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Tales from the Uniformed Armchair GM (Final Eight Teams)

With the official start of the free agent season kicking off today I thought it might be a good idea to explain the new free agency rules that have been put in place this offseason.  With the uncapped year in effect this upcoming season some new restrictions have been put in place on the ability the teams that played in the divisional playoff series last season (The Top Eight Teams) have on signing free agents.

The Rules

Here is a basic outline of the free agency rules for the teams that finished in the top eight last season:

  • The final eight teams may sign an unrestricted free agent to replace each unrestricted free agent they lose to another club, as long as they don't offer a higher salary than what their lost player will receive from his new club.
  • The final four teams (Saints, Colts, Jets and Vikings) will only be allowed to negotiate and sign additional unrestricted free agents (other than to replace the ones they lost) if the player acquired their free agent status by being cut or were on a final four team when their contract expired.
  • The teams that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs (Chargers, Ravens, Cardinals and Cowboys) may sign one player with a salary over $4,925,000 in his first season.
  • The divisional losers also may sign any number of players with a first-year salary of no more than $3,275,000 and an annual increase of no more than 30 percent in the following years.

The Reasoning


The NFL and its Players Union agreed to these rules in the case of uncapped year in order to try and keep parity around the league and prevent a major market team (like the Cowboys) from having a Yankee's type off season.  Since NFL contracts are not guaranteed it would be easy for major market teams to cut their lower and/or mid level players and outbid the smaller market teams around the league for top end free agents to replace them with (like most of us do when we play Madden).  


How Much Will this Affect the Chargers?

During AJ Smith's tenure as GM, the Chargers have not shown too much interest in singing high profile free agents.  Without a major philosophical shift in the front office this season should not be much different.  While the Chargers do have a major hole to fill at running back and may need to shore up a few other positions (DT, OL, ILB and DB) I really don't foresee them going after any free agents who would require a starting salary over $3,275,000 and require more than a 30% increase in pay an any subsequent seasons, so these rules should not really have an affect the Chargers of season plans.