Despite the possible lockout by NFL owners, which I still feel could very well happen, all NFL pro scouting departments are moving forward with business as usual. While each organization takes different paths getting to the same road, the procedures are in place for evaluating free agents.
Meetings have been under way for several weeks. These meetings include pro personnel (directors and scouts), cap management (chief financial officer), general manager, head coach and staff. The pro personnel department introduces the free agents on their board.
The head coach and general manager set the tone for the meeting along with direction based on team needs. The pro evaluators then give their reports on the top five players by position. Generally, the offensive players are reviewed first, then defensive players along with specialists. Coaches then give their evaluations and grades.
The board is stacked after a lot of major discussions. Keep in mind the NFL Draft remains the bloodline of every organization, while free agency is used to fill hot spots. When you look at the most successful teams in the NFL, they are the ones that truly stick to the formula of building through the draft and developing those players. These same teams are in the mix for the Lombardi Trophy every year.
As defined by the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), free agents are broken into two classifications: restricted and unrestricted.
An Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) is a player not under contract to any team and has free rights to shop his skills and negotiate with any of the 32 teams for a new contract.
A Restricted Free Agent (RFA), prior to the 2010 uncapped year, was a player with three accrued seasons in the league. To maintain rights to a player, the team must make a minimum tender. The player’s current team has the chance to retain the rights of their player by matching an offer sheet from another team. In 2010, the tenders for three-year players were:
$1.101 million: Right of first refusal and pick in player’s original draft round.
$1.684 million: Right of first refusal and second-round draft pick as compensation.
$2.396 million: Right of first refusal and first-round pick as compensation.
$3.043 million: Right of first refusal and first- and third-round picks as compensation.
The following players listed below are on my “pro board”
Peyton Manning (IND), Mike Vick (PHI), Alex Smith (SF), Marc Bulger (BAL), Caleb Hanie (CHI)
DeAngelo Williams (CAR), Arian Foster (HOU), Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG), Cedric Benson (CIN), Mike Tolbert (SD), Darren Sproles (SD), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE), Michael Bush (OAK), Pierre Thomas (NO), Leon Washington (SEA), Tim Hightower (ARZ)
Vincent Jackson (SD), Sidney Rice (MIN), Santonio Holmes (NYJ), Braylon Edwards (NYJ), Malcom Floyd (SD), Steve Smith (NYG), Early Doucet (ARZ), Mike Sims-Walker (JAC), Kevin Curtis (MIA), Lance Moore (NO), Brad Smith (NYJ), Mark Clayton (STL)
Zach Miller (OAK), Owen Daniels (HOU), Kevin Boss (NYG)
Tackles: Tyson Clabo (ATL), Jared Gaither (BAL), Jermon Bushrod (NO), Trai Essex (PIT), Jeromey Clary (SD), Stephon Heyer (WAS)
Interior: Carl Nicks (NO), Logan Mankins (NE), Davin Joseph (TB), Harvey Dahl (ATL), Ryan Kalil (CAR), Daryn Colledge (GB), Deuce Lutui (ARZ), Justin Blalock (ATL), Marshall Yanda (BAL)
Champ Bailey (DEN), Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK), Brent Grimes (ATL), Carlos Rogers (WAS), Johnathan Joseph (CIN), Antonio Cromartie (NYJ), Ike Taylor (PIT), Eric Wright (CLE), Lito Sheppard (MIN), Stanford Routt (OAK)
Roman Harper (NO), Quintin Mikell (PHI), Eric Weddle (SD), Bernard Pollard (HOU), Sabby Piscitelli (CLE), Charlie Peprah (GB)
Chad Greenway (MIN), LaMarr Woodley (PIT), Tamba Hali (KC), David Harris (NYJ), Stephen Tulloch (TEN), James Anderson (CAR), Thomas Davis (CAR), Tavares Gooden (BAL)
Cullen Jenkins (GB), Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG), Charles Johnson (CAR), Ray Edwards (MIN), Jason Babin (TEN), Shaun Ellis (NYJ), Bryan Robinson (ARZ), Cliff Avril (DET), Turk McBride (DET), Wallace Gilberry (KC)
Haloti Ngata (BAL), Richard Seymour (OAK), Brandon Mebane (SEA), Aubrayo Franklin (SF), John McCargo (BUF)
Free agency in the NFL began with a limited free agency system known as “Plan B Free Agency” and put into effect between 1989 and 1992. The 1993 season brought the development of the free agency system that was in effect through 2010.
Player Name Bold = (Received 2011 Franchise Tag)