Labor questions: Part 2

The mailbag is still filling up with labor questions as we careen headlong into the 2010 uncapped year at Thursday midnight. Here are some more:

Were you surprised by the low number of franchise tags (six) given out this year?

Not at all. The talent pool is already diluted due to the requirement of six years, rather than four, to become a free agent. And half of the six tags are for defensive tackles, one of the hardest positions to find.

What does the “exclusive” franchise tag mean, and why would the Raiders use it on Richard Seymour?

A non-exclusive tag means the player can still be taken from the team with an offer that’s not matched, but it will cost the offering club two first-round draft choices (which any team placing a franchise tag on a player would gladly take). An exclusive tag means the player – in this case Seymour – can’t even receive offers from another team. And the price of that tag – currently $12.398 million – will go up on April 15 to a number reflective of the 2010 – rather than the 2009 – marketplace (assuming it’s higher).

Why would the Raiders do that?

I have no idea. No one was going to give them two first-round picks that a non-exclusive tag would require for Seymour. The Raiders have used the exclusive tag before on Nnamdi Asomugha and Charles Woodson. No one else in the NFL uses it.

Were you surprised that no team used the added transition tag that was given to them?

Yes, a bit. Placing the transition tag on a player – while not ensuring any compensation from the acquiring team – is a way of letting the market decide the value of a player that can be useful if a team and player are far apart in judging what that value is. Of course, as with the case of Steve Hutchinson and the Seahawks/Vikings years ago, there is always the possibility that a player can be pilfered through the use of a “poison pill” offer sheet with the transition tag (Mike Holmgren still has smoke coming out of his ears over that one). Having said that, those situations have been rare.

What do you think the unrestricted free-agent market will look like when it opens on Friday?

I don’t think it will look much different from other years. The top guys – Julius Peppers, Karlos Dansby, Dunta Robinson and a couple of others – will get signed as the funny money is spent in the first weekend of free agency. However, we may see a quicker dropoff into the second and third-tier contracts than we have in prior years.

What do you think the restricted free-agent market will be like?

This is the key question of the offseason. Will teams be active with this group, whose talent level is higher than the UFA group? Tenders – the amount the team needs to offer to retain rights to the player – are not due until Thursday but are starting to come in, with the Chargers appearing poised to place the highest tenders on their high-value RFA group of Shawne Merriman, Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.

Last year, not one RFA changed teams. There will be some movement this year. The question is how active teams are in this environment and whether “poison pill” contract offers are used to extricate players.

Will there be some RFAs who boycott the offseason?

Yes. Now saddled with one-year tenders (even the highest tenders are barely over $3M, depending on number of years in the league) compared to the tens of millions they thought they’d be getting in a capped system, some players will try to stir up angst with their management in hopes of procuring the deals they desire. I would expect several RFAs to simply not sign their tenders and miss offseason workouts, OTAs, minicamps and, in a few cases, training camp.

Will there be players under contract who will be unhappy?

There always are. Players watch the market pass them by and are influenced by the whisper crew around them telling them they deserve to get paid like the guys in the news. Added to this are the challenges teams face with renegotiations or extensions when now confined to the 30-percent rule for increases from the last capped year (2009).

More to come soon.

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For a look at some of the best undrafted players this past decade, check out this article from Bleacher Report.