According to Adam Schefter, “if and when agreement is reached, all players with 4, 5, and 6 years of service time [and expiring contracts] are expected to be unrestricted free agents.” This is a change from the 2010 season, and would cause a jolt for teams that used restricted free agent designations on players, particular players that were designated at the highest tender, which would have caused other teams to surrender a future 1st and 3rd round pick to sign away the player. Most teams would have at least one starter impacted, if not more. Combined with what would have to be a shortened free agent period, the glut of younger players with expired contracts and less than six years of service time could lead to a wild free agency period with large turnover. Here is a division by division breakdown of some players that could be affected.
- AFC EAST: Per Tim Graham, ESPN AFC East Blogger, the following players would be among those affected: Antonio Cromartie and Drew Coleman at cornerback, Brad Smith, Eric Smith at safety, and Santonio Holmes of the Jets; linebackers Paul Posluzny and Keith Ellison of Buffalo, along with Donte Whitner and Ashton Youbouty in the secondary.
- AFC NORTH: Johnathan Joseph of the Bengals is the big free agent of note, as Cincinnati did not franchise him, instead putting the high tender that may now be invalid. Willie Colon of Pittsburgh, D’Qwell Jackson of Cleveland and Marshall Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens are other notable restricted free agents that could become unrestricted under the new agreement.
- AFC SOUTH: The Colts, per 18to88.com, have several contributors that could become unrestricted free agents, including Joseph Addai, S Melvin Bullitt, Clint Session, and Charlie Johnson. Others around the division, per Paul Kuharsky, include WR Jacoby Jones of Houston and LB Stephen Tulloch of Tennessee.
- AFC WEST: From Silver and Black: Michael Bush and Zach Miller would both become unrestricted free agents; RT Ryan Harris of Broncos would be available; and the Chargers could take several hits, most notably S Eric Weddle, who would become a hot commodity, along with WR Malcolm Floyd and OT Jeromy Clary.
- NFC EAST:Doug Free, starting left tackle of the Cowboys, would become a free agent an attractive target at the tackle position. The Giants have several impact players who would be affected, including RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Steve Smith, and TE Kevin Boss. Stewart Bradley is probably the most notable name from the Eagles, while LB Rocky McIntosh would be an UFA from Washington, per Dan Graziano.
- NFC NORTH:From Kevin Seifert of ESPN, Minnesota’s two biggest questions would be DE Ray Edwards and WR Sidney Rice. Green Bay has several contributors from the Super Bowl winning team that could leave now without compensation, including James Jones, Mason Crosby, Darren Colledge, and John Kuhn. Detroit and Chicago have a secondary starter at risk, with CB Chris Houston of Detroit and Danieal Manning of the Bears.
- NFC SOUTH: According to Pat Yasinkas, Falcons would risk a hit on the offensive line, with OG’s Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock, and RT Tyson Clabo all unrestricted. For Carolina, RB DeAngelo Williams and CB Richard Marshall are among the UFA’s. New Orleans has S Roman Harper and T Jermon Bushrod, though I think the latter is easily replaceable. Tampa risks a huge hit with OG Davin Joseph, plus OT Jeremy Trueblood.
- NFC WEST: San Francisco’s potential unrestricted free agents include Dashon Goldson, Manny Lawson and Ray McDonald, while Arizona has some offensive linemen at issue, with Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein, along with WR Steve Breaston.
If I were to estimate the most-sought after potential free agents, I think Johnathan Joseph joins Nnamdi Asomugha as plan B at the cornerback position among several teams that could be in that market. Of course, Dallas will now have to address Doug Free with a higher offer, and Free would be the top tackle target on this list. Sidney Rice and Ray Edwards would both draw significant interest on the open market for teams looking for a receiver or defensive end. We’ve known all along that the Jets will probably try to re-sign Santonio Holmes rather than Braylon Edwards. Eric Weddle would be the top target at safety. Harvey Dahl was an underrated guard last year that could draw interest. Several running backs, including Ahmad Bradshaw and Joseph Addai, could have an opportunity to change teams, and this potential free agency change could come at just the right time for someone like Michael Bush. He would have continued to play second fiddle to Darren McFadden, as teams likely would not surrender draft picks. Now, he has a chance to move elsewhere and get a greater opportunity.
Teams that could potentially be most impacted include the Jets, the Bengals (Joseph), Vikings, Giants and Colts. Others, including contenders like the Patriots, as well as teams that are trying to rebuild at certain positions, like the Rams at receiver or Texans at cornerback, could find the market to be improved under this scenario.
[photo via Getty]