Inside the uncapped year with capologist J.I. Halsell
Hope you had a chance to peruse today's stories on the Redskins' ever-changing situation and the league-wide uncertainty that surrounds free agency which begins at midnight. Without a salary cap in 2010, free agency is a little unpredictable. Some front office members say teams might be willing to shell out a lot more money than usual with no cap in place. Many others, though, think owners might go a more conservative route, worried about paying for long-term contracts when there might not even be football in 2011.
To help understand what could happen, we consulted J.I. Halsell, the resident salary cap expert for FootballOutsiders.com who spent four years as a cap analyst for the Redskins. Halsell can be seen later today on "Washington Post Live" on Comcast SportsNet.
Question: How will free agency and the contracts that are passed
around in the next few days be impacted by the labor dispute and the current cap situation?
Halsell: In general, the conservative in me feels -- just from talking
to guys I know around the league -- there's not going to be stark differences in how teams operate in the uncapped year. That's not to say there won't be some little nuances that are different. But on the whole, you're not going to see teams go and blow out their whole team salary by signing a bunch of guys. Those teams that have historically done that, that have been big spenders -- Washington, even the Jets a
couple years ago -- those teams are going to spend money. The teams that historically don't spend money -- Pittsburgh -- they won't. So I don't think you'll see teams operate drastically different in an uncapped year than they would if there was a salary cap.
Q: But talking to coaches and front office people in Indianapolis last week, it doesn't seem like anyone really knows.
Halsell: That's the thing: Nobody really knows. No one knows what the future holds for 2011. So because of that, no team wants to be stuck in a pickle come 2011 because they incurred a whole bunch of team salary in 2010. The vast majority of these teams tend to operate conservatively. If there's uncertainty, it's only going to heighten their sense of conservatism. The cap guys I've talked to have said
they aren't operating any differently.
Q: How might contracts be structured differently with no cap to worry about?
Halsell: You might see some teams bring money into the uncapped year, 2010, that might otherwise have been out in the future years. If you have a young, core member of your team and he's going to be a part of your team for the foreseeable future -- if you know he's going to be around for the next few years -- you might want to bring that money into the uncapped year. But to a certain extent, do you really want to
incur a high team salary in 2010? You might get penalized for it, come 2011 if a salary cap comes back. Theoretically, you might see some teams see that to a certain extent, but I don't know how wide-spread and rampant it's going to be.
Q: With the possibility of a lockout in 2011, do you think we'll see a rash of one-year deals?
Halsell: I don't think so, no. You wouldn't have seen a rash of one-year deals if there'd been a cap, right? Except for the guy who needs to prove himself. Teams don't make roster decisions based on making a run in one year.
Q: What are you most curious to see once free agency begins?
Halsell: It'll be interesting. I'm curious -- not just in that I want to see how crazy teams get -- but I'm curious to see how much movement we really have. I want to see if we see restricted free agents change teams. Historically, we haven't seen those guys move. You see one or two guys move every offseason. It'll be interesting to see if more than two or three guys move this time. The guys who are likely to move
would be the ones who get low-level tender -- the original-round tender. Maybe the guy that was a former third-round pick.
Q: As tenders come out this week, what does that mean? It doesn't necessarily mean that a team is crazy about a guy, right?
Halsell: Just because a kid gets tendered at a first- and third-round
level doesn't mean the team isn't entertaining offers to trade for a third-round pick one year and then a third-round another year. If you see a former first-round pick who's got a second-round tender, well that tells everyone what the team thinks of the guy. That's saying, 'Hey, we actually might be willing to take a fifth-round pick for this guy.'"
In the Zone
The topic of the day in the Redskins Tailgate Zone: how aggressive should the team be in this uncapped year? Discuss with Matt "Bobby" McFarland.
March 4, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: Free agency
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