Free Agency Rules; Dorenbos 'Shocked' by Pro Bowl Nod

Will Andy Reid and the Eagles be making any offseason moves? (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Eagles fans once again are going through the grieving process of yet another Super Bowl-less season. Some are dealing with the Eagles’ early departure from the playoffs by increasing their alcohol intake. Some are dealing with it by calling talk radio and making their annual empty threat to stop rooting for the team. Some are drawing devil horns on pictures of Joe Banner and Andy Reid and Jeff Lurie.

Most of you are numbing the pain by looking ahead to free agency and the draft.

A word of warning about free agency: don’t get your hopes up. Even under normal circumstances, the free agent market hasn’t had a lot to offer the last several years. The hefty annual increase in the salary cap pretty much allowed team to hang on to any guys they really wanted to hang on to.

This year, if the owners and players don’t agree to a new labor deal by March 2, there will be no cap at all, which means teams will be able to spend as much as they want or as little as they want. No ceiling. No floor.

Even more significantly, the rules of free agency change if the cap goes away. Players no longer will be eligible to become unrestricted free agents after four years in the league. The number will jump to six.

So, while it’s nice to sit there and fantasize about the Eagles signing a guy like Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards, who had three sacks against the Cowboys last week, the fact is, Edwards, who’s only in his fourth year in the league, won’t be an unrestricted free agent if there is no cap. Same for Packers safety Nick Collins. Same for most of the other names that are making your heart race.

For what it’s worth, the Eagles did manage to gain a couple of offseason advantages over the Cowboys by getting the crap kicked out of them down in Texas two weeks ago. One is a slightly earlier draft position. By losing in the wildcard-round, the Eagles own the 24th pick in the first round. The Cowboys will draft 27th. Of course, the Eagles could always trade their pick to the Cowboys. Just kidding, just kidding.

Because they made it to the divisional round, the Cowboys also will be limited in their ability to sign unrestricted free agents, while the Eagles will have no such limitations.

Try to stay awake while I explain this. The NFL’s rules for an uncapped year include what is known as The Final Eight Plan. Basically, the last eight teams standing (everybody that made it to the divisional round), have restrictions on the number of UFAs they can sign.

The four teams that have made it to the conference championship games – the Saints, Vikings, Jets and Colts – aren’t permitted to sign any UFAs, other than their own. If one of their free agents signs with another team, then and only then can they go out and sign one. But the new player must have a first-year salary of no more than the first-year salary of the player they lost. In other words, they can’t let a backup center walk and then turn around and sign a five-time Pro Bowler.

The Cowboys and the other three teams that lost in the divisional round – Arizona, Baltimore and San Diego – are allowed to sign one UFA that has a first-year salary of more than $6.1 million. They also can sign an unlimited number of UFAs to deals with a first-year salary of no more than $4.09 million. In this context, ``salary’’ is basically what previously was the player’s cap number. In other words, a signing bonus would be pro-rated to determine his salary number. Bottom line: the Cowboys won’t be able to sign a top-tier free agent. That is, if there’s even one out there come March.

Also, the annual increase of those deals can’t exceed 30 percent. And those deals can’t be renegotiated until one year after the signing date.

Class dismissed. Get back to that case of Yuengling.


The Eagles announced that long snapper Jon Dorenbos has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster as a need player. For Dorenbos, it marks his first Pro Bowl berth of his eight-year NFL career.

He becomes the seventh Eagles player to be officially named to the NFC squad this season, joining David Akers, Trent Cole, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Asante Samuel, and Leonard Weaver. Quarterback Donovan McNabb will be officially named to the Pro Bowl after this weekend's games. McNabb is the first alternate and either Drew Brees or Brett Favre won't be able to play because his team is going to the Super Bowl.

Dorenbos becomes the second Eagles long snapper to garner Pro Bowl honors, joining Mike Bartrum who played for the NFC squad following the 2005 campaign. Tight end Chad Lewis also served as the NFC long-snapper in at least one Pro Bowl.

"Of course I'm shocked," Dorenbos told a conference call with reporters. "There's a lot of good snappers."

Dorenbos said he was amazed to think he'll have a portrait in the NovaCare hallway, where every Eagles Pro Bowler is enshrined, that he can take his children and grandchildren to see.

"This is something I'll have forever, to stick on my resume," he said.


In other Pro Bowl news with a local connection, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, a West Chester product, has been named to the AFC team to replace Tom Brady, who withdrew with an injury. 

Schaub will make his Pro Bowl debut. He completed 396 of 583 passes for 4,770 yards, all the most in the NFL. He ranked fourth with a .679 completion percentage and seventh with a 98.6 passer rating. He threw 29 touchdowns.