Morning. Tuesday sure was an optimistic day on the NFL labor front. Personally, I don't think there's any chance this many details of the proposed deal would be emerging if the proposal weren't pretty close to a sure thing. So the time could be drawing near when we can start talking about free agency and the start of training camps.
Adam Schefter reported that the new deal would shift the threshold for unrestricted free agency back to four years' service time, and if that happens, every team's offseason plan would be affected. Today's breakfast links will address some of the key players on whom the NFC East teams might have to make key decisions.
The news alters Doug Free's situation quite a bit, and could conceivably impact the Cowboys' ability to pursue other big-money free agents depending on the amount of outside interest Free draws as an unrestricted free agent. As the Cowboys have made clear, Free is a must-sign. But Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen would become issues under those guidelines as well.
DeMarcus Ware spoke to NFL.com's Steve Wyche and had lots of good things to say about Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' offseason workouts and the change the team made at head coach midway through the 2010 season: "You go from Wade Phillips, which is a guy, he's more tailored to the older guys and developing younger guys," Ware said. "Then you have a younger coach come in, which is Jason Garrett, he's more of the Bill Parcells-type guy. He likes putting the pads on. He likes doing a whole bunch of the fundamental stuff and just focusing on that, doing the right things and just little things like that." Garrett's players clearly bought in last year, and if that continues and the defense gets solidified, Ware's and others' prediction of a Cowboys rebound are totally reasonable.
New York Giants
The Giants could potentially be the hardest-hit team in the division by a rule that makes 4+ guys into UFAs. Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, Barry Cofield, Steve Smith and Mathias Kiwanuka are among the players on the New York roster in line to make bigger money than they would have under last year's rules. Of those, Bradshaw and Kiwanuka are likely the highest-priority guys, along with Smith, though Smith's knee injury hurts his potential market value and should help the Giants keep him. Boss and Cofield are key contributors but could have to be sacrificed to the open market if Bradshaw's price goes through the roof.
Jemele Hill writes that David Tyree has the right to his surprisingly strong stance against gay marriage. (He says he'd trade his Super Bowl helmet catch and title to prevent it.) Technically, she's right, of course. But just because he has the right to spout intolerance doesn't necessarily mean he should.
Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley is probably the most significant Eagles name that would be affected by the four-year UFA threshold. My guess is, if Bradley's price were to spike, the Eagles would move on with other free-agent plans and just keep Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. But I wonder if Bradley, who's had injury problems, will generate much open-market interest on a market this crowded.
He's about to be an Eagles rookie, but Jaiquawn Jarrett is still a New York City kid at heart, and he showed support for the community from which he came.
Have to think inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh and right tackle Stephon Heyer are the two most significant Redskins in the UFA zone, but the potential move of Lorenzo Alexander to the inside to make room for first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan could help the team's leverage if McIntosh wants more than they want to pay him. And whether Heyer comes back or not, the Redskins will still need to find a starting right tackle. Jamaal Brown is a six-year guy who was going to be a UFA no matter what.
Because of the Redskins' ties to the state of Maryland (not to mention those of the Baltimore Ravens), the state is saying it could lose more than $40 million in tax revenue during an NFL lockout. This was a key part of the NFLPA's argument against the lockout in court -- the idea that people far beyond the playing field would be affected. Fortunately, it now seems as if there's little about which to worry.
Happy to talk more free agency as the day unfolds. Let me know what you think.