Moratorium on franchise player negotiations ends
Vice president Mike Reinfeldt phoned agent Jim Steiner to assure him the club wants to retain the NFL's second-leading rusher from 2004.
Expect other teams to reconnect with the veterans that they designated months ago as franchise free agents.
League rules for franchise players stipulate there can be no negotiations between mid-March and July 15. Teams are hoping that, in some instances, the four-month lull will have blunted the acrimony that often accompanies the franchise marker. That may not be the case, though, for those teams that have no current agreements at all, not even one-year deals, with their franchise players.
"I don't know that [the end of the moratorium] will change things that much, really," said Roosevelt Barnes, agent for Philadelphia Eagles franchise defensive tackle Corey Simon. "I guess we'll just have to see."
Simon is one of three franchise players -- Alexander and New York Jets defensive end John Abraham are the others -- who have refused to sign the one-year qualifying offer that comes with the designation. There is one transition player, Green Bay Packers tight end Bubba Franks, who has also not signed the qualifying offer.
Had those players signed the one-year tender before mid-March, they would now be able to negotiate long-term deals. Instead, they are starting from square one in the bargaining process. Any player who signs a long-term contract before first agreeing to the one-year qualifying offer carries the franchise tag for the length of the longer deal.
Teams are loathe to lose their franchise marker for multiple years, and so most follow the formula of first securing a one-year accord and subsequently extending the contract.
Of the nine other veterans tagged as franchise players, only two, Cincinnati Bengals running back Rudi Johnson and St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, signed long-term contracts in March. The remaining seven -- quarterback Drew Brees of San Diego, Indianapolis tailback Edgerrin James, New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard, New England kicker Adam Vinatieri, cornerback Charles Woodson of Oakland, Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius and San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson -- signed their one-year qualifying offers.
It remains to be seen whether those players will convert the one-year deals into long-term contracts. Securing such extensions figures to be an arduous process for the teams involved. Some teams -- such as the Chargers, who prefer to see if Brees' stellar 2004 performance was his new standard, or merely an aberration -- might not seek long-term extensions with their franchise players.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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