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Free agency agreed upon, owners shelve request for right of first refusal


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That seemed to be the last big hurdle. I predict it will be finished Tuesday and ratified Thursday in Atlanta. Now we just have to hold out hope that Richardson and the other problem owners don't act the fool at the owner's meeting.

espn.com

NFL owners have agreed they will not put first-right-of-refusal clauses on 2011 free agents, a major breakthrough in talks with the NFLPA and progress toward a new CBA, sources told ESPN.com's John Clayton.

It had been reported earlier that negotiations stalled Friday because of the free-agency rule.

NFL logo Upon exiting Friday's meeting, NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith told reporters the lawyers will stay behind, but that he and commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to talk this weekend, possibly in person.

The players were unwilling to grant NFL teams extra right-of-first-refusals on this year's free-agent class, because many of those free agents were restricted under last year's uncapped system.

Owners had asked that they have the right to designate three free agents whose contract offers from other teams they would have the right to match. Instead, players got what they wanted -- four years of free agency with no restrictions.

As each side reached resolutions on other issues, owners dropped the demand, sources said. The breakthrough moves both sides closer to a resolution for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Once a new CBA has been ratified and the lockout lifted, sources told Clayton free agency is likely to begin July 25.

If the owners ratify a new CBA on Thursday in Atlanta and lift the lockout the next day, teams would then have a 72-hour window to try to re-sign their own free agents, sources told ESPN. After that 72-hour window, free agency would start July 25, sources said.

"Our legal and financial teams will continue to work through the weekend," a joint statement from the owners and players said. "We will continue to respect the confidentiality orders of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan and will therefore refrain from commenting on specific issues or aspects of the negotiations. We will provide additional information as developments in this process."

Neither side revealed any details, citing a gag order imposed by Boylan, the court-appointed mediator.

"I wouldn't dare speculate on where we are," said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of six members of the owners' labor committee participating Friday.

Upon exiting the meeting, NFL Players Associaton director DeMaurice Smith told reporters the lawyers will stay behind, but that he and commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to talk this weekend, possibly in person.

Also Friday, the NFL sent all 32 teams a memo saying it was working on an agreement and would hold a debriefing on it Thursday in Atlanta at the league meeting, team sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The sources said no league business such as contracts, negotiations or practices with players, were expected to happen before that meeting. In the memo, the league also reminded teams that lockout rules from March 11 remain in place.

The recess in talks came a day after two other crucial components fell into place.

A 2011 salary cap of $120 million and a rookie wage system, which was seen by sources familiar with the process as the last remaining major hurdle to a deal, have both been agreed to, sources told ESPN.

NFL Labor Negotiations and Lockout

NFL The NFL lockout began on March 11, but an end appears near. ESPN.com Topics keeps you up to date on all of the latest on the labor situation. More »

Compromises to the proposed $120 million salary cap have been made to help teams who have lower revenue streams, according to sources.

The NFL and its players agreed on Thursday night to a $120 million cap with players agreeing to a team minimum cash payroll of 89 percent of the cap as long as the league-wide cash guarantee is 99 percent of the cap, sources said. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills or Jacksonville Jaguars would be required to have a minimum cash payroll of $106.8 million in 2011. If they fail to reach that level by the end of the season, they would distribute the difference to the players on team at the end of the season.

League-wide, the 32 NFL teams must spend $118.8 million per team -- $3.801 billion -- in 2011.

That 89-99 formula stays in place for the first two years of a proposed new collective bargaining agreement. In the third year, the guaranteed spend of a team rises to 95 percent.

This adjustment was made for teams such as the Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bengals cash payroll would be at roughly $60 million if they release or trade wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer sits out the season, removing $17 million from their payroll. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a current payroll of $63 million. Instead of having to spend to $120 million, the Bengals would have to spend $46.8 million in cash this year while the Bucs would have to spend $43.8 million.

The NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 began in March, when owners locked out players after negotiations broke down and the old collective bargaining agreement expired. Now the preseason is just a few weeks away.

The Hall of Fame game that opens the exhibition season is scheduled for Aug. 7 between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears, who hope to be in training camp by next weekend. Yet camps won't start before a new CBA is in place.

Boylan, who has been on vacation, ordered both sides to meet with him in Minneapolis early next week, and the owners have a special meeting set for next Thursday in Atlanta, where they potentially could ratify a new deal -- if one is reached by then.

Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a class-action antitrust lawsuit pending in federal court and the NFLPA's 32 team representatives.

"We made some progress; we continue to have a lot of work to do," Smith said as he left Friday's session at a Manhattan law firm. "I know everybody is frustrated, and they want a definitive answer. I hate to disappoint you; you're not going to get one right now. We're going to continue to work, and I think that's a positive sign."

Information from ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, ESPN.com's John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The Bucs will be forced to go on a spending spree of 40+ million... that's 40+ million on this year's cap alone. We're talking about a spending spree that would make Daniel Snyder blush. Salaries are going to go way up this year with the cheap teams being forced to spend like that.

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I think teams like BUF, TB, CIN, & JAX are going to have to spend soooo much money this season that they will outbid everyone for the top players available. That will include both the DEs & Aso. It doesn't mean a team like us can't sign them, just that the price will be driven up so high that we won't. It will be a unique offseason with these teams being forced to make up such huge spending gaps, definately not a good time to be bidding on top tier FA. Perhaps this makes TD's move up for Julio look even better.

