I know that many of you out there are hoping for help for your favorite National Football League team coming from a wave of talent hitting the free agency market after June 1.
I hate to tell you this, but you should look elsewhere. As far as the NFL is concerned, June 1, for the most part, has come and gone.
No, you do not need to adjust your calendar. It says it’s late May. But the NFL’s June 1 came over two months ago.
The whacky calendar is due to a change in the collective bargaining agreement. Prior to 2006, a team could release a player after June 1 and have most of the salary cap implications of the release come in the following year rather than accelerating immediately into the cap.
The players didn’t necessarily mind being cut; it frequently gave them the opportunity to collect a little more signing bonus money.
However, they were hitting the market at a bad time, after most team’s free agent budgets were shot. In addition, they frequently were in an awkward position. In many cases it was well known that a player would be a June 1 cap casualty, but he had to go to his current team’s facility to work out and participate in minicamps and OTA’s.
And the teams became increasingly concerned about the risk of a player getting injured while working out at the team facility. If that were to happen, the team would be liable for the player’s entire salary for the upcoming season.
These issues were addressed in the ‘06 CBA extension. Teams now are allowed to release up to two players as soon as the league year begins (the start of free agency) and designate them as post-June 1 cuts. The players get their freedom immediately, so they can pursue employment while the market still is hot.
While the teams don’t get any salary cap relief until June 2—the players’ salary for the coming season still is counted against their cap number until then—they don’t have to have dead men walking around their facilities and their exposure to issues due to workout injuries is greatly reduced.
Since the rule creates such a win-win situation, teams have taken advantage of it. Most, if not all, of the players who would have been released post-June 1 in the past already have received their pink slips.
There are a couple of reasons why a team might choose to wait to release a player it intends to cut under the June 1 cap rules. If they have three or more players to release, they would have to wait until the date actually passes to get the cap relief. This would be highly unusual as few teams would want to dump that much dead cap money into the following season. I don’t have complete list, but I don’t think that any team designated more than one player.
An organization also might want to hold on to a veteran to see if they can draft his replacement and see how the rookie performs in a minicamp or two before deciding whether or not to cut the vet.
Again, this would be an unusual situation and if you’re at that point, you might as well let the battle for the position and the roster spot go all the way to training camp. You get the same cap benefits if the veteran is cut on September 1 as you do on June 1.
The bottom line is that the free agent pickings on the morning of June 2 will be just about as slim as they are today. If you’re hoping that your team can pick up some help then, don’t hold your breath. The time for doing that was back in March.