What does restricted free agent mean?
Mostly it means this: You're not going anywhere if you happen to be one.
Four restricted free agents changed teams last year. None were star players, although all four did start. They were Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Shaun Smith, Tennessee Titans middle linebacker Ryan Fowler, St. Louis Rams punter Donnie Jones and New Orleans Saints corner Jason David.
|Anderson may be expendable because Brady Quinn is sitting behind him. (US Presswire)|
The draft-pick compensation is decided by the kind of qualifying offer the player receives from his original team. For example, if a player is given the highest qualifying offer -- which has to happen before Feb. 28 -- the team would receive first- and third-round picks if it opts not to match any offer sheet the player would receive on the market.
Cleveland will certainly give the high qualifying offer to quarterback Derek Anderson. That means he's on the hook for $2.56 million next season, the expected number for the high tender if he's on the Browns' roster. That's provided he doesn't work out a long-term deal with Cleveland or sign an offer sheet with another team. If the Browns match that offer sheet, his contract is what is written on the sheet. If they don't match it, they get the two draft picks.
Teams are often reluctant to pay that high a price, but it's rare when a Pro Bowl quarterback with a first-round pick from last year's draft sitting behind him comes available. Anderson will be an interesting case to watch.
The next-highest qualifying tender is expected to be $2.02 million. That would mean any team would have to give up a first-round pick to sign the player with that tender if the original team didn't match the offer sheet. The second-round compensation tender is $1.47 million and the low tender is $927,000.
The low tender brings compensation commensurate to the round in which the player came into the league. For example, if a player was a sixth-round pick, and he received the low tender, the team would get a sixth-round pick if that player signed an offer sheet with another team and it wasn't matched. Teams have until April 15 to sign players to offer sheets.
As enticing as Anderson or some of the other restricted players look, don't expect much movement. Giving up draft picks for signing players is always risky, and it costs a lot of money. That's a combination that turns off most teams.
But just in case, here's a list of 10 restricted free agents to keep an eye on as we ready for the open of free agency on March 1.
Derek Anderson: The Browns have talked contract extension with Anderson, but no deal has been reached. If they can't reach one, they plan to put the high tender on him, meaning it would cost a first- and a third-round pick for a team to sign him. That's steep. The Pro Bowl replacement could be enticing to a quarterback-needy team. One other option would be to work out the kind of trade Atlanta and Houston made for Matt Schaub, who was a restricted free agent last year.
Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys will certainly put the high tender on Barber, which would mean a team would be forced to give up a first and a third for him. That won't happen. But what if they didn't give him the high tender? Some team might think he's worth just a first. The flip side is you'd be giving up a first-round pick for a runner who didn't even start in the regular season in 2007. That will be some tough justifying.
Bo Scaife, TE, Tennessee Titans: He suffered a lacerated liver in the regular-season finale, but he didn't need surgery. He was Vince Young's go-to guy last season, catching 46 passes. He is more H-back than tight end, but Young loves him. The Titans have cap room, so it will be interesting to see how they tender him.
David Stewart, T, Tennessee Titans: Stewart is one of the best right tackles in the league. He is a power player in the Jon Runyan mold. The Titans have cap room; if they are smart, they will give Steward the high tender. If not, some team might make a run at him.
Michael Boley, LB, Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are working to get Boley signed to a long-term extension. He had a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2007 and he is expected to be one of the cornerstones of new coach Mike Smith's defense. If they don't sign him to a deal before the open of the period, he will likely get the high tender.
Jason Brown, G, Baltimore Ravens: He is one of the rising interior lineman in the league. Brown is a power player who excelled last season in his first as a starter. The Ravens have cap issues, which means they will likely put the second-round tender on him. That could be enticing to a team looking for interior-line help.
Chris Canty, DE, Dallas Cowboys: He dropped in the draft three years ago for injury concerns. Since coming in as a fourth-round pick, he has developed into a good defensive end, outplaying former first-round pick Marcus Spears on the same line. Canty is expected to get the high tender, so prying him away will be costly -- and unlikely. But he might be the other restricted player, in addition to Anderson, who some teams might think to be worth that price.
Jovan Haye, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He developed into a solid starter as the Bucs' under-tackle last season. The front office will try to sign him to a long-term deal, but if not, they have the room to put the high tender on him. That might be high for a player who went into the 2007 season battling for a job. Even so, he is a good player who could be worth a look for a team that plays the Tampa Bay-style of defense.
O.J. Atogwe, S, St. Louis Rams: I put this kid on my Pro Bowl team. He is an active DB who led all safeties with eight interceptions last season. And he hasn't even scratched the surface. Once he becomes more adept at identifying things, he's going to be a star. He has range and he can tackle. If the Rams give him a tender that isn't in the top two, somebody will make a run at him.
Hamza Abdullah, S, Denver Broncos: He took over as a starter in the second half of the 2007 season and was a pleasant surprise. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2005 by the Buccaneers, but they cut him. He spent time on the practice squad in 2005 with Denver and then as a special-teams player before taking over as the starter last season. The Broncos would love to keep him, but it's doubtful they'll put the high tender on him. For a team looking for a young safety, he might be worth a look.