Injunction could help Jets in free agency

If the players are granted an injunction to block the NFL's lockout, and if the league implements the 2010 work rules (no salary cap, six seasons for unrestricted free agency, etc.), it would be a huge score for the Jets. Here's why:

Three of their top four free agents -- Santonio Holmes, Brad Smith and Antonio Cromartie -- would be restricted free agents, not unrestricted, under those conditions. The fourth, Braylon Edwards, would be unrestricted -- and would stand to make a killing in what would be a watered-down wide-receiver market.

The Washington Post reported Monday that if the injunction is granted -- a hearing is set for April 6 -- the season almost certainly would be played without a salary cap and with the same restrictions on player movement as 2010. In other words, players with expired contracts would need six accrued seasons to be unrestricted free agents. Prior to 2010, it was only four seasons.

Now you know why the Jets, along with the other teams, made tender offers to potential restricted free agents two weeks ago. In fact, the Jets placed the highest tender in terms of compensation (first- and third-round picks) on Holmes and Cromartie, virtually ensuring their return as RFAs.

This would be a coup for the Jets. Instead of having to dole out lucractive, long-term deals for Holmes and Cromartie, they could retain them on one-year deals for the mandated tender offer -- $3.5 million apiece. It would save money for the organization and it would, in theory, keep Holmes and Cromartie -- players with off-the-field issues -- on their best behavior in another contract year.

A continuation of the 2010 rules would also make RFAs of Smith (second-round tender), Kellen Clemens (third round), Eric Smith (third), Drew Coleman (sixth), Nick Folk (sixth), James Ihedigbo (right of first refusal, no compensation) and Rob Turner (RFF, no comp).

The only players not affected would be Edwards, Shaun Ellis, Trevor Pryce, Tony Richardson, Brodney Pool and Wayne Hunter, each of whom has at least six seasons. Edwards probably would the most coveted receiver on the open market. Holmes and the Vikings' Sidney Rice, arguably the top talents, would be RFAs. That could result in a bidding war for Edwards, which would make it difficult for the Jets to retain him. In theory, the Jets could take the money earmarked for Holmes and use it to give Edwards a long-term deal, but the price could be too rich for their blood because of supply and demand.

Another downside for the Jets would be the likely use of the "Final Eight" rule, according to the Post. It would be 2010 all over again, as the Jets -- a Final Four team -- would be severely restricted in terms of signing free agents. They adjusted nicely last offseason, using trades as a way to improve the team. This time, the rule wouldn't hurt as much because GM Mike Tannenbaum has said the primary objective is to retain their own players instead of bringing in new talent.