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I think teams like BUF, TB, CIN, & JAX are going to have to spend soooo much money this season that they will outbid everyone for the top players available. That will include both the DEs & Aso. It doesn't mean a team like us can't sign them, just that the price will be driven up so high that we won't. It will be a unique offseason with these teams being forced to make up such huge spending gaps, definately not a good time to be bidding on top tier FA. Perhaps this makes TD's move up for Julio look even better.

And why exactly would Aso, Ray Edwards, or Charles Johnson, play in 4 of the smallest market teams, where losing is a regular occurence.

IF Asomugha, or one of the DEs came to Atlanta they'd bprobably get endrosements out the wazoo if they performed well due to the fact they'll get more national media attention.

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And why exactly would Aso, Ray Edwards, or Charles Johnson, play in 4 of the smallest market teams, where losing is a regular occurence.

IF Asomugha, or one of the DEs came to Atlanta they'd bprobably get endrosements out the wazoo if they performed well due to the fact they'll get more national media attention.

Because Aso would rather make 20million/year than 16 million/year. And if the endorsement angle is your argument, then he would go to NY.

The NFL is not like the NBA. Contracts aren't guaranteed. If TB is offering 5 years, 20/per, 60 guranteed then he's not gonna take 40 guaranteed from us. Plus, all that spending means those teams may not be losing (TB won 10 games last season).

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Because Aso would rather make 20million/year than 16 million/year. And if the endorsement angle is your argument, then he would go to NY.

The NFL is not like the NBA. Contracts aren't guaranteed. If TB is offering 5 years, 20/per, 60 guranteed then he's not gonna take 40 guaranteed from us. Plus, all that spending means those teams may not be losing (TB won 10 games last season).

Aso has already made 30 Mil over the past 3 years, had endorsements deals, the dude is loaded. I doubt he really care about money at this point, he's said he would like to go to either NYJ or GB, two teams on the verge of winnig.

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Plus, all that spending means those teams may not be losing (TB won 10 games last season).

Tampa beat 1 team with a winning record New Orleans in the last game of the season after the Saints had clenched a play-off berth. of the other nine teams with losing records they beat - 5 of those games were won by 3 points or less.

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Tampa beat 1 team with a winning record New Orleans in the last game of the season after the Saints had clenched a play-off berth. of the other nine teams with losing records they beat - 5 of those games were won by 3 points or less.

True. But do you think they are going to have a winning record this year? How about after they spend the mandatory 40 million against this year's cap? You can't spend that much on role players, they will sign some top tier talent.

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Tampa beat 1 team with a winning record New Orleans in the last game of the season after the Saints had clenched a play-off berth. of the other nine teams with losing records they beat - 5 of those games were won by 3 points or less.

Don't kid yourself, they are a good team, very young and bound to get better this year. Granted they may didn't beat many good teams last year, but they gave us all we could handle, and I say outplayed us in the second game. They don't have a choice but to bring talent in, and they are the most appealing choice of those who have to spend.

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From the way I understand the new salary cap rules is teams dont have to go crazy in free agency. They have to meet the floor by the end of the season and if they dont the difference is paid to the players on tje roster at the end of the season. For example if the bucs started the season with a base payroll of 75 million and then paid out another 25 million in incentive based bonuses by the end of the year that would put them at 100 million for the year. That would leave them about ten mil from the cap floor that ten mil would then be paid to all players on the roster at the end of the year. However if league wide salary spending is at 99% of the cap then they will not have to pay out the additional ten mil they can stay at 100 mil. This is a real possibility as there are several teams over the cap or over the 89% floor. So we may not see big spending sprees by teams as they may elect to reward ther own players at the end of the year.

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From the way I understand the new salary cap rules is teams dont have to go crazy in free agency. They have to meet the floor by the end of the season and if they dont the difference is paid to the players on tje roster at the end of the season. For example if the bucs started the season with a base payroll of 75 million and then paid out another 25 million in incentive based bonuses by the end of the year that would put them at 100 million for the year. That would leave them about ten mil from the cap floor that ten mil would then be paid to all players on the roster at the end of the year. However if league wide salary spending is at 99% of the cap then they will not have to pay out the additional ten mil they can stay at 100 mil. This is a real possibility as there are several teams over the cap or over the 89% floor. So we may not see big spending sprees by teams as they may elect to reward ther own players at the end of the year.

So do you think a team would prefer to get a top tier FA for 10 million, or get no one and spend the 10 million giving extra money to the all the players they already have under contract?

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So do you think a team would prefer to get a top tier FA for 10 million, or get no one and spend the 10 million giving extra money to the all the players they already have under contract?

I think it would depend on the team needs. I just dont see teams spending money just to be spending money. Theres also other factors to be considered. Such as your own teams future free agents, future draft picks, future trades, etc. I think having to meet cap requirements at the end of the year will allow teams to better manage the cap.

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I don't think the small market teams absolutely have to go on a huge spending spree. You guys are thinking that contract structures will remain the same. I think they will change drastically. Let me explain...

In years past, most teams were always trying to fit as much contract under the cap as possible, so they would play financial games with the books, giving players bonuses but spreading their cap hits across the length of the contract.

I think a team in need of spending money to hit the minimum will simply resturcture the contracts in the opposite manner - changing signing bonuses into "salary" so that it comes off the books in that very year.

In other words, instead of signing free agents to abnormally huge deals, they simply sign them to normal deals but have the contracts heavily front-loaded in order to bring their team's salary figure up.

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