On May 20, 2008, the NFL notified the player's union that it will opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement signed in 2006. Short of an improbable lockout in 2011, the greatest impact of this decision is an uncapped season in 2010. The term "uncapped" is a little deceiving. One might imagine a spending free-for-all, with outsized contracts and the league's richest owners dominating free agency. Instead, the rules for an uncapped season would stymie movement and advantage owners retaining players.
Players drafted in 2005 and signed to five-year contracts and players drafted in 2006 and signed to four-year contracts would be restricted free agents. That could benefit Seattle immensely.
Tim Ruskell had his defining draft in 2005. The Seahawks have already locked up Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill and Ray Willis to new contracts. But talent-rich enigma Chris Spencer is approaching the end of his rookie contract. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, Spencer would be a free agent. He would not command Jason Brown money, but he would likely price himself out of Seattle's future. In an uncapped season, Seattle could assign Spencer its right of first refusal plus original-round tender. That would guarantee Spencer $1 million. It would also guarantee Spencer stayed a Seahawk. No owner is foolish enough to trade a first-round pick to sign Chris Spencer.
2006 Draft selections Darryl Tapp, Rob Sims and Ben Obomanu would be restricted free agents. Obomanu's future with the team has an earlier deadline, September 5, the day teams must cut down to 53. Tapp and Sims are locks. Seattle would like to retain both. Tapp could be assigned Seattle's first- or second-round tender. The first-round tender would cost Seattle $2.2 million and the second-round would cost Seattle $1.5 million. Ruskell has Lincolns in his fingerprints. A first-round tender is unlikely. Seattle would offer Sims its $1 million right-of-first-refusal contract, or its second-round tender if its available.
J.I. Halsell has a clear and concise overview of what an uncapped season can mean for the league. For the Seattle Seahawks, it means retaining young talent at a bargain price. There's a lot of ground between now and "uncapped", but NFL owners opted out of the collective bargaining agree for a reason. Even the league's most profligate owners know a bargain. If a new agreement isn't signed, this offseason loses some drama. And I couldn't be happier.