More trades than ever in 2010?

Several GMs around the league have indicated to me that there might be more trade action in 2010 than in any previous year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

There are two reasons driving this thinking:

• The top eight finishers are restricted from participating in free agency because of the new 2010 uncapped year rules, unless they lose a player. However, one way to get into the mix is to be aggressive in making a play for restricted free agents (RFAs). These top teams are usually looking for a missing piece to get them over the top or keep them there. This action may start on the first day of free agency.

• The other stimulus lies in the 212 restricted free agents who will be tendered in the coming weeks. This group of players, especially starters, is considered the most valuable commodity of any team’s roster. They are young, their tender salaries are cheap, and most teams are willing to part with them for draft picks. So this scenario can develop into trade opportunities for many clubs.

The RFA tender scale, offer and acceptance compensation/tender salary:

• First- and third-round pick compensation/$3.17-million base salary

• First-round pick compensation/$2.52-million base salary

• Second-round compensation/$1.75-million base salary

• Same-round pick compensation/$1.17-million base salary

So here’s the catch: Although tender salaries for RFAs are not negotiable under the CBA, trade compensation between teams is. For example, if the Chargers decide to give wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd high tenders, they can then sit back and entertain trades with various compensation packages. I’m just speculating here, but the Chargers might take a high second and third for Floyd compared to the first and third they tendered to keep him. Or they could also take a player coupled with a draft pick. So teams with multiple RFAs will tender and sit back, then listen to abstract offers before starting serious negotiations with their restricted players or matching a boiler-plate offer. As a result, the environment leading up to the draft can be ripe for multiple trades.

I personally don’t believe we’ll see a lot of trade activity because it can sometimes lead to professional suicide for a GM or head coach. Ask Mike Ditka, who gave up eight draft picks for Ricky Williams. It was the beginning of the end for him.

Jerry Glanville was never forgiven by many in Atlanta for escorting Brett Favre out the door. On the other hand, it helped Packers GM Ron Wolf become a fixture in Green Bay.

(Short sidebar: In the 1998 draft, Wolf was desperately trying to trade up to draft Tim Dwight, one of my clients, in the fourth round. After Atlanta took Dwight ahead of the Packers in the fourth, Wolf called to tell me he “tried to trade up for Tim, but ever since Favre, nobody will trade with me anymore.”)

I’ve written that many owners will pull back below the salary floor to pocket some cash. This will translate to draft picks becoming even more valuable. Outside of picks 1-10 in the first round, owners love late first-round picks, plus seconds and thirds, because of the value-type player you can capture versus the cost of the draft slot.

The plot thickens in 2010.

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