The NFL’s free agency season is less than two months away
— with the NFL there really is no offseason. The offseason leads to terms that can be confusing when dealing with free agency. Pittsburgh has 24 players headed to free agency in one form or another. The designation of these players is complicated. The issue with the terms is that they are laid out in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement which is written by lawyers to be able to stand up against other lawyer’s challenges. The main point of this article is to lay the terms out to a more fan friendly environment that hopefully brings clarity. Credited season (CS)This term is used to describe the benefit level a player will receive once they retire from the NFL. CS is any season in which an NFL player has been on a team’s roster for at least three games. It includes both active and inactive roster T. J. Watt Jersey , injured reserve (IR), and physically unable to perform (PUP). Suspended players, such as the case when Martavis Bryant was suspended with the Steelers, do not accrue time toward CS.Accrued season (AS)AS is used to determine a player’s free-agent (FA) eligibility when his contract expires. A player must be on a team’s active or inactive roster, PUP or IR list for a minimum of six games to gain an AS. Players on a team’s practice squad, or who are suspended or on the non-football injury list (NFI), do not accrue an NFL season. Unfortunately the two often get confused even though they have completely different ramifications. The three designations of free agents.Unrestricted free agents (UFA)This term is the most familiar to fans. These players are not under contract with any NFL team and can freely sign with any team. Le’Veon Bell will become a UFA when the new league year starts March 13. He will be eligible to negotiate a contract with any other team. The only thing that could prevent this from happening would be Pittsburgh’s use of a franchise tag or the tranistion tag. (Both highly unlikely but they are on the table.)Restricted free agent (RFA)The thing that makes RFA players unique is that they have less than three years of AS when their contracts expire. In these cases, the player’s current NFL team holds his rights. They are tendered a one-year contract by their current team at one of three levels, first, second or original draft status (also referred to as low original.). B J Finney is an RFA in 2019. As he was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015, the Steelers could designate him as an original round tender. If another team came along and offered him a contract and the Steelers decided not to match it within five days -- Pitt would not receive any compensation due to him not being drafted. (The team would not be eligible to make the offer if they did not have a corresponding pick in that round if that was the case.) The more likely scenario is that the Steelers tender Finney a second round offer (If the team lets left guard Ramon Foster walk.), which means the Steelers would receive a team’s highest second round pick as compensation if they did not match the other team’s offer to Finney. If a player is not tendered, he automatically becomes an UFA. Once a player is tendered, he immediately counts against the salary cap and the contract is fully guaranteed.Exclusive rights free agents (ERFA)This tag has such a ridiculous name. They are not free to do anything. These players have less than two AS. Unlike RFA players, there is no concern about other teams vulturing these players. They are generally tendered at the league minimum with no bonus. Mike Hilton is the Steelers most prominent ERFA. After a rocky 2018 season, will the Steelers opt to sign him to a longer term deal or let him play under the ERFA tag and become an RFA in 2020?ERFA and RFA players are generally plucked from another team’s scrapheap and in some cases, turned into very lucrative players. Alejandro Villanueva one notable ERFA the Steelers had who turned out to be a gem. The three different tags that can be applied to a player.Once any of these tags are placed on a player that player’s salary immediately counts against the salary cap. Only one tag can be applied per team per year. That means if a team does not have the salary cap space to absorb the hit, they are unable to place the tag on a player.Non-exclusive franchise tagThe non-exclusive franchise tag is a one-year contract that pays the player no less than the average of the top five cap hits in the past five years, at his position, or 120 percent of the player’s current salary, whichever is greater. The salary of the player is fully guaranteed. There is one condition to this. The player must “establish or maintain his excellent physical condition”. If that condition isn’t met Authentic Chukwuma Okorafor Jersey , the contract can be terminated, and at that point, the player is able to negotiate a contract with other teams. If the current team declines to match the offer it receives two first-rounders as compensation. The non-exclusive franchise tag is the most commonly used franchise tag because it is generally not as expensive as the exclusive franchise tag. A player has until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or no further negotiations can happen except for a one year contract. The contract tag can be pulled at any time, at which time the player becomes an UFA. Exclusive franchise tag.This tag is a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average salary of the top five players at a given player’s position during the current league year or 120 percent of the player’s current salary, whichever is higher. Exclusive franchise tagged players are not eligible to negotiate with other teams. A team may only use one of the tags on one player per season. A tag can be used multiple years, but doing so is very costly. If a player is tagged a second year, he would make 120 percent of his previous salary. If tagged for a third season, the increase would be to 144 percent of his previous salary or the franchise tag value for quarterbacks, whichever is greater. Bell was tagged twice with the tag. Transition tagThe transition tag pays a player the average of the top ten salaries of players in the league in that position or 120 percent of the players current salary, whichever is greater. As with the non-exclusive tag, a transition-tagged player is free to negotiate with other teams. If an offer sheet is extended to the player his current team has seven days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, there is no compensation. Emmanuel Sanders left the Steelers under the transition tag. