may resort to some form of mild disobedience in protest -- boycotting offseason workouts, minicamps, OTAs, etc. (without a contract, they can’t be fined).

As we now know, one of the many tradeoffs for this last year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) being uncapped is the requirement that players must serve six years in the NFL to become free agents as opposed to the previous four years, resulting in a “limbo” group of free agents with a higher level of talent than the depleted group of true free agents.

One such player expressing dissatisfaction is Bears safety Danieal Manning. His agent has decided to take a hard line, telling the Chicago Tribune: “He's definitely not happy with the way he was tendered. Until he gets a contract, he won't be attending any offseason workouts.” Strong words, but probably not the most effective strategy for getting a new contract.

And what about the way Manning was tendered? Well, this gets a bit complicated, but stick with me here:

Second-rounder without a second-round tender

Manning entered the NFL as a second-round pick in 2006. At the start of free agency, he was given an RFA (restricted free agent) tender at the original round level. That amount – for a four-year player – is $1.176 million, certainly not what Manning was expecting to make as a free agent after four years in the league.

In the event a team presents Manning an offer sheet that the Bears decide not to match, however, they would receive a third-round pick, not a second-round pick.

Why, you ask, would a player assigned a second-round tender only amount to a third-round pick from another team when the incumbent team – the Bears in this case – placed an original round tender on the player? Here’s how:

The downgraded-upgraded tender rule

The second round pick becomes a third-round pick (this also applies to a first rounder becoming a second) when a team wants to tender a player who was a second-round pick at original round compensation and also wants to tender another player who was picked later than the second round with a second-round tender. If this is the case, then an original round tender to the former second-round pick would only net the team a third-round pick if he received an offer sheet and the old club elected not to match.

Manning-Anderson switch

This is what happened with the Bears:

Danieal Manning is an RFA who was originally a second-round selection.
Mark Anderson is an RFA who was originally a fifth-round selection.

Since the Bears gave Anderson a high tender with second-round compensation and the Bears tendered Manning at original-round compensation ($1.176 million), they would only get a third-round pick if they declined to match an offer sheet to Manning. In this example, if the Bears wanted a second-round pick as compensation for losing Manning, they would have to give him the high tender with second-round pick compensation ($1.759M). They did not.

The same scenario is ongoing with the New York Giants and Sinorice Moss and Domenik Hixon.

Moss-Hixon switch

Sinorice Moss is an RFA who was originally a second-round selection.
Domenick Hixon is an RFA who was originally a fourth-round selection.

Since the Giants gave Hixon a high tender with second-round compensation, then tendered Moss at original-round compensation ($1.176M), they would only get a third-round pick if they declined to match an offer sheet to Moss.

There are other examples around the league. How much any of this matters may be moot, as the RFA market looks to be stagnant (more on that in my next column). But for at least educational purposes only, you are now informed on the issue of a former second rounder bringing a third-round pick in compensation.

Test tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

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