Monday, July 16, 2007
Franchise players Samuel, Briggs fail to reach deals
By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com
As anticipated, neither New England cornerback Asante Samuel nor Chicago weakside linebacker Lance Briggs reached a contract agreement before Monday's 4 p.m. deadline for franchise players to sign multi-year deals. Now, the two standout defenders are limited by league rules to signing just a one-year tender.
Earlier in the day, Detroit defensive tackle Cory Redding beat the deadline, signing a seven-year, $49 million contract that makes him the NFL's highest-paid player at his position.
Briggs and Samuel have both indicated at various times in the offseason that they will wait until the 10th week of the season to sign the one-year qualifying offer tendered to them at the outset of the free agency period. That is the latest possible point at which a player can sign and still receive credit for an accrued season toward the NFL pension plan.
Samuel reportedly has softened his stance a bit in recent days, amid rumors that he might report to the Patriots early in training camp. Even if true, Samuel now would be precluded from signing a multi-year contract because of new stipulations included in last year's extension to the collective bargaining agreement.
The one-year tender for Samuel is $7.79 million, and for Briggs it is $7.206 million.
Once a player signs the tender, the money becomes guaranteed. A team can also rescind the qualifying offer, but there have been no indications the Bears or Patriots plan to do so.
There were seven veterans designated as franchise players this year. Three of those players -- Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney (six years, $72 million), New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant (seven years, $63 million) and Redding -- signed long-term contracts. Cincinnati defensive end Justin Smith ($8.64 million) and Seattle kicker Josh Brown ($2.078 million) signed the one-year tenders for their respective positions.
Both the Patriots and Bears were steadfast in negotiations with their franchise players. While there were some discussions between New England officials and Samuel's representatives on a long-term contract, the two sides never were close on the overall numbers. The Bears, on the other hand, made it clear that they had no interest in signing Briggs to a multi-year deal and were interested only in a one-year qualifying offer for the two-time Pro Bowl performer.
Chicago did discuss a potential trade of Briggs to Washington at the March league meetings -- the Redskins actually reached an agreement in principle on a contract that would have paid the linebacker $20 million in guarantees -- but the teams could not agree on compensation. Those trade discussions were revisited during draft weekend in April, but again the teams could not strike a deal.
One potential compromise in the cases of Briggs and Samuel -- although not a guaranteed remedy -- would be for the teams to stipulate that they would not invoke the franchise tag again next spring on the players if they sign the one-year tender.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.