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Last year during free agency, there was madness. It started with Mario Williams, when the Bills welcomed him to Buffalo and wouldn't let him leave without signing a contract. And the wackiness continued. But listen to several top executives around the league and you quickly get the impression this year will be, well, boring. Why? Because teams don't have money.
The cap is mostly staying flat. Sure, there will be some excitement surrounding where Michael Vick will end up, and maybe where Flynn could be traded. But anything else? Wes Welker might be franchised again. Greg Jennings will almost certainly leave the Green Bay Packers, but will his deal be a blockbuster? Not likely. Plus, the way the finances shake out, there might not be endless money for middle-aged, mid-level free agents looking to command, say, $1.5 million dollars to play middle linebacker. More and more veterans might end up having to settle for minimum deals. As one general manager put it, he'll wait until Day 4, when the veterans start calling teams instead of the other way around. But it appears there will be more than a few disappointed vets this year.
It's an interesting take on the free agency situation. With a flat cap, there's not a ton of money to go around, and while some teams will always have more to spend than others, there's just not a ton of room, so teams are going to have to be more selective and show restraint. And that could factor in to how big a deal teams are going to throw at a soont-to-be-32 year old slot receiver, a CB with a history of off-field issues and some hip injuries, and a 29 year old right tackle with a bad back, among others.
It's quite possible that the Pats could be calculating that in the current salary cap situation, if they can't reach a reasonable deal with some of these guys, it may be worth letting them test the waters. Free agents may find out that the big money isn't so easy to come by this year.
Just a thought.
Then again, it's also quite possible that all restraint will go out the window once FA hits, and teams will get themselves into hot water.
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To keep Fletcher, the Patriots would need to tender him at a first-round level ($2.879 million), second-round level ($2.023 million) or with the right of first refusal ($1.323 million). The level would ensure compensation if another team signs him, which typically only happens with high-profile free agents. If the Pats tender him with the right of first refusal, they retain him by matching any contract offered by another team, but they wouldn’t gain a draft pick if he leaves.
The End of the Chad Ochostinko Era!
That's a pretty decent analysis from Jason with a couple of exceptions due to his lack of familiarity with the team and the way they have actually generally operated.
Brady won't get a 5 year extension. His have always been 4 year increments (using the final remaining 2 to spread the amortization from the new deal) except for when they felt they had to wait a season to assess the ACL and in light of the impending uncapped year. That would take him through age 41 and 2018 when the cap from the recent CBA should finally be feeling the full effect of the TV deals. And as long as his entire salary isn't guaranteed prior to the start of that final season, they would have the wiggle room to talk or walk if by then it looks like he's dropping off dramatically. Hopefully they don't ballaxe that negotiation as they have a couple of costly ones over the last couple of seasons, including both Welker and Mankins. They seem to have attempted to go in the opposite direction of late, inking early deals with Mayo, Gronk and Ahern. Although in the latter case they may have overcommitted to the TE's in tandem a little too soon. Particularly in the case of Hernandez who absent Gronk isn't nearly the weapon everyone seems to have envisioned. Holding off on his extension until this off season might have saved them a few million and/or allowed them to structure his deal more along the lines of Gronkowski's.
They blew any option to retain Brady for a final season or two via tag as opposed to via contract when they did the restructure this past season. I assume both sides weighed out their options before they did that and were comfortable with persuing the end game via contract extension. As for the Brees deal setting the bar, Tom has always been content to settle for semantic spitting distance. His new money may be equal, but his old money will not be and 2 years to spread it across will make it a more manageable deal on average. 4 years, $80M plus roughly $30M remaining for 2013-14 or an average of $18M per. Or they could go 3 although that might have to include upping the ante on the guaranteed money because it would lower the AAV to $16M. Risk reward wise given the way Brady has consistently maintained his level of performance an extension as opposed to any other approach would appear to be a slam dunk.
I don't think Jason gets how they value Vince, who has become more than a top tier NT since signing his deal. I see them extending his deal by a couple of seasons because he has gotten better over that time span and early concerns about weight and conditioning and potential utilization have evaporated. Pay him up front for the remaining two years and tag a couple of salary years on the backend. The only concern they might have is emotion, as he did talk about retirement briefly in the aftermath of Sunday. And Bill tends to ascribe to the theory that once a player starts talking about it it is lurking just around the corner. Brief mention may however be discounted. The only knock on Vince, and it's always been there and it's not like Mayo isn't in a similar situation, is he's never really stepped up as a leader in the mold of some of the past Patriots defensive captains. He's not a guy who gets in others grills or instills fear. Hard worker who leads by example but more of a jovial presence in the locker room than a motivator who pushes those around him to step it up.
Cutting Ninkovitch? To save $1.5?? Not gonna happen. Cutting Lloyd is also not gonna happen, although I could see them discussing that option given some level of concern going forward about fit and utilization and style... He didn't have a robust market aside from here with Josh last off season so they could possibly leverage the remaining 2 years of his deal offering incentives to still earn the deal, although that might be a risk given his reported odd personality.
The situations they created by digging in on Mankins and Wellker and to a lesser extent on Vince coupled with the deals they pre-emptively lept into on the TE's and Mayo will unfortunately make for some difficult negotiations and decisions this season as well as going forward over the next couple of seasons when they face extensions for Solder and McCourty and Spikes. As Pioli used to say, can't pay 'em all elite money or the middle class budget will dry up. And the significance of maintaining flexibility in managing your cap can't be overestimated. Maybe that is part of the reason Floyd and the organization have decided to part company. But the personnel arm of the outfit has to start doing a better job of identifying talent, too. Seem to be drafting better the last couple of seasons, but we've also gotten a little too cavalier with trading away draft picks and doling out bonus money to FA who don't stick out of the gate. Can't afford to be burning double digits on dead cap.