Looking ahead to the Bucs and restricted free agency
With the Super Bowl in the books and the start of the new league year still a month away, this is one of the quieter portions of the NFL calendar.
We won’t complain about the rare downtime, but there is business looming on the horizon for the Bucs.
As you know, the team has several free agents to deal with, including Ronde Barber, Michael Bennett and others. But there also are some interesting decisions to be made on the team’s restricted free agents.
Restricted free agents are players whose contracts are expiring but who are short of the four years of experience required to earn unrestricted free agency. Among the Tampa Bay players who fall into this category are running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.
We’ll get into the particulars of how the Bucs might handle individual players at a later time. For now, let’s just rehash how restricted free agency works.
The Bucs will have the option to tender a contract to their RFAs, and there are three levels at which players can be tendered. If a player is tendered a contract, the team retains the right of first refusal during the signing period, giving it the chance to match any competing offer. The deadline to submit these offers is March 12.
If a player is considered to be of high value, teams can opt to place a first-round tender on him at a cost of $2.879 million for one year. That would protect the player by requiring a team wishing to sign him to fork over a first-round pick draft as compensation. That almost never happens.
A second-round tender (which comes with compensation of a second-round pick) comes with a $2.023 million salary, while the original round tender (team compensation corresponds to the player’s original draft position) pays $1.323 million.
The player has a predetermined period in which to sign the contract, which is not guaranteed. If he plays hardball and does not, all kinds of quirky variables come into play. That’s whole other conversation (see Donald Penn’s holdout a few years ago).
There’s an interesting sidenote here: using an original-round tender on Blount does not protect him because he was undrafted. There would be no compensation, though the Bucs would have the right match any offer.
Meanwhile, with Te’o-Nesheim, his status as a third-round pick in 2010 actually works against him. The Bucs could conceivably use the lowest-paying tender and still have the protection that comes from the third-round pick compensation from a suitor. General manager Mark Dominik said last month that the organization had already decided what level to tender Te'o-Nesheim. He would not, however, share that decision.
This won’t come into play for a few more weeks, but at least now you should have a better sense of how all this works.