Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Free Agency Tracker: Post-Draft Update

Though the 2010 CBA rules have produced a smaller and less impactful class of unrestricted free agents, the May and June period of the open market has generally included some significant signings

Stovall05_14_10_1_t.jpg


The NFL's 2010 free agency period may be well past its half-life, but the matter hasn't completely disappeared just yet.

In terms of actual days, the open-market life of a 2010 unrestricted free agent is almost exactly at its midpoint. There are a total of 139 days from March 5 and July 22, the opening and closing dates of free agency this year, and Friday was the 70th of those days.

However, the most coveted free agents spend far less than four months on the open market. The NFL's 2010 free agency period was radically different than in years past, thanks mostly to the final-CBA-year rule that required six years instead of four for a player to become an unrestricted free agent, but the pattern of activity didn't change much. There was still a flurry of signings in the first week after March 5, followed by a trickle of additional movement over the last two months.

The trickle was thinner this year because the original pool was shallower as a result of that six-year rule. More than 200 potential unrestricted free agents in their primes were instead lumped in with the restricted free agents. But it's likely to continue through the rest of May and even into June as teams attempt to address the roster needs that remain after the 2010 draft.

For instance, the following five veterans all signed with new teams last year in the span of seven days in May, the 19th through the 25th: cornerback Dre' Bly, fullback Justin Griffith, DT Tony Hargrove, cornerback Ken Lucas and punter Hunter Smith. No, that's not a murderer's row of Pro Bowlers, but neither is it an inconsequential bunch. Those five played in a total of 74 games and started 29 for their new clubs.

Bly started six games for the San Francisco 49ers and picked off three passes to rank second on the team. Griffith and Lucas both signed with the Seattle Seahawks and were opening-day starters. Hargrove started six games for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, played in 16 and finished third on the team with five sacks. Smith won the job as the Washington Redskins punter and booted 57 kicks.

Obviously, then, teams can still make moves at this time of the year that will affect their fortunes in the fall. There have been recent signings this year, as well, that may eventually fall into the same category. The Houston Texans just reeled in linebacker Danny Clark, who started 26 games for the New York Giants the last two years. Safety Gibril Wilson, who essentially became a UFA when he was released by Miami earlier this spring, has landed in Cincinnati; Wilson has played for three different teams over the last three years – the Giants, Raiders and Dolphins – but started for them all.

Again, the original pool of UFAs this spring was smaller and somewhat older, on average, than in most years, but there are still some interesting names left on the list. Among them, according to the NFL.com free agency tracker on May 13, are quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Josh McCown, running back Brian Westbrook, wide receivers Terrell Owens and Josh Reed, defensive end/linebacker Derrick Burgess, linebacker Adalius Thomas and cornerbacks Will Allen and Anthony Henry.

There are even a few former Buccaneers who became unrestricted free agents either by the normal process or by being released before March 5 who are still on the market. With the draft now complete and a good portion of the free agency work already done, let's check in again with where the free agents of all types from Tampa Bay's 2009 roster have landed so far.

Below are the five players from the Bucs' 2009 squad who became unrestricted free agents when their prior contracts expired on March 5. As the free agency period continues and these players either sign with other teams or return to the Buccaneers, the chart will be updated with their developments.

Player

Result

S Will Allen

[Signed with the

](http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Steelers-Sign-Battle-and-Allen/001821dc-1b04-45d9-845e-2ac015939811) on March 8

WR Antonio Bryant

[Signed with the

](http://tinyurl.com/yh3b6qj) on March 11

LB Angelo Crowell

S Jermaine Phillips

DE Jimmy Wilkerson

Three Buccaneers also became free agents when they were released just prior to the start of free agency. Though they were not originally slated to become unrestricted free agents this spring, their releases put them in the same category, with the same freedom to negotiate with any team, including the Buccaneers.

Player

Result

P Josh Bidwell

CB Torrie Cox

P Dirk Johnson

Also, the Bucs essentially increased their list of unrestricted free agents by four more when they chose not to extend tender offers to four players who could have become restricted free agents (more on that category below). Because no offer was extended, these players hit the open market on March 5 like those above, free to sign with any team.

Player

Result

WR Brian Clark

[Signed with the

](http://tinyurl.com/y93r6m7) on March 9

LB Matt McCoy

FB Byron Storer

Joined Bucs' staff as assistant special teams coach

LB Rod Wilson

There is a significant difference between restricted and unrestricted free agency. Unrestricted free agents may negotiate and sign with any team, and their previous teams receive no compensation, nor do they have a right of first refusal.

In the 17 previous years of the current free agency system, players became unrestricted free agents when they accrued four seasons of free agency credit and their contracts expired. However, as mentioned above, players must have accrued six seasons before they could become unrestricted free agents in 2010. All players who have three to five years of credit and expiring contracts become restricted free agents as long as their original teams extend a one-year tender offer before the start of free agency.

The Buccaneers extended offers to six of the nine players who were eligible to receive them. Teams have the option to chose from five different levels of tender offers to extend to potential restricted free agents, each of which carries a different one-year salary requirement and a different level of draft-pick compensation should that player sign with another team. All of the offers, however, give the original team the right to match any contract offer the player signs with another team. The deadline for restricted free agents to negotiate with other teams arrived a week before the draft; thus, all unsigned players in this category can now only deal with their original clubs and most return by simply signing their tender offers.

The following 2009 Buccaneers became restricted free agents on February 27 after receiving tender offers from the team:

Player

Result

WR Mark Bradley

T Donald Penn

LB Barrett Ruud

WR Maurice Stovall

T Jeremy Trueblood

RB Carnell Williams

Penn and Ruud received tender offers that require another team to send the Buccaneers first and third-round picks in the 2010 draft in order to sign either of them away. Williams' offer returns a first-round pick while Bradley (second), Trueblood (second) and Stovall (third) all received offers that require the return of a pick equal to the round in which they were originally drafted.

Players with expiring contracts and less than three years of credit fall into a third category: exclusive rights free agents. That is what it sounds like - the player's existing team retains exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract as long as they extend the necessary tender offer at the beginning of free agency. Only two players fell into that category for the Buccaneers this year, and they became exclusive rights free agent on March 5 when the team extended the necessary tender offers. Both have now re-signed.

Player

Result

CB Elbert Mack

RB Clifton Smith

As discussed last week on Buccaneers.com, Tampa Bay has by now assembled the vast majority of the roster it will take into the regular season in 2010. That's true around the NFL, where May and the summer months will be used more for tweaking than rebuilding. Still, those tweaks can occasionally be interesting and often even significant. The last two months of free agency won't be anything like the first few weeks, but they could still prove to be important.

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