Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

March 9, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt
  (12:01 PM)

Welcome! We're now entering my busiest time of the year. So much to discuss with the release of Peyton Manning and with free agency opening on Tuesday. Let's get to it.

Kevin (CT)

If team didn't know the tag number for some guys, how were they able to decide whom to tag? Was it all based on how much they didn't want to lose the player?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:03 PM)

Good question. We continue to wait for the announcement of the 2012 cap number. Until we have that number, we don't know the exact tag for each position, nor do we know the restricted FA amounts for teams to use. My sense is teams have been told that the cap will be likely very flat from last year where it was 120.3M and are basing their projections off of that number. We'll continue to wait for the number, which I believe will be this afternoon. I believe it will be close to that 120.3M.

Eric Siler (long beach ca)

With peyton coming off neck surgery wouldnt he want to go somewhere with a good offensive line. so wouldnt miami or seattle be ideal?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:04 PM)

I think Peyton has been and will continue to be very analytical about his next stop. The key things he'll look for are where he can be most successful from a scheme point of view. What the schemes are defensively in the division he would play for. What the schedule looks like for opponents outside of the division. And where he feels the offensive weapons suit him best. I think money will be a factor, but not the overriding factor. I expect him to be deliberate but not expect this to drag on. I think we'll know a new team for Manning within a week.

Carl (Denver)

How does the cap get figured out?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:07 PM)

We'd need more than a half hour chat. It takes into account total revenues that come into the NFL each year. That amount is set forth by independent auditors and then is "negotiated" between the NFL and NFLPA to determine how much of the cap is salary and how much is benefits. In 2011, the actual cap number was about 141M, but the number everyone focused on was 120M because that was the salary number, with the rest toward benefits. The total cap will probably be in the 140M range, but everyone will focus on the salary part which will be in the 120M range.

Aaron (LA)

There are a lot of free agents out there this offseason. How does team go about deciding which players to go after?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:09 PM)

That's what teams have been doing since the end of the season, looking at their roster and their cap and cash and figuring out where they can be aggressive or not. As you mention, this will be the most interesting free agency period in a few years and the first true free agency period since 2009. As we remember, 2010 was uncapped which made it an unusual for free agency. 2011 was compressed due to the lockout. 2012 is upon us. I think the action will be fast and furious on Tuesday night as it always is when the bell rings for free agency. The key to me will be how fast the market slows, because we may have a middle class that is playing musical chairs with the free agent money that's left after the first wave.

Aaron (GB WI)

Why is nobody talking about Mario Williams becoming a Packer?? It would be the perfect fit for our 3-4 and fill the huge hole that is staring Ted in the face. Ted Thompson has to see that value, or is it a cap issue?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:10 PM)

He certainly is the most desired free agent this side of Manning in the market place. The question becomes who will be willing to make his price, which does not seem to be in the wheel house of what the Packers do. In my time there, the Packers weren't really players in the first hours or days of free agency and wait to make their moves, as was what they did for Charles Woodson. I would not expect them to be major players for Williams.

Dave (NYC)

How do teams come to a number when offering a free agent a contract? Do they contact the agent first to find out a ballpark and go from there?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:12 PM)

Exactly. Teams set their own prices on what they're willing to spend on a player and then contact the agent to see if that's realistic. So much of what's going to go on in the next week will be agent driven, which is why teams spend a lot of time, as I did, cultivating relationships with agents. There is going to have to be a lot of trust involved. That will be paramount to getting a deal done for the top players.

Andrew Brandt
  (12:13 PM)

Again, I don't think we're naive enough to think that there has not already been a fair amount of contact with these agents, but as often the case, things can change between what's said in February and what happens in March.

James (New Jersey)

In a Drew Brees contract dispute situation, is there a point where the team has to discuss what it would be willing to accept in trade compensation? Especially with certain New Orleans born and raised FA QB on the market.

Andrew Brandt
  (12:15 PM)

My answer is yes there is dispute as to a value to the contract in this negotiation, but no, there will not be a trade of Drew Brees. The problem in this negotiation, my sense, is Peyton Manning. His contract in July for 18M per year over 5 years, which the Saints are willing to pay. But taking a closer look, his contract was 70M over three years, which the Saints are not willing to pay. Interestingly, the next Peyton Manning contract will also have great influence over Drew Brees, as this may set a floor for what the same agent, Tom Condon, asks the Saints for based on the new market for Peyton Manning and his new team.

