As all who follow the NFL closely have likely already heard, the owners and Player’s Association have slowly been taking positive steps towards a new collective bargaining agreement, which would end the longest lockout in the NFL’s history. Details of the new CBA have slowly started to leak out, and while there are a lot of changes that will come to the NFL with the new agreement, one in particular could potentially hurt the Saints in the very near future.
One of the alleged agreements between the players and owners is that all players that have four, five or six years of experience in the NFL will automatically become unrestricted free agents instead of restricted free agents, allowing them to hit the open market without allowing teams to exclusively issue them tenders and receive draft pick compensation if another team signs one.
This could wreak havoc on the Saints 2011 roster, as the team currently has 27 players who are restricted free agents and will become unrestricted once the new CBA is signed. Some of the players that are unrestricted, like DeShawn Wynn and Matt Giordano, would not be major losses for the team if they signed elsewhere, but the Saints have several core players that would become unrestricted and would greatly affect the team if they chose to leave.
For instance, Lance Moore, easily the second-best receiver on the team, could be free to sign with another team. Although he will be a top priority for the Saints, he has shown frustration on Twitter about not being signed to a long-term deal earlier, and many teams around the league are sure to have noticed his emergence as a playmaker in the league.
The Saints offensive line could also be tattered by this change in the CBA. Starting guard Carl Nicks, center Jon Goodwin and tackle Jermon Bushrod could all leave the Saints, leaving some huge holes to fill on their line. While I’m not going to list every potential UFA, the list is long and includes other solid contributors and starters on the team like Scott Shanle, Roman Harper and Zach Strief.
Obviously the Saints will try to keep all their best players, but it’s anyone’s guess what kind of money other teams will throw at them. One thing is for sure, though. The Saints front office will have a lot of work ahead of them when the new deal is finalized.