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NFL, teams face challenge of setting rosters in short order

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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As we get closer to the players and owners reaching a new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL should know that tons of work awaits the folks at its headquarters.

Keep in mind that every player contract agreed upon is reviewed by the league office for approval, which could take a lot of time if a contract is rejected. All it would take to make a deal null and void is something as small as a language dispute, sending the player back into the free-agent pool or, in the case of restructuring a deal, the team back to square one.

Type of negotiations done over the course of a year
Timeframe Type of negotiation Total in a year
January-March 1. Restructure or cut vets 3-6
January-May 2. Re-sign own RFAs 8-10
January-July 3. Re-sign own UFAs 4-6
March-April 4. Offer to RFAs on market 1-2
March-July 5. Offer to UFAs on market 4-6
March-August 6. Talk with tagged player 0-1
March-July 7. Offer to cap casualties 2-3
March-September 8. Make trades 0-2
May-August 9. Sign draft picks 6-12
April 10. Sign undrafted rookies 10-17
July 11. Sign supplemental picks 0-1
January-September 12. Injury settlements 2-5
    40-70 total moves

I spoke to two head coaches last week at the American Century celebrity golf tournament in South Lake Tahoe, Nev., and both expressed concern about getting deals done and approved.

"I hope the league office can handle the flood of contracts that are going to pour into their office," one coach said.

By my count, there are roughly 1,850 players currently under contract in the NFL, which means to get to 90-man rosters before camp it's going to take another 1,030 players getting signed. One thing we do know for a fact is that 254 draft picks are waiting for contracts, but nobody knows the market for free agents. I expect the first deals to happen right after the green light is lit, which will really upset some general managers around the league who will wonder if they can afford to compete in the new market.

In years past a number of shrewd GMs let the first wave of free agency come and go before they got into the game, but that was when free agency was a standard five-month process.

Needless to say, this isn't years past.

There will be acceleration in decision making when it comes to signings and trades in order to get the new roster into camp. With all this action happening so fast, can you imagine the chaos at 280 Park Avenue when the NFL has to review more than 1,000 contracts and renegotiations?

Can you imagine how difficult it will be to get a hold of a big-time agent to complete a deal with his client when he has 30 or 40 other clients looking for a deal?

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Can you imagine what it will be like for a team's contact negotiator having to finish 40 contracts to get 90 players to camp?

All this in a span of about two weeks.

The Arizona Cardinals are a great example of this perfect storm coming to a head. They are in need of a quarterback (probably by a trade); they only have six offensive linemen under contract and need 15 for camp; they have a total of 49 players under contract and need to sign seven restricted free agents, six draft picks, and somehow sign 28 more players to reach 90.

I know that NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell like to remind us that there is still work to be done on the new CBA. But when that work is done there's a heck of a lot more work to be done on rosters.

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