Al (NY)

Is the 49ers reported 3 year offer to Alex Smith proof the team is not sold on him? What other options might they have?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:17 PM)

That would certainly depend on the contract structure. In football, as we know, contracts are not fully guaranteed, so the amount of years is much less important than that of baseball or basketball. The interesting thing in San Francisco is to see if they chase Manning, after professing loyalty to Alex Smith. And, of course, Alex Smith is also represented by Tom Condon, the agent for Manning, Brees and others.

Gary (FL)

Do you think the reports that 12 teams contacted Peyton Manning came from his camp? All the more to create some buzz and competition, right?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:18 PM)

Yeah, I'm not surprised by the number of teams. But what's not explained in those reports is whether some of those teams are "kicking the tires" or not. As discussed earlier in this chat, some teams might have called to talk price and may have moved on after one phone call. While other teams have talked more seriously. Maybe only 2, 3, 4 teams fall into that category.

frank (washington)

In your opinion whos the frotn runner for RG3, Aand is he worth the number 2 pick

Andrew Brandt
  (12:20 PM)

I'm not the best person to ask in terms of his draft rating from a scouting point of view. But we've seen what the scarsity of the talent at that position and teams will move heaven and earth in order to have a quality leader at that position. Manning will be the first dominoe. Matt Flynn will be next. Then we'll see about RGIII.

Fred (Jupiter Fl)

Will Peyton choose Miami? If not what's the next best step at QB for the Dolphins?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:21 PM)

My sense is Miami will end up with Manning or Matt Flynn. It just depends on where Manning's position is on the Dolphins. But hopefully for the Dolphins, they'll know on Manning on if it's a no before Matt Flynn makes his decision. As I said, this will be a dominoe effect, with teams like Miami, Washington, Cleveland, Seattle all looking for QBs.

Greg (VA)

What are you expecting the cap number to be for 2012? How does that have an impact on teams?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:23 PM)

Obviously teams know now generally where they're going to be under the cap. But it's important they budget for a lot more than free agency. They have to budget for the draft class, potential injury reserve players, incentives, etc. For many teams, that's not a worry. But in our time managing the cap in Green Bay, I always wanted to go into the season with hopefully 7-10M in cap room to deal with injuries or extensions for some players. I would think teams would try to allow that flexibility as well.

Barnes (PA)

Will teams be able to give Manning a physical before they offer a contract? Understand it's rare, but seems important since release was for "medical reasons"

Andrew Brandt
  (12:24 PM)

Absolutely. Absolutely there will be physicals. That is part of any free agent visit. That won't change simply because his name is Peyton Manning.

jason (ma)

In your opinion how will "bounty" gate play out on this years officials?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:26 PM)

It's obviously "the" issue for the offseason for the NFL. It strikes at two things: 1) the integrity of the game and 2) the health of the players, which has been the NFL's lead issue the last few years, which is also the timeframe this took place. There is also cap and salary issues with players getting money outside of their contract. That is all to say the punishment will be severe. The NFL has set us up for that with their release of information a week ago. I would expect a triple cocktail of punishment: suspension, fines, loss of draft picks.

Corey (D.C.)

Regarding the Franchise Tag...if players dont want it because there is no long-term security, and teams want to be able to retian players not under contract by tagging them, why not make the tag a 2-year commitment, with the 2nd yr being an average of the top 15 at that position?

Andrew Brandt
  (12:28 PM)

I haven't heard that, but clearly the tag has become a more expensive tool than it was meant to be. It was meant for the true "franchise" players, such as a John Elway or Troy Aikman. But it has morphed more into a management tool to lockup a team's best player in any particular year who is a free agent. Combined with this is the fact that the tag numbers were lower than they were last year. This also effects negotiations, as teams can negotiate lower than in the past. I'm not sure what can be done with it, especially since we have 9 years left on the CBA, but it is something the players are grumbling about.

Andrew Brandt
  (12:30 PM)

Great questions. What a time it is, between Peyton Manning, the Saints situation and free agency starting next week. Like it or not, I'll be chatting more often than ever. I'll see you really soon. For those of you who don't know, I have started contributing to with a column, with the first on Peyton Manning, so please check that out. And as always you can hit me up on Twitter: @ADBrandt.