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ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

Unprecedented 600 players potentially free agents


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The NFL could be headed for an offseason like it's never seen.

Unlike in 2011, when player movement was hurried by the lockout, this free agency period will run its traditional course and feature a massive influx of free agents.

The contracts of more than 600 players are set to expire before free agency starts March 13, with most of them being unrestricted free agents.

Last offseason, 289 veterans joined new teams through free agency or trades, compared with 215 in 1993, when all-pro Reggie White broke the seal on modern free agency and signed with the Green Bay Packers.



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The new collective bargaining agreement agreed to in July provided for little rise in the salary cap between 2011 and 2012. That, combined with the uncertainty of an uncapped 2010, created many short-term or back-loaded contracts, says former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, who calls the scenario "carnage for the players."

"This is unprecedented in the NFL," Casserly says. "You've got more free agents than ever in the history of the NFL and a cap that is projected to be the same. So you have less money per free agent than ever before."

Eighteen selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl are among the hundreds who could be looking for new homes. Running backs Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice each led their teams in rushing and have expiring deals, though Foster will be a restricted free agent.

"The young quality guys will make money, but most of the players will be faced with short, one-year deals," Casserly says.

Standout linebacker Mario Williams and tight end Jermichael Finley, keys to the success of the Houston Texans and Packers, also are among the potentially displaced.

These and others, such as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, could be re-signed or retained with a franchise tag afforded each team for use on one player a season. But others could become salary cap casualties.

The San Francisco 49ers could be hit especially hard, with Pro Bowl defensive backs Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson in line for big paydays after leading the NFL's fourth-best defense. Both players gambled with one-year contracts and improved their stock in 2012.

Teams best in position to retain veterans and acquire new talent because they are well below the cap include the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


I am curious how this will effect FA. Will it push down contract numbers? Maybe the big boys will make all the cash and then lower level guys will be replaced by rookies. Also teams that can carry over a ton of their cap from last yr can clean up and raid the market.

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