Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Westbrook, Sharper, & the Upgraded Tender

Why would the Eagles announce the termination of Brian Westbrook over a week before actually terminating him?

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they will be parting ways with running back Brian Westbrook; it subsequently was reported that Westbrook’s termination would not be official until March 5th, the first day of the 2010 league year. My first thought when hearing this peculiar piece of information was that perhaps the Eagles were trying to avoid a Joey Porter situation.

As you may remember, the Miami Dolphins tried to release Porter, but the transaction was reversed by the NFL Management Council. The Dolphins have $4.1 million in 2009 cap room; the Porter termination would have been considered a 2009 league year transaction. Accordingly, by virtue of being terminated in February, the Dolphins would have had to take on an additional $4.8 million in signing bonus acceleration in 2009. Given their $4.1 million cap room, the February Porter termination would not fit under the cap.

With Joey Porter in mind, I thought that perhaps the Eagles did not have enough cap room to take on the acceleration associated with terminating Westbrook in 2009. However, as I found out, the Eagles currently have $4.2 million in cap room, and by terminating Westbrook, would have incurred $1.5 million in acceleration. So the Eagles clearly could have made the termination effective on Tuesday, but it would appear that the Eagles are potentially looking to use that $4.2 million in cap room for other purposes. Perhaps the Eagles are looking to use that cap space to release other players in 2009 or quite simply would prefer to take on Westbrook’s dead money in 2010 rather than 2009.

Why would the Saints hope that Darren Sharper gets a lucrative contract elsewhere?

It appears Saints safety Darren Sharper will hit the free agent market and will not be precluded by the $6.5 million safety franchise tag. Last offseason, 35-year old Denver safety Brian Dawkins signed a five year contract with $5.8 million in guaranteed money and an average per year of $3.4 million. Just as Dawkins, the 33-year old Sharper has remained a productive and impactful player as he approaches his mid-thirties, so it would be reasonable for him to expect at a minimum a Dawkins-like contract. Not to mention, the Super Bowl premium a team may be willing to pay to rile up the fan base by signing one of the key members of the previous season’s Super Bowl champs.

If Sharper were to leave, then one would expect the “Who Dat” nation to question the prudence of such a departure. However, keep in mind that the Saints, Vikings, Colts, and Jets are the most restricted teams in free agency by virtue of the Final Eight Plan ( ). As part of the Final Eight Plan, the Saints cannot sign a UFA until they lose a UFA, and the first year value of the acquired UFA by the Saints cannot exceed the first year value of Sharper’s contract with his new team. That said, absent a new deal with the Saints, the thought could be that the Saints are hoping a team over-pays for Sharper and in turn the Saints then have a lucrative one-for-one UFA match at their disposal. The newly acquired UFA to replace Sharper does not have to be a safety; it could be a linebacker to possibly replace Scott Fujita or if you’re looking for Malcolm Jenkins to replace Sharper at safety, then the UFA could be used on a UFA such as cornerback Dunta Robinson or Leigh Bodden.

Clarifying the “Upgraded Tender”

We recently discussed the upgraded tender’s impact on restricted free agency ( ). One question that came up regarding the upgraded tender was whether or not all former first and second round restricted free agents of a club must receive at least their respective draft round’s tender if one player on their club receives the upgraded tender. The answer is that, if for example the Redskins tender former sixth-round pick defensive tackle Kedric Golston at the first round level, then the Redskins must tender quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Carlos Rogers at a minimum of the first round level if they hope to receive a first round pick in return for a Campbell or Rogers departure via restricted free agency. Under the same scenario in which Golston gets tendered at the first round level, despite the upgraded tender, former second round pick linebacker Rocky McIntosh could be tendered at the original round level and the Redskins could still receive a second round pick for McIntosh. Golston’s upgraded tender of a first round pick only impacts the tendering of the club’s former first round picks. If the Redskins were to extend a second round upgraded tender to another one of their RFAs, then McIntosh would have to be tendered at the second round level.

Regarding undrafted players who are restricted free agents and who receive a tender higher than the low level right of first refusal only tender, the CBA is not clear as to whether or not an undrafted player who receives a second round tender equates to an upgraded tender. The language of the CBA in defining the upgraded tender refers to “Restricted Free Agents originally selected in a draft round lower than the first round.” For example, if the Colts tender undrafted safety Melvin Bullitt at the second round level, then the letter of the CBA says that the club could tender former first round pick Marlin Jackson at the original round level and still receive a first round pick in the event of his departure. The interpretation of this scenario will have to be determined by the league, but the spirit of the rule would seem to indicate that, despite the actual language, the Bullitt tender should be considered an upgraded tender and accordingly Jackson should be tendered at a minimum of the first round tender.

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