Normally, the “Football 101” series of posts that we do during the NFL offseason relate to the basics of the game, like trying to determine what the “A-gap” is or what a “Wide-9” scheme is. This article, however, will look at something that is almost never used, but was broken out this week by the New England Patriots and applied to free agent running back LeGarrette Blount.
In the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, there is a “June 1st Tender” clause, Article 9, Section 1(b)(i), which reads:
In the event that an Unrestricted Free Agent has not signed a Player Contract with a Club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, in the League Year following the expiration of his last Player Contract, he may negotiate or sign a Player Contract from July 22 until the Tuesday following the tenth week of the regular season, at 4:00pm New York time, only with his Prior Club, provided that the Prior Club by June 1 has tendered to the player a one year Player Contract of at least 110% of either (a) his Prior Year Salary (if his expiring Player Contract is not a Player Contract he entered into as a Rookie)...in each case with all other terms of his contract identical to his prior year’s contract.
In non-legalese, basically, a team can place a tender on a veteran player that will pay him at least 110 percent of his previous year's salary in order to retain the ability to negotiate with a player. The move still allows the player to negotiate for a contract with a new team, but if he does not have one in place by July 22, the rights to that player become solely the original team's through Week 10 of the regular season. After that, the player will not be able to play in the season.
A couple of years ago, the league adjusted that June 1 deadline for the tender to the second Tuesday after the NFL Draft - the same date as when the compensatory draft pick deadline no longer counts for unrestricted free agents - though the tender's name has remained the "June 1st Tender." This year, that was May 9, which means any free agent signed to a contract now no longer can award his losing team a compensatory pick and he cannot cancel out a compensatory pick for his new team.
By using the June 1st Tender, the Patriots effectively keep Blount in the compensatory pick calculations. This could be important for New England, who are positioned to pick up some picks in the 2018 Draft. If Blount were to sign with a new team now, because the Patriots placed the tender on him, signaling their intention to keep Blount, the compensatory pick calculations could end up awarding the Patriots a sixth-round pick. As OverTheCap.com and Pats Pulpit explain, that pick itself may not amount to much, because it would immediately be cancelled out by the team’s signing of defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and running back Rex Burkhead.
It is another insurance policy, however, where the move does make sense, as Pats Pulpit's Rich Hill explains:
If [linebacker Barkevious] Mingo or [edge Chris] Long fails to make their new team, then they don’t qualify as a compensatory loss for the Patriots. And if they don’t qualify, then the Patriots addition of Guy and Burkhead move up the cancellation chart and pair with the Patriots losses of EDGE Jabaal Sheard and TE Martellus Bennett, currently slated to net the Patriots fourth and fifth round compensatory picks.
So keeping Blount in the compensatory calculus serves as insurance and could ensure the Patriots get their fourth round compensatory as a minimum.
There are a lot of “ifs” when - or if - Blount is signed. The compensatory draft pick calculations are done using a secret algorithm from the NFL, but OverTheCap.com and some other sites are usually fairly accurate in their projections. In this case, it appears the Patriots, who probably do not expect to have Blount this year in a running back group that already includes Mike Gillislee, Burkhead, James White, and Dion Lewis, have found a way to lose Blount after the end of the compensatory pick compensation while still getting compensatory pick insurance.
It is a move that, really, has no impact on the Patriots. It could hamper Blount’s prospects for 2017, with teams that may have been interested no longer considering him as they look to protect their own compensatory picks. If no team chooses to sign Blount, the Patriots at worst add a depth running back at $1.1 million for the season, and at best, they cost themselves no money as they decide not to sign Blount between July 22 and Week 10.
It is a little-used tender clause in the CBA, but it is clearly there and the Patriots may have found a way to use it that makes complete sense for the club. It will be more interesting in 2018 to see if additional teams make use of the option.