The Lions made a few moves on Thursday that offer a glimpse into their plans for the 2011 offseason whenever it begins. As many fans know, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding free agency in 2011 because nobody knows what the rules will be until a new CBA is signed. Free agency is broken into two categories, restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents.
Prior to the 2010 offseason, any player with less than four years experience was a restricted free agent. Teams have two options with restricted free agents, offer them a tender or do not offer a tender and they become unrestricted free agents. If a team tenders a RFA, the player can sign with another team, but the original team gets right of first refusal and draft pick compensation if they chose not to match the offer. The 2010 offseason was a little different due to the expiration of the salary cap. Players needed six years to qualify for unrestricted free agency rather than four. This removed 200+ players from unrestricted free agency and made them restricted.
Unrestricted free agents can sign with whoever they want with no compensation back to the original team. That’s where the big money is in free agency because every team has a shot at the player and doesn’t have to give anything up.
Since the CBA status is still up in the air, teams aren’t sure if restricted free agency will go back to four years, stay at six or end up anywhere between three and six years. With all the uncertainty teams are applying tenders to any player with an expiring contract that has less than six years service and the Lions are no exception.
Reportedly, the Lions have offered tenders to the following players:
LB Zack Follett, DE Cliff Avril, C/G Dylan Gandy, QB Drew Stanton, S John Wendling, CB Chris Houston, K Dave Rayner, DE Turk McBride, FB Jerome Felton and DT Andre Fluellen.
The Lions would only offer tenders to players they would like back on the team, because once the player signs a tender they have a contract for 2011.
The Lions didn’t extend a tender to RB Kevin Smith which means he should be free to sign with any team as an UFA whenever the new league year begins. There is a possibility that once a new CBA is signed, teams could have a second window to apply tenders so it’s not a given that Smith is gone. However, it’s unlikely that the Lions would risk losing him by not offering a tender if he was a part of their plans going forward.
The Lions reportedly signed CB Nathan Vasher to a one year deal and Julian Peterson was cut as expected on Thursday as well.