The genesis of the idea
Three or four days ago I posted a comment to call attention to the fact that 8 May is an important date in the Compensatory Pick program. After the 8th, veteran free agent signings no longer affect the compensatory picks that will be awarded to teams after the season ends.
Erich Willen replied with an insightful comment.
If we sign Breeland to a veteran FA tender then when he signs with another team we get a comp pick. If he doesn’t sign with another team we pay him [close to] the vet minimum. The Pats did it last year with Blount, and [potentially could have] ended up getting a comp pick when the Eagles picked him up. I would [offer] Breeland ... a vet [free agent tender]. It is clever strategy.
Erich Willen is right; this is a little-known strategy that the Patriots employed last year. Let’s see the details of what the Dark Lord did with LeGarrette Blount a year ago. The description that follows is from 11 May 2017:
Though Blount remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent, and the Patriots haven’t shown much interest in bringing him back, on Tuesday they took advantage of a little-used clause of the collective bargaining agreement to retain some of Blount’s rights.
The Patriots placed a veteran free agent tender on Blount before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, according to several reports. It gives the Patriots more options to retain some value for Blount in case he signs elsewhere, and locks Blount in to a low salary if he decides to sign with the Patriots.
How does all of this work? We had to look up this obscure rule in the CBA, and found it in clause 9.1.b.
Free agents that sign after May 9 don’t count toward the equation — except players that are given a veteran free agent tender before May 9, which the Patriots placed on Blount before the 4 p.m. deadline on Tuesday.
I’ll remind you here that — while the key date in 2017 was 9 May, this year it’s a day earlier, 8 May 2018.
Now if Blount signs with, say, the Ravens, he will still likely factor into the Patriots’ compensatory draft pick equation and could net them an extra mid-round pick in next April’s draft, depending on how many snaps he plays in 2017.
Let me just put a fine point on this. The Patriots weren’t guaranteed a comp pick for Blount, but if he signed with another team for significant money and played a significant number of snaps, the Patriots had the opportunity to get a comp pick even though Blount signed with the other team after the May deadline. Basically the Patriots created an opportunity to get something for nothing.
So, what actually happened?
Well, Blount signed with the Eagles, and OverTheCap estimates that he counted as a CFA for compensatory pick purposes, but the Patriots ended up not getting the pick because Blount was signed on a low salary ($1.2m) and New England lost out on the pick when the league hit the 32-pick maximum. The Patriots didn’t get the comp pick, but they generated the opportunity to be awarded a pick for free.
Blount has a deadline to sign with another team — July 22 or the start of training camp, whichever date is later. If he is still a free agent as of that date, then he can only negotiate with the Patriots. And he would have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Week 10 to sign with the Patriots, or else he would not be allowed to play for the rest of the 2017 season.
Now this is really cool from the team’s standpoint. If the player doesn’t sign with another team by the July deadline, then the team controls his rights — kind of like a franchise tag. He either plays for the team that tendered him (Blount plays for New England) or he doesn’t play at all.
Of course, this also opens up the opportunity for a trade. Whether he plays for the tendering team or they trade him, the team should get a good deal in the right situation. The previous year’s salary, and the likely salary for the player this year are important.
The tender guarantees [the player] a salary of 110 percent of his salary from last year, which includes everything he earned except for performance bonuses, per the CBA. [For example,] Blount made $1.714 million last year but $750,000 in performance bonuses, meaning he made $964,290 in salary and the Patriots’ tender would be worth about $1.06 million.
This was a pretty low-risk deal for the Patriots; there were basically four things that could happen:
- Blount signs with another team, and the Patriots may get a compensatory pick that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Blount signed a $1.2m contract with the Eagles, guaranteeing Philadelphia a spot in the super bowl (in actual fact, the Pats didn’t get the pick, but it cost them nothing to get the opportunity).
- Blount signs the tender with the Patriots ($1.06m) and plays for them.
- Blount signs the tender with the Patriots ($1.06m) and they trade him for a draft pick.
- Blount doesn’t play (costs the Patriots nothing).
So, what does this have to do with Bashaud Breeland?
The opportunity to use this CBA provision to their advantage is actually greater for the Redskins than it was for the Patriots because, while Blount’s market value was close to the amount of his free agent tender amount, Breeland’s market value is several million dollars above his free agent tender amount. This means that there’s a lot more upside available to Redskins than existed for the Patriots a year ago.
Let’s look at Breeland’s situation.
Breeland’s 2017 paragraph 5 salary was $1.797m, meaning that a veteran free agent tender would be priced at just under $2m ($1.977m). Remember, the tender is priced at 110% of his paragraph 5 salary from last year, which, in short, is the player’s game checks.
Bashaud Breeland is an above average cornerback. Brent Grimes, T.J. Carrie and Morris Claiborne all have contracts with an APY of $7m or more. Before the Panthers voided the offer on the basis of a failed physical, they had offered Breeland a 3-year, $24m contract according to media reports.
While Blount’s market value last year was relatively low, Breeland’s 2018 value is probably somewhere between $6m and $8m, meaning that a sub-$2m salary forced by a veteran free agent tender would be a huge bargain.
So, let’s use the same list of outcomes we used with Blount and the Patriots to figure out what could happen if Breeland doesn’t sign with another NFL team before the Tuesday deadline, and the Redskins use the veteran free agent tender before 4 p.m. that day.
Once the ‘Skins have tendered Breeland, and after the Tuesday deadline passes and Breeland is still a free agent, there are four possible outcomes:
- Breeland signs with another team before the July deadline (22 July or the first day of training camp, whichever is earlier), and the Redskins may get a better compensatory pick than they would have gotten otherwise. He’s likely to sign a contract with an APY in excess of $7m per season, which would likely result in a 5th round comp pick, moving the Redskins up from the current (estimated) 6th rounder for Terrelle Pryor. It’s just one round higher, but it comes at no cost to the ‘Skins.
- Breeland signs the tender with the Redskins ($1.977m) and plays another season for Washington.
- Breeland signs the tender with the Redskins ($1.977m) and they trade him for a draft pick.
- Breeland doesn’t play in the NFL in 2018 (a very unlikely outcome).
The worst outcome for the Redskins is that they get nothing, which is what they’ll get if they don’t tender Breeland before 4 p.m. Tuesay.
Given the tremendous value of Breeland playing on a sub-$2m vet tender contract, he should be easy to trade, giving the Redskins a free 2019 or 2020 draft pick from another NFL franchise over and above the four compensatory picks they are likely to get in ‘19 anyway.
There is, of course, the chance, however remote, that Breeland signs the tender and plays for the Redskins for another year.
However, if Breeland takes matters into his own hands and signs with another team before July, it is very likely that the Redskins get a slight improvement in one of their compensatory draft picks (likely improving from 6th round to 5th round). Again, it may not sound like much, but picking 32 spots earlier in the draft at no cost to the team is a concrete benefit.
All in all, I agree with Erich Willen, who suggested this strategy in the comments: it is a clever strategy.
I wish I’d been the one to think of it.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
If you’d like to read the Collective Bargaining Agreement yourself, click this link, or look at the relevant section which I have copied and pasted below:
What should the Redskins do about Bashaud Breeland?
This poll is closed
No brainer! make the veteran free agent tender offer today and maybe get some value in return.
Jeez... if the guy wants to leave, just let him leave. You don’t need to suck him dry.