Teams may claim restricted free agents

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
9:50
AM ET
Here’s an interesting, but potentially flammable, issue in the league’s ongoing labor saga. Our Adam Schefter reports teams are planning on using the restricted free agent tags.

Much like the franchise tag, teams are claiming restricted tags still can be used. The union has said franchise tags can’t be used; it’s likely the view is the same on restricted tags.

With the current labor uncertainty, it’s not even clear who would qualify for restricted tags or how the system would work. A new labor agreement would clarify if players would need four or five years of service to be eligible for unrestricted free agency and anything less would make them restricted free agents when their contracts expire.

Under past agreements, there have been different levels of restricted free agents, based on pay and what compensation the team would receive if a player levels.

This may be a moot point because there can be no free agency if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the day March 3. At that point, owners are expected to invoke a lockout and there can be no free agency. The rules for restricted free agents also could change significantly under a new agreement.

But, in the meantime, you could see some NFC South teams claim some of their players are restricted free agents. Possibilities include Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams and Charles Johnson and New Orleans’ Carl Nicks.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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