By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 4, 2010; D01
As the Redskins' front office rolls up its sleeves for what's expected to be a busy free agency period for the team, Washington players are already feeling the effects of how a 2010 season without a salary cap will impact their bank accounts -- and some are not happy about it.
On Friday after midnight, there will be a flurry of phone calls across the NFL, as teams scramble to bid on unrestricted free agents. The other class of free agents, the restricted group, already has begun to hear from teams, and players who ordinarily would be classified as unrestricted instead find themselves facing an immediate future with few options.
Quarterback Jason Campbell was among a handful of players tendered offers by the Redskins on Wednesday, signaling a likely return to Washington next season. But for many, a contract extension or the chance to field offers on the open market would be preferred.
"I hate it, man," cornerback Carlos Rogers said of the first-round tender he received from Washington. "That's all I'm going to say. I really don't want to say too much right now. But I don't like it."
"They know they got me for cheap," Rogers continued. "Of course, they're going to use [the tender]. They're going to use what they got to keep me here cheap. If you want me there, you could show me. Tendering me is not showing me."
Like Rogers, linebacker Rocky McIntosh would've become an unrestricted free agent if the Redskins had not made the tender offer, enabling him to leave for any team. But with the tender, the Redskins retain the right of first refusal if another team offers a contract.
"You talk about it and you just try to deal with it. But some guys are like, 'Man, this is tough to have it happen this year,' " said McIntosh, who was given a second-round tender. "Guys don't know how much longer they can play at this level. They just want to be paid for what they're worth, and that's not going to happen this year. So it's just hard for a lot of guys."
In total, there are 212 NFL players who have at least four years of experience and would be classified as unrestricted free agents in an uncapped year, including Campbell, Rogers and McIntosh. With no new labor agreement in place, though, the minimum service time for unrestricted free agents is instead six years and that group of 212 players will become restricted free agents.
There could be a direct connection between the offers tendered to the restricted players and the Redskins' plans for free agency. "I think they're going to use all their money on the unrestricted guys," Rogers said. "That's what I'm hearing."
With an uncapped year, no one is certain how free agency might unfold, but with a new coach in Washington -- coupled with an owner who's not adverse to an offseason splash or two -- many around the league think the Redskins will be among the most active teams.
The Redskins, in fact, are expected to be one of several teams bidding on the services of Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers. In addition, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Darren Sharper could be targeted. And with the retirement of left tackle Chris Samuels, which will become official at a news conference Thursday afternoon at Redskins Park, the Redskins will likely try to shore up their offensive line via free agency.
As for the restricted free agents currently on the roster, they have no bargaining power with their current teams unless the Redskins opt for a contract extension rather than a tendered offer. Other teams could still pursue the Redskins' restricted free agents, but Washington would have a seven-day window to match the competing offer sheet. If the Redskins choose not to, they would then be owed a draft pick as compensation.
If the Redskins don't tender an offer by Friday, a player essentially becomes an unrestricted free agent, and Washington would receive no compensation if he signed elsewhere.
Rogers and Campbell were both given first-round tenders, meaning if any other team wanted to sign them to an offer sheet, that team would have to be willing to part with a first-round pick in April's draft. For each, the tender is not the same as being offered a new contract or contract extension with guaranteed money.
"In a situation like this, the player really loses security," Campbell said. "But this is the hand that we've been dealt, as far as everything that's going on with the [collective bargaining agreement] and the union right now. We're just kind of put in a tough position."
Though team officials wouldn't confirm any offers, the Redskins on Wednesday also issued second-round tenders to safety Reed Doughty, offensive tackle Stephon Heyer, defensive tackle Kedric Golston and linebacker Chris Wilson. Each deal would essentially be a one-year contract with a slight pay raise over last season, far short of what some players feel they would've received on the open market.
"I'm totally shocked that they didn't put forth a little bit of an effort," said McIntosh. "But I'm just stuck in a bind with this free agency thing. I felt like I put together a good portfolio these last couple of years. I showed up when I was supposed to and I didn't give anybody any problems. . . . But if you don't want me, and you don't want to give me anything that's even close to fair, just let me go. Let me start over somewhere else."
With an uncertain labor situation and the threat of a lockout looming in 2011, many around the league are anticipating a slow free agency period, and some think the contract offers could be more modest than if a new collective bargaining agreement was in place. That could be one reason why teams might try and stabilize their 2010 roster but avoid too many commitments beyond next season.
It wasn't certain whether tenders or contract offers had been extended to defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery and guard Will Montgomery, though defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander, who would become a restricted free agent Friday, was in negotiations with the team over a contract extension.
The Redskins also have eight players who could become unrestricted free agents if the team doesn't sign them to a new contract before midnight. Those players include long snapper Ethan Albright, defensive end Phillip Daniels, tackle Levi Jones, center Casey Rabach, punter Hunter Smith, offensive lineman Mike Williams, defensive end Renaldo Wynn and tight end Todd Yoder. The Redskins have been in negotiations to re-sign Daniels, Rabach and possibly others.
An unusual byproduct of this year's free agency period will be the reactions of players such as Rogers and McIntosh, who will have to wait longer to test the market as unrestricted free agents and score bigger contracts. McIntosh said he already feels he's proven himself to the Redskins and deserved an extension rather than a tendered offer.
"What can they say about me? Statistically, I'm proven and I'm consistent. I mean, what?" McIntosh said. "They try to knock me down because of my knees or whatever. Oh, yeah, I missed a couple of games, but other than that I've been out there. I've always been to training camp and I've always practiced, so you can't say I'm hurt."
"And they dang sure can't say I'm a punk. Make sure you put that out there," McIntosh told a reporter. You know, in terms of me being out there on the field and not being physical. Because I am. So there's nothing that they can say [negative] about me."