free agency

What Will NFL Free Agency Look Like Without a Salary Cap?

Without a salary cap in place for the 2010 season, NFL teams can, in theory, spend massive sums of money on unrestricted free agents beginning at midnight tonight. But they probably won’t. (Well, Daniel Snyder’s Redskins probably will, but the sane ones won’t.) For example, Steelers president Art Rooney II says he’s not at all tempted to spend wildly, explaining that he doesn’t think you can win via free agency anyway.

Locally, Jerry Reese says that the Giants have a budget which they’ll “try to stick to,” though he adds that “if we have to spend money on a guy, we’ll do that.” As for who that guy might be, the Giants, obviously, have holes to fill on defense, such as replacing Antonio Pierce at linebacker and improving their secondary. If they’re truly open to breaking the bank for one player, Julius Peppers will certainly command a huge contract, but according to a Post source, they’d only consider spending the $100 million–plus for Peppers “if they believe the Osi Umenyiora situation will deteriorate.”

As for the Jets, a lot of this discussion is moot. Thanks to their postseason success, they’re subject to the league’s “Final Eight” rule, which stipulates that the top eight teams can only sign another team’s unrestricted free agent if they lose one of their own, and even then, the first-year pay of the new player can’t exceed that of the old one. So without any premier free agents for teams to steal away from them, they’re handcuffed on how much they can spend. (Mike Tannenbaum will instead have to turn to trades and the restricted-free-agent market.)

The Jets’ first order of business, though: They extended a second-round tender offer to Leon Washington, which means a team would owe the Jets a second-round pick if they sign the running back. Depending on which tabloid report you believe, it’s either a safe move by the Jets — Washington’s coming off major surgery, after all — or a potentially dangerous one. For what it’s worth, Washington’s agent tweets that the odds of his client returning are “50/50.”

What Will NFL Free Agency Look Like Without a Salary Cap?