Just when everyone was starting to smile, those pesky owners want to go and take away some of the free agent fun fans were dying to watch next month after a new labor deal was reached. Per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, appearing on ESPN 101 in St. Louis, owners have asked to have three or four first right of refusal options for unrestricted free agents, which would include players with just four years of experience per the prior rules of free agency.
The details of how that right of first refusal would work are not clear, since it's still part of the settlement talks. Essentially, it would be like another version of restricted free agency, which would really have to piss off players like Barry Cofield who missed out on unrestricted free agency last year.
Just as the title implies, teams would have the chance to match any offer made by another team. But what if no other team makes an offer? Don't think that could happen? The Rams used the right of first refusal RFA tender on O.J. Atogwe last season and no teams bit. If the right of first refusal works like it did last year, players who do not receive an offer from another team would get a one-year offer sheet from their current clubs. For players with five years of experience last year that amounted to a one-year offer of $1.2 million. Players scheduled for unrestricted free agency could be pretty upset with that.
Teams have been hesitant to pursue RFAs after the Vikings used a poison pill contract to pry OG Steve Hutchinson away from the Seahawks in 2006. That poison pill was a contract stipulating that Hutchinson's entire salary would be guaranteed if he weren't the highest paid player on the team, a problem for the Seahawks since they had the great Walter Jones at LT at the time.
As this PFT post points out, it would be smart for the two sides to reach an agreement on said poison pills. If that possibility is left out there, teams could stick to the relative free agent detente and those 3 to 4 players would be stuck, some missing out on unrestricted free agency again.
You can expect the players to fight this provision in settlement talks. Apparently those talks experienced rough seas today, per Adam Schefter. No telling if this was because of the free agent issue.
Another item that came up per Mort, is that some teams want to be able to use the franchise tags, the teams that didn't do so proactively prior to the lockout. Stupid. However, that move will not effect the Rams, as they don't really have any UFAs who merit the high cost of using the tag.