Bucs to have long list of free agents if CBA proposal moves forward
As details begin to emerge from today’s critical meeting of NFL owners near Chicago, we’re getting a better picture of how the league and players plan to resolve some of their disputes.
Among the things that is most important to getting the league back to business: The free-agency guidelines that will govern what will be a very busy period once a collective bargaining agreement is signed.
This is of great importance to the Bucs, who have some key players with expired contracts. According to reports from ESPN and elsewhere, the proposed deal currently calls for every player with four or more seasons of credited service whose contract is expired to be an unrestricted free agent.
This comes despite some thought prior to the NFL lockout that players with fewer than six years of experience could potentially be deemed restricted free agents. Those who could have been restricted included coveted G Davin Joseph, LB Quincy Black and OT Jeremy Trueblood. LB Barrett Ruud and RB Cadillac Williams have completed six seasons of service and were almost certainly going to be unrestricted free agents regardless of the terms of the new CBA.
If the deal is consummated with these guidelines in place, it means that a number of Bucs are going to hit the market the minute the NFL resumes normal operations.
On a somewhat related note, there also is reportedly an effort to reinstate the franchise tag in the new CBA, meaning that teams can retain a player by offering a one-year contract worth the average salary of the 10 highest-paid players at a particular position. Keep this in the back of your head as the Bucs decide how to deal with Ruud.
It would not be the preferred route for Ruud (it's not a multiyear contract, though it is gauranteed), but it would accomplish a couple things for the Bucs. For one, tagging Ruud would prevent him from walking away when the Bucs, perhaps, aren't quite ready to replace him. Furthermore, it gives the Bucs a hefty salary number in a year when they might need to get creative in reaching the minimum salary floor. That number hasn't yet been determined, but it likely will be significantly higher than the Bucs' 2010 payroll number, which was in the ballpark of $80 million.
Anyhow, under the scenario being proposed, here is the list of the Bucs' unrestricted free agents:
LB Quincy Black
DE Tim Crowder
TE John Gilmore
LB Adam Hayward
G Davin Joseph
LB Barrett Ruud
WR Maurice Stovall
OT Jeremy Trueblood
DE Stylez White
RB Cadillac Williams
EDIT: We took Micheal Spurlock off the original list posted here. NFL.com shows he has three credited seasons, although he's been on NFL rosters for parts of four seasons. Still, it appears he doesn't technically have the requisite four seasons of service and likely will be a restricted free agent. A credited season is defined as one in which a player has at least three games on the active roster.