The National Football League is full of things that the majority of fans are clueless about. The May 9 Free Agency Tender is a mechanism rarely used by NFL teams and is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
“Deadline for Prior Club to send “May 9 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents. If the player has not signed a Player Contract with a club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, he may negotiate or sign a Player Contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m., New York time, only with his Prior Club.” (quote courtesy NFL)
In other words, if an unrestricted free agent has not signed with another team, his prior team may make a tender offer in the amount of 110% of his prior year’s total compensation. If that player does not sign with another team by July 22nd, he becomes and Exclusive Rights Free Agent, tied to his previous team, through week 10 of the next season. The player may sign the tender with his prior team at any time, unless it is rescinded.
Again, this is a rarely used mechanism. It gives the team some insurance and also preserves their rights to the loss of a player under the compensatory draft process, but it also gives a player the team presumably did not want the ability to come back whenever he wants. Tenders once signed are guaranteed.
The Steelers did not use this CBA device again this season and therefore, DeAngelo Williams, Ricardo Mathews, Cody Wallace and Shamarko Thomas can sign with any team and the Steelers get nothing in terms of draft choice compensation.
Interesting side note: The Patriots used this device on our old pal , LeGarrette Blount yesterday.
There is no right of first refusal included in this mechanism. You may see that reference elsewhere that the Patriots have the right to match any offer made to Blount now. The language in the CBA does not allow for that.
Is there a risk to a team that uses this? Let’s say the Steelers want to protect their rights to Cody Wallace. He made $1.2M last season. So they extend him a tender at $1.32M believing he will want to sign someplace where he can start (purely hypothetical of course). Cody says “screw it” and signs it, now the Steelers are on the hook for $1.32M, even if they cut him.
Again, this is so seldom used that most aren’t aware it exists. It’s yet another example though of just how complex the NFL can be away from the field.
Ben Anderson contributed to this article.
Photo courtesy: NESN.com