The NFL’s offseason essentially started this morning with three days of negotiations allowed with all free-agents-to-be and any interested teams. This comes before the official Free Agency period that begins at 1pm PT this Tuesday, which is when agreements can actually be put to paper and signed.
Both of the Raiders high profile free agent prospects, OT Jared Veldheer and DE