With a few of the Jets’ unsigned free agents – and, in fact, some of the others around the league who might interest the Jets, you could be forgiven for thinking “What are they waiting for?”
There are a lot of potential answers to this. Maybe teams are waiting for medical clearance, wanted to get the draft out of the way to assess their remaining needs or trying not to worsen their compensatory pick position.
The second of those three issues is obviously behind us now and the third will cease to be an issue when the compensatory pick window expires in a few days, so we may start to see some movement here.
With that in mind, it’s worth being aware of a seldom-used mechanism by which a team can improve its position and also give themselves potential leverage to keep their unsigned free agents at an affordable sum.
Signing players to a UFA tender (also known as the May 5th tender) is rare, but the Giants did it with Markus Golden last year, so perhaps it’s about to come back into fashion. It could make sense for a couple of the Jets’ free agents.
Here’s how it works:
– The player is formally offered a one-year tender at 110% of their previous year salary;
– This doesn’t give the team any exclusive negotiation rights or right of first refusal so he’s still free to seek a deal from another team;
– If he does sign with another team before July 22nd then he can be a qualifying loss for compensatory pick purposes, despite the fact that the deadline has passed, as this mechanism has the effect of extending that; and
– If he doesn’t sign with another team by then, the team does now hold exclusive negotiation rights unless they rescind the tag. Basically, the player would have to sign or sit out the season.
This can be a good way of potentially locking down a player who is looking for more money but doesn’t look likely to find it and, depending on what their salary was in the previous season, could mean you get to retain them at a decent price.
For the Jets, the compensatory pick issue might be irrelevant because they’ve acquired more qualifying free agents than they’ve lost. However, this move could block another team from waiting to sign a player so they avoid having to treat the signing as a qualifying gain. If they knew a rival was planning to do this, it would be effective gamesmanship to do so. In addition, improving your position even if you don’t currently look set to qualify for a compensatory pick makes it easier if your season goes downhill to dump some players before the qualifying date and engineer a situation where you can get a pick or two after all.
In consideration of who this might be a logical course of action for, the ones that stand out are Brian Poole, Patrick Onwuasor and Neville Hewitt.
Poole earned $5 million last year, so they’d have to tender him at $5.5m and might view this as too high. However, if they think that’s a fair value and he won’t sign for that much right now, then it would mean he’d have until July 22nd to find a better deal and then the Jets would have him locked in at that price.
For the two linebackers, they’d need to be tendered at $2.2m and perhaps it would make sense to tender them both to hedge their bets and give them the inside track on some cheap depth. If both make it to July 22nd, they could keep one and rescind the tag for the other. Again, they’d each have about 10 weeks to find a better deal elsewhere.
After addressing these needs with some of their draft picks, the Jets may no longer need to add veteran depth at the slot corner and inside linebacker positions. However, all those picks came in the fifth round or later, so the Jets might want the safety net of having a reliable veteran on the roster at these spots just in case.
It’ll be worth keeping an eye out to see if the Jets make these moves, or if any other teams with players the Jets might covet do the same thing.