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has a monumental task ahead of him deciding which free agents to try to sign and which ones to let test the market or to let them walk. While there has been the veiled threat of assigning the transition tag to Bell, it is highly unlikely to happen. (A further explanation with another article will explain in more detail.) No other player is worth any of the franchise tags or the transition tag. With budding superstars such as J J Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster, 2019 may not be the end to rocky future negotiations. While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers have dominated the world of sports media with negative headlines over the past few seasons, nothing that has happened recently comes even close to being the most drama filled season the team has had to deal with. As highlighted by Bob Labriola of Steelers.com in an asked and answered column. No team in franchise history has ever faced the level of distraction the Steelers attempted to cope with in 1977. A year full of so many problems that it almost derailed the postseason chances of one of the most talented rosters Pittsburgh has ever had. Coming off back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1974 and 1975 and arguably their greatest regular season ever in 1976 given the play of their defense and the names lost to injury, the 1977 season was a disaster. Beset by problems from the outset, some of which had carried over from the year before, the list of issues that plagued Pittsburgh that year would be unimaginable in a single season today. Off-field legal troubles would dog the team almost as soon as the 1976 season had ended. Defensive tackle Ernie Holmes was charged with cocaine possession after he was arrested for purchasing the drug in a hotel restroom while attending a wedding in Amarillo, Texas. A charge he would defeat in court, but not without the expense of $28,000 in legal fees http://www.authenticspittsburghsteelers.com/cheap-alejandro-villanueva-jersey , money loaned to him by the Steelers. Holmes would also stage a brief walk out later in the year, telling Dan Rooney “I can’t hack it.” With Rooney reportedly unconcerned by his absence.Sadly for Pittsburgh, Holmes was not the only one forced to go before a judge that season, with Chuck Noll the center of a well-publicized defamation lawsuit brought against him by Oakland Raiders safety George Atkinson. Faced with a civil suit seeking damages of $2 million for libel after Noll had label Atkinson part of the NFL’s “criminal element” in a postgame press conference the year before, Noll would miss significant time during training camp because of the trial. The Steelers coach would ultimately be found not guilty, but not before he had been forced to identify Mel Blount as another player in the league who could be considered part of the NFL’s criminal element.In response this characterization by his head coach, Blount would file a defamation lawsuit of his own against Noll, seeking damages of $6 million and begin a holdout that would last 56 days. When asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if he would be a training camp on time, Blount replied.Eventually he would return after the last game of the preseason, having agreed to drop the lawsuit, and was fined $25,000 for his absence. However, the cornerback was just one of a number of holdouts that season.Jack Lambert and Glen Edwards would both miss time in Latrobe as they held out for better contracts with Lambert staying away until the day before the final game of the preseason. Fined $500 a day by the team for his absence, Lambert’s agent, Bucky Woy, would tell the local media that his client was “very disturbed” by the fines and wanted out of Pittsburgh. He would go on to sign a five-year deal, but not before the front office has dangled thecarrot of being named team captain if he arrived at training camp on time. A move that only served to anger the linebacker and lead to a war of words in the press between Lambert’s representatives and the Steelers management.While Edwards would get a new deal as well, he would later regret agreeing to it, walking out on the team a few days before a Week 8 matchup with the Denver Broncos. He would return in time to play in the game, but if he had missed out, his replacement was set to be Jimmy Allen http://www.authenticspittsburghsteelers.com/cheap-david-decastro-jersey , a player who had announced his retirement the week before only to return to practice the very next day after a change of heart. Despite a record breaking season in 1976, the defense would struggle to keep points off the board in 1977, giving up a total of 243 points. A year removed from allowing the lowest amount in team history of just 138 points. The kicking game would struggle at times as well in the early parts of the season, as Roy Gerela would acknowledge to the press. A loss to the Raiders in Week 2 would result in the headline “End of a dynasty” from the Post-Gazette, while the frustration of some questionable calls by officials would begin to get to Joe Greene. He would be fined for remarks he made to the press about the state of refereeing in the league. Comments he would later apologize for.In the eyes of their opponents, the Steelers were a team in disarray in 1977,with far too much off-field drama to be able to effectively compete in the AFC Central. As per Cleveland running back Greg Pruitt before the Browns Week 9 loss in Pittsburgh.Heading into the final two weeks of the season, the Steelers would guarantee themselves the division crown with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals who were a game back on them in the standings. Winners of their last six in a row against the Bengals, Pittsburgh was confident of victory. As per Greene ahead of the matchup.The Bengals would win by seven points and Noll would leave Cincinnati with a broken arm having slipped on the ice the day before the game. Needing the Houston Oilers to beat the Bengals in the last game of the year to have any chance of winning the division, Pittsburgh were saved by a 21-16 Oilers victory. Appreciative of Houston’s efforts, the Steelers would send all the players and coaches on the Oilers roster leather briefcases as a thank you. Finishing with a 9-5 record, Pittsburgh would take on the 12-2 Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium and although tied at the start of the fourth quarter, would eventually lose their opening round game 34-21. A disappointing end to a tumultuous season that Noll would later blame on the distractions the team had to deal with over the course of the season.Thankfully for everyone concerned, all of this happened long before the arrival of the internet and social media and it is hard to imagine quite how extreme the response would have been if a team went through this much drama today. For all of the headlines the Steelers have generated because of their troubles of the last few years, nothing this current roster has done comes close to the drama created by the 1977 team. Fans and media members alike would have questioned if Noll was losing the locker room and whether he could still lead the team, while some would be calling out Greene for threatening officials. Lambert, Blount and Edwards would be considered disloyal, with many fans likely wanting them to be traded and Holmes would probably have been released by the Steelers and suspended by the league. Instead, the front office made relatively few changes during the offseason that followed and Pittsburgh would go on to win two more Super Bowl titles in 1978 and 1979 with the virtually the same team. A plan the Steelers might be well served to repeat this year all things considered.Credit must go to both Bob Labriola of Steelers.com and especially Gordon Dedman of SteelersUK.com for many of the historic quotes and specific details referenced in this piece. Custom New York Jets Jerseys
No responses yet. Be the first one!