NFL Owners Abandon Right Of First Refusal On Free Agency

One of the more idiotic 'stumbling blocks' in these recent labor talks has been the owners standing firm on the 'right of first refusal' teams could have with their own free agents should another club wish to sign them once the lockout ends.

The players, who are taking roughly a 3% cut in revenue as a result of this new CBA, were never going to agree to teams essentially having transition tags on all their free agents. The logic behind the players argument is they had already compromised on the key issue (revenue), and if the owners truly wanted these free agents on their teams in 2011, they should have signed them to new deals BEFORE they locked the players out.

Thankfully, as Friday's negotiating sessions concluded, Chris Mortensen reported that the owners have given up on this silly crusade. Teams will have a 72-hour grace period to sign their own players. After that, it's a free-for-all. This means all those silly 'tenders' the Colts tried to sign several players to back in March were as worthless as we said they were (toot! toot! goes the Stampede Blue horn).

From a fan's P.O.V., I like the free-for-all. I mean, if Bill or Chris Polian thought Melvin Bullitt, Joseph Addai, or Clint Session were important players, they should have locked them up in March. Since they didn't, those guys will likely have leverage to get good deals on an open market. It's certainly possible that Indy will re-sign someone like Addai, but if he is able to use another club's interest to jack up his price, bully for him.

This is the reward these free agents are getting for having to endure months (and, in some cases, over a year) of not knowing what their free agent status will be in 2011.

Also, just from a pure entertainment standpoint, it is going to be CRAZY EDDIE INSANE to watch all these teams, including our own, scramble to sign rookie and veteran free agents once the lockout is lifted. Bad teams are going to get good, and good teams are going to get fleeced. The whole dynamic of the NFL could get flipped on its head, especially with the new CBA essentially forcing cheap owners (like the Glazers in Tampa Bay) to spend money on players.

It is this period of time that we will truly see who the 'genius' GMs are, and who are the chumps.

This bring us to the next item: What about the Colts signing free agents? Can they make a move on some key veterans? We discuss after the jump...

Matt Grecco is penning an article that breaks down what kind of roster the Colts could have in 2011 under this new CBA. He's telling me that, with the information we have, the Colts should have roughly $53 million to use in free agency and in signing rookies. Matt will detail this in his article.

Keep in mind, there is going to be a 'rookie cap' on the amount of money teams can spend on first year players. This means that the value of veteran free agents just went up, and we could see a club like the Colts (who often shunned veteran free agency in the past in favor of draft picks and rookie free agents) start to make moves to bring in veteran talent.

Also, this $53 mill is without the team cutting Kelvin Hayden or Ryan Diem. Doing that frees up another $9 mill, or so. The calculation does not factor in Peyton Manning's new deal,which will be a significant chunk of that.

Regardless of who stays or goes, it seems likely that, even with a reduced cap ($120 million, with exemptions around $125 mill) the Colts will be players in this free agent bonanza that will likely begin on July 25th. That is the day some players have said they expect to report to training camp. With this abbreviated schedule, we're looking at scenarios of teams starting training camp, signing key free agents while camp is ongoing, and rushing them to camp the instant the contract is signed.

It should be exciting.

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