It’s Time To Revamp NFL Restricted Free Agency
I would prefer to keep some of these secrets for myself in case I ever do actually get one of these general manager jobs. However, Scott has challenged me to write this post so I will. We already know how this goes. If this idea actually comes to fruition, I won’t get any credit for it. At least I’ll have the receipts for it. It’s time for the NFL to revamp its free agency. It’s time to bring back restricted free agency except with a twist.
As of right now the only players that end up becoming restricted as those who get cut prior to finishing their rookie contracts or do not get drafted. First round picks already are pretty taken care of. They make a good chunk of money, especially if taken in the top 15 or so selections. Additionally, the 5th year option pays them pretty handsomely if the team decides to exercise that option. Players taken in the 2nd to 7th round are sitting in this great empty space until it’s time their rookie deal expires. Maybe it’s time for a change.
The NFLPA is going to push for guaranteed contracts. It’s the only big time sport here that doesn’t have them. The NBA, NHL, and MLB all have guaranteed contracts. The only way to delay that inevitable is by getting players paid faster. Welcome back to restricted free agency.
The idea works like this. The first round pick contracts remain the same. They get paid pretty well as it is. The 5th year option may come with cost certainty but it’s not exactly free. Starting caliber players like Josh Jacobs and Daniel Jones had their 5th year options declined. Safe to say, I think the first round pick setup is already working just fine.
It’s about the players who get picked after round one. So many good players in this league are criminally underpaid for the first four years of their career. It’s why people should be lambasted for giving picks away. The current rules have you churning them over year after year in order to compile a cheap workforce to build around the stars.
An arbitration system similar to baseball could work but the careers are too short. The whole point of the arb system is giving teams more term control over players even if it means giving them small raises over a period of time. It’s certainly an idea. However, I’m just not sure there needs to be that kind of system in place for the NFL. Careers are generally much shorter.
The idea works like this. Players picked in rounds 2-7 would be given three year contracts. The 4th year would serve as restricted free agency. The team would have the option to place that player with a first, second, or original round tender. If that players signs with another team, the team that loses the player would get immediate draft pick compensation.
The comp pick rules for losing unrestricted free agents would remain in place. Teams would just have to think twice about just throwing money out the window because there is available cap space. For example, Jacksonville would have also lost their second round pick under this scenario for signing restricted Christian Kirk.
The teams that get it, get it. The teams that don’t, don’t. They need to suffer more consequences for handing out big time overpays on the market. This would be a way to enforce that. It gets players paid faster. It exposes proven players to the market faster. The rules become more of a chess game. You could even put the first round tender as the same price as the 5th year option to preclude teams from using it.
If ever given an opportunity to be an NFL general manager, this will be one of many rule changes that I propose. It’s time to bring restricted free agency back for a betterment of the game. The smart people will know exactly how to take advantage of this system. I’ll leave that part up to them. Give me a call, NFL. I’ll win someone a Super Bowl.