When the lockout ends, the Eagles will quickly have decisions to make on keeping linebacker Stewart Bradley, running back Jerome Harrison and punter Sav Rocca.
That’s because each will be unrestricted free agents under rules agreed to Friday by NFL players and owners – though the Eagles will have the first shot to keep them. When the lockout ends, players with four years in the league will be unrestricted free agents at the end of their contracts, ESPN reported. For the Eagles, Bradley, Harrison and Rocca are the most significant players in that category. (Safety Quintin Mikell is another key Eagle who will be a free agent, but he has enough experience that there was never any doubt that he was going to be unrestricted).
Essentially, the rules agreed to this week mean free agency rules will be reverting back to the system in place before 2010, when the uncapped year made many more players restricted. Until now, it was unclear who exactly would hit the market. Before the lockout began the Eagles tendered Bradley and Harrison at second-round levels, just in case they remained restricted. They tendered Rocca, too, but at the lowest level – no compensation; they just had the right of first refusal. (Tenders give the team leverage in trying to keep their players, and compensation if they leave).
Now, the Eagles won’t have the benefits of those tenders to help ward off other teams. The high tenders on Bradley and Harrison are an indication that the Birds values the two players and, at least before the lockout and draft, hoped to keep them. Bradley, despite injuries, is one of the most experienced players in a young linebacking group; Harrison provided a nice complement to LeSean McCoy when he came aboard in mid-season.
The Eagles will have a shot to keep the duo, along with Mikell and Rocca, before other teams, though. When the lockout ends, teams will have 72 hours to re-sign their own free agents before the doors fling open to other signings, ESPN reported.
The free agency rules do have some benefits for the Eagles as well – they mean more options could hit the market once the lockout ends. Cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Antonio Cromartie are among those who would have been restricted under 2010 rules, but will now be unrestricted, assuming they don’t re-sign in that 72-hour window. Same goes for defensive ends Ray Edwards and Charles Johnson. (Nnamdi Asomugha, in case you’re wondering, was going to be unrestricted either way; it now seems, though, that there will be more consolation prizes available for teams that miss out on him).
So when will we see the Eagles actually making these calls and signing – or not – their free agents? If a labor deal is agreed to early next week, as is widely expected, the next big step would be ratification votes by the players and owners, though once key negotiators sign off on a deal, the votes should go smoothly. The owners are scheduled to meet July 21 and, if all goes well, vote that day.
Players could begin showing up at team facilities within 24 hours of the vote. Front offices could begin re-signing their own players soon after, with full-blown free agency possibly starting within a few days of ratification. That could start as soon as July 25, ESPN reported.
In other words, we’ll finally be able to stop speculating about these moves and actually reporting on them.
Other Eagles free agents include Dimitri Patterson, Max Jean-Gilles, Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, Reggie Wells, Nick Cole, Ellis Hobbs, Antoine Harris and Eldra Buckley.