Posted: 1:34 pm Saturday, March 8th, 2014

2014 NFL free agency period is underway 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Despite finishing in last place in the NFC South, the Falcons will have the 11th toughest schedule entering the 2014 season.  CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

Despite finishing in last place in the NFC South, the Falcons will have the 11th toughest schedule entering the 2014 season. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Here’s the league’s media release on the Free Agent period.

Teams could start talking to player representatives today. Teams can start signing players on Tuesday at 4 p.m. 

Vote in our poll on who the Falcons should sign.

Here’s a look at the Falcons record in free agency under general manager Thomas Dimitroff on the pay site Myajc.com for subscribers. Understandably, after whiffing on Dunta Robinson and Ray Edwards, the Falcons will venture into free agency with caution.

Here are five possible free agent targets for the Falcons.

2014 NFL FREE AGENCY QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

SALARY CAP SET AT $133,000,000

Q. When does the 2014 free agency signing period begin?

A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11.

Q. What is permitted during the three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?

A. Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

During this negotiation period, a prospective unrestricted free agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

Clubs (other than the player’s current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players’ 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential unrestricted free agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

Q. What are the categories of free agency?

A. Players are either “Restricted Free Agents” or “Unrestricted Free Agents.” A Restricted Free Agent may be subject to a qualifying offer. A Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent may be designated by his prior club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?

A. For Restricted Free Agents, from March 11 to May 2. For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 11 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For Franchise Players, from March 11 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 11. For Transition Players, from March 11 until July 22. If the above-listed players do not sign by November 11, they must sit out the season.

Q. What is the difference between a Restricted Free Agent and an Unrestricted Free Agent?

A. In the 2014 League Year, players with three accrued seasons become Restricted Free Agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013 League Year. Unrestricted Free Agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.

Q. What constitutes an “Accrued Season”?

A. Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Q. What could restrict the ability of a Restricted Free Agent to sign with a new club?

A. If he has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through May 2. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed on or before May 2, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player. No Restricted Free Agents were designated as Franchise or Transition players this year.

Q. What determines an Unrestricted Free Agent?

A. A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club if by June 1 the old club tendered the player a one-year contract for 110 percent of his prior year’s salary. His old club then has until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (November 11) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

Q. What determines a Franchise Player?

A. The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.

An “exclusive” Franchise Player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on May 2; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.

Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the required tender for such a player:

The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years . . . ; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year . . . (the “Cap Percentage Average”) . . . ; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater . . . .

If a club extends a required tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.

Q. How many Franchise Players and Transition Players can a team designate each season?

A. A club can designate one “Franchise” Player or one “Transition” Player among its potential restricted or unrestricted free agents.

Q. Can a club decide to withdraw its Franchise or Transition designations on a player?

A. Yes. A club can withdraw its Franchise or Transition designation, and the player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent, either immediately or when his contract expires.

Q. What is the salary cap for 2014?

A. The salary cap is $133,000,000 per club.

Q. When must teams be in compliance with the cap?

A. At the start of the 2014 League Year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team carry over room to the next season?

A. Yes. A team may “carry over” room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 4:00 p.m. ET on the day before the team’s final regular-season game indicating the maximum amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?

A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

43 comments
AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Bennett off the FA market staying with Seattle

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Good question, but I am assuming that TD does not let Babs go and be the next Bennett on a contender! He has been the only consistent for the last 5 years for a D that has not been anywhere near a good D. Scares me to think that he just might fudge that up! IMO Babs only needs a little more help on the Dline to become more of a terror in the leauge.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Question for the room! Why is no one talking about Jared Allen? Is it possible we are afraid of being burned again about a DE from Minnesota? Or does he not have anything in the tank? Or is it the rumors that the Falcons are going 3-4 this year and he is not a fix? I think we can get him on the cheap and perhaps he can do a few things? Feedback?

JSSN
JSSN

Darla Lewis, it will be interesting to see tomorrow what the floor will be on the high line players like Byrd and Bennett. That Aaron Williams contract in Buffalo should have shudders through most of the GMs offices. He got Moore money. Moreover, the rumors circulating is that the Cap is going to be $150M by 2016. The agents of some players are going to be take risk to possibly get into that pool.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Either you sign Jarius Bird or Michael Bennet it will be almost impossible to sign both of them...

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Either you sign Jarius Bird or Michael Bennett  it will be almost impossible to sign both of them...

Dman
Dman

Good info DLed, JSSN brings up a good point about rookie wages.

Also, did I hear correctly that the Cowboys restructured Romos contract by giving him a bonus and saved another $10M on their cap. Sounds like Jerry is messing with the numbers again.

Esquire
Esquire

Who should the Falcons sign in free agency?   Is there not a box for NONE OF THE ABOVE?

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Alwaysready......Huh?  What are you talking about?

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

DIMITROFF I MEAN , I AM PISSED OFF 4-12 LAST YEAR HOW MANY 4-12 IN 48 YEARS ALOT .

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

the falcons  need 3 offensive linemen, a big defensive tacle like B.J. RAJI , WHO IS AVAILABLE, GIVE HIM 2 YEARS, a safety , a good young running back,  the falcons nedd a whole lot and DIMITOFF HAD BETTER HAVE HIS BUTT ON THE PHONE YESTERDAY GETTING THEM TO ATLANTA , BECAUSE I AM TIRED OF NOT WINNING A SUPER BOWL , 48 YEARS DAMN DO YR JOB RIGHT MY GOD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JSSN
JSSN

Ledbetter, you have better things to do. But before they get out of the unrestricted free agent period this off-season, can you give these folks a primer on the Rookie wage allocation. Can you especially talk about the "cap within the cap?"

