The players’/agents’ perspective: From our side, we want a deal before we start camp. Players think like this: “If I go through a whole camp with out a new contract then I essentially have given you my last year". Strong-minded players with even stronger-minded agents won’t do a deal once camp begins or once it is complete.
ICONDrew Brees is still waiting for his extension.
When a player can secure a contract before the start of camp he is most likely willing to give his current team a discount to the following years projected free agent’s market. The discount is usually about 5 to 10% of the projected market. Sometimes deals are so close to getting done that they do spill into camp and/or even into the early regular season. At times, there is just too much money on the table to walk away from, even though the player vowed to shut it down once the season starts. In addition, players who are not a team’s “must have core players” don’t have a lot of leverage to dictate the timing of a deal. In addition, players also realize there is always a chance of getting hurt in season, so walking away from a pile of guaranteed money just may be overwhelmingly foolish. And yes, teams know this and will use it to their advantage.
It's not unusual for a player agent to say, “if we don’t get a deal done by X date, we don’t want to talk about a contract anymore” and you will get treated just like any other team come free agency. I had to give that ultimatum to the Packers in 2008 on behalf of Al Harris. Players can really take it personal when a team doesn’t resign them prior to his last season and may move his team to the bottom of the free agent list. Players do get mad at teams and will move on for that reason alone.
Using the franchise tag: Having a franchise is a great tool for team to say; “hey, you aren’t going anywhere as long as we have this”. It is some leverage for the team, as the player always wants that long-term deal with a large guaranteed component versus the franchise tag. Owners fought hard to keep this as a part of the new CBA. However, players and agents don’t like it.
Here are some signs that your team’s top free agent has plans to move on: He put his house up for sale during the season. He did not have his kids in school in his team’s city. He stopped talking to the local media. He is practicing less to protect his body. He pulled back on community activities.
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