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2007 Cap and Free Agent Market
When the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to a six-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in March, both teams and players got a pleasant surprise: a healthy bump in the salary cap in 2006 and ’07.
Before the extension, the cap was expected to stand at $94.5 million in 2006, a figure that was almost certain to lead to a spate of cuts leaguewide. The 2007 season was to be uncapped, which could have spelled doom for smaller-market teams and bottom-of-the-roster players.
The CBA extension set the salary cap to $102 million in 2006 and $109 million in ’07, and the increase led to a robust free-agent market in March.
NFL free agency is usually characterized by a flurry of early signings, then a lull. Veteran agent Gary Uberstine noticed that the market for veteran free agents last March was “broader-based, with the first phase lasting a little longer than it usually does,” noting that he was able to help PK Adam Vinatieri strike a lucrative deal with Indianapolis 10 days into free agency.
So what can we expect next offseason, when teams have $7 million more to spend? For one, plenty of early shopping.
“I would guess that it will be similar to years past in that it’s a little helter-skelter (those first couple of weeks),” said Packers general manager Ted Thompson, comparing the rush to shopping for a high-demand, low-supply Christmas toy for a child. “I just think that’s the nature of the beast.”
However, it’s important not to get carried away with the sheer size of the $109 million salary-cap figure. On a percentage basis, the cap is only increasing by 6.9 percent in 2007. Contrast this to last offseason, when the 7.9 percent increase over the budgeted $94.5 million number stoked the fires for a hot market.
In Uberstine’s view, a factor just as important as the increase in the cap is a change in the rule for signing-bonus proration that will take effect in the 2007 offseason. Teams can again prorate signing bonuses over six seasons. Those bonuses could only be prorated over five seasons in 2005 and ’06.
With the change in the proration rule, and with more money for teams to spend, agent Mark Bartelstein sees a “more aggressive (free-agent) landscape” next offseason.
And it figures to be a lucrative one for the most highly regarded players who hit the market. To hear it from league insiders, it’s basic economics. Teams have been more and more proactive about signing young, promising players before they reach free agency. This cuts into the pool of potential free agents.
According to Bartelstein, the very best ones who make it to market have “supply and demand swing in their favor.”
It’s no surprise, then, that agents like Drew Rosenhaus believe their clients will fare well in the changed market.
“It’s great for the players, and not just the guys who are going to be free agents, but it gives the teams more room to get extensions done,” Rosenhaus said.
“It’s obviously an awesome development for the players in the NFL.”
I wonder what our cap situation is like and if we will be active in next year's free agent market...there are quite of few O-lineman out there too that are very service-able but I don't know if teams will actually let them go...and who would come here other than being overpaid to ala Anthony Weaver, Sage Rosenfals, and #85
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