It would seem the owners and representatives of the players have come close on a lot of the sticking points that are at the root of this month’s long lockout of NFL players from their facilities. There are a few matters left at hand that still need to be hammered out, none of which is more likely to represent the hurdle that trips up the two sides as they press on to get a deal done before the self imposed deadline of this week than the matter of right of first refusal.
In short, the right of first refusal the owners are seeking is the right to match any offer presented by another team for a player. If team A has an unrestricted free agent, Mr. Smith, and team B comes along and offers a contract of $50 million for five years to Smith, Team A would have the right to simply match the offer, and retain Mr. Smith to the terms of the contract Team B initiated.
Sounds pretty fair and good right? Not so say players and agents alike.
Team B has just done all the leg work for Team A, and in the meantime while pursuing Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones who is also available as a free agent for Team C has been signed by Team D. The B team, while in the process of tendering its offer and waiting for the reply from Team A, had lost out on any chance for a backup plan, which was to procure Mr. Jones, and now that Mr. Smith has been retained, Team B has lost any chance to improve its team with the two best available free agents at their position.
The result: teams will be less likely to go after the top free agent in fear of that player’s team matching the offer, and instead will go after free agents more likely to not be matched by their team, thus stunting the options for top free agents, and raising the value (price tag) of lesser players.
In a more specific example, the Arizona Cardinals may find it more prudent to offer up good money for a lesser known player, rather than tie up their offer for the top guy with whom they feel will surely be matched by the team that owns his rights.
We haven’t even started on the fact that this is not a form of free agency; this is the 1980s all over again where players were drafted by a team and played the rest of their careers for that team because options were few. Granted, teams may only be able to do this to a few players, but owners want three R.O.F.R. tags, plus the franchise tag. That’s around 160 top NFL players who won’t be able to leave a team for perhaps the first seven or eight years of their career. When you figure the average length of service for an NFL player, you see that many will not even reach that point to begin with.
Right of first refusal may be acceptable if the owners agree to only having one, but the whole concept goes against the very nature of what the players won back in the 1990s by striking and suing the NFL in the first place.
Nick Houllis was born in Chicago but has lived in the Tampa Bay area since he was 4 years old. He attended St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs, Fl. An avid video collector, Nick has the largest collection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers games on DVD in the world. A die-hard fan since 1979, Houllis runs the Video Fan site www.Bucstop.com for the Bloguin network, and is a guest writer on three other blogs representing both his fanaticism and historical knowledge of the Bucs. Follow Nick on twitter @BucStop.