A Special Master ruled Wednesday punter Todd Sauerbrun is now a free agent -- available to sign with any team -- after winning a grievance that voided the New England Patriots right to match a one-year contract he recently signed with the Denver Broncos.
The failure to put the first-right-of-refusal provision in a separate attachment to the contract was the reason the Special Master ruled in favor of Sauerbrun. The case was argued in his behalf by Jeff Kessler, one of the labor lawyers who helped to write the collective bargaining agreement.
Sauerbrun signed a contract with the Patriots last fall that had a first right of refusal provision, giving the team seven days to match any offer Sauerbrun might receive in free agency in 2007. The CBA states such clauses must be put on a separate page and not on a page that explains the main terms of the contract.
For whatever reason, the Patriots put the right to match on the contract term sheet.
The Broncos signed Sauerbrun to a one-year, $820,000 contract and Sauerbrun wanted to go to Denver. The Patriots matched.
Thanks to the ruling, Sauerbrun can sign with the Broncos or any other team he chooses.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.