Any news on Gonzalez and Snelling their retirement paperwork with the league?

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

Save all the free agent  money for ........  CLOWNEY.

UGA76
UGA76

@Esquire The number 1 thing this team needs is a GM or somebody to evaluate talent.  This team needs upgrades at 4 OL positions, 4 DL positions, 2 LB positions, 1 S position, 1 TE position, a 3rd WR and RB.  That's 14 positions.  Dimitroff is NOT an even below average judge of talent.    

gfw
gfw

@Esquire Agreed.  D-Led, are you listening?  ALWAYS put a "None of the Above" box when you post these little surveys.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Esquire....I don't much care for any of those players either.

Maybe Starks depending on the contract.

Whatever we spend/blow has to be on Defense.....All of it!

Going all in for Orakpo was my 1st choice, since that now won't be happening:

-Sign Tyson Jackson....he commands about 4-5 mil per.

-Sign either DeMarcus Ware, Chris Clemons or Jared Allen....all will be taking substantial pay-cuts from their previous contracts.....last yrs market dictated aging pass rushers are landing 1-4 mil per.

-Sign the "other" Chris Clemons -- as in S from Mia.....Probably 3-4 per.

-Sign Starks to plug the middle......likely 2-4 mil per. His teammate Soliai wants 5+....he can go elsewhere for that!

-The Falcons would still have about 5-6-7 mil left outta roughly 20 mil they have in Cap Space.

Byrd, Albert, Michael Johnson & Bennett are gonna command 10+ on the market. Signing one of those guys is nice, but you won't be doing much else shopping....at least for decent players.

Dman
Dman

That's the second time this same poll was posted and I said the same thing too last time. We don't need to get any of these players. We need two oLineman who are solid but they don't need to be the best available. We have too many holes to fill to spend all of the cap money with a couple of fre agents.

JSSN
JSSN

@reallygroovy  

Since they went to the 16 game schedule: 5 times.

They love that and 3-13, then back in the old 14 game schedule  3-11 or or 4-10.

Dman
Dman

I FEEL YOUR PAIN reallygroovy. :)

Esquire
Esquire

@JSSN  I would have thought you would be more knowledgeable about rookie wages and the salary cap but D.Led, go ahead, use a slow news day and explain it for him. 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Knock on the SSBabineaux? Or you saying Father Time is also undefeated for him? I won't even mention Peters considering he coming off a injury!

gfw
gfw

@Esquire Bigcrimson75:  From your lips to TD's ears.  I couldn't agree more.  I doubt we can get Starks for the $2-4 million you mention, but I wouldn't go higher.  He'll be 31 in December and has been in the trenches for a long time.  These 300+lb DTs do eventually wear down. Ware, OTOH, though he's a little bit older, might have quite a bit left.  They should work him out with a cone drill to find out (if his agent would let them, which he very well might not, in which case: bye bye).

JSSN
JSSN

@Esquire

Are you serious? I hope you're joking in the bad way you do. "These folks," now go and read some of comments earlier and on the draft blogs where people are butchering the rookie cap. He won't be "explain"ing it for me.

Esquire
Esquire

@JSSN  

Also, the Falcons would just cut TG if he didn't file the paperwork.  I can't imagine he would hold out for his roster bonus when he has no intention to report.  But hey, I don't know the man but I would hope this would not be a situation where there is a bitterness between TG and the team.  Maybe he's gonna play another year.........nah....!!

JSSN
JSSN

@AnsweredTHIS  

No problem, you answered your own question. There lays the the issue.

JSSN
JSSN

@BigCrimson75  

They don't think they need a competent quarterback behind Ryan. If I didn't know better, I'd think Dan Reeves was still around!


JSSN
JSSN

@Savdon  

Thanks to both of you, she was one of the unfortunate ones whose parents met pre pre marriage Sickle Cell Trait testing back in the 60s. She was a radiant woman, always lit up every room or occasion. Still, she defied the odds living well into her early 40s painful as it was. I've seen death come in many different forms, but that is not one I'd wish on my worst enemy.

And as I try to tell many here, football especially professional is not as personal as some take it! Back to the game, Namaste!

Savdon
Savdon

JSSN, I'm very sorry to hear that your wife died.

While you tick me off sometimes, it's obvious you know more about the game and its intricacies than "casual" fans (if you can call a since '66 fan like me a casual fan).

Football is fun, but it's not life.

God bless.

Savdon aka dean

JSSN
JSSN

@BigCrimson75  

No that was not what I meant. The (Sickle Cell) trait is effected adversely by prolonged exposure to altitude changes. Most domestic flights is not an issue, but transatlantic or transoceanic travel can be an issue. My late wife had full blown Sickle Cell Anemia, we always had to work around it when we traveled. We could never live at high altitude.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

They won't you in the UK with Sickle Cell!!?

That seems kinda harsh.

JSSN
JSSN

@BigCrimson75  

I like Ryan Clark as an experienced player. However, you have to be careful with him because he has the Sickle Cell trait and comes with some travel restrictions. The London game would be off the table. And you really need him in that type of game.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

gfw......Ryan Clark -- S from Pitt could be a nice 1 year get. He's past his prime, but still a better option than DeCoud.

A healthy Ware brings MUCH to the equation!! He's not done playing high level NFL football.

JSSN
JSSN

@Esquire

You crack me up. You'd rather a player not simply file "retirement papers" with League and NFLPA and getting immediate "dollar-for-dollar" cap savings then having to waste team and administrative time to send a player through waivers? Of course they can release him, they shouldn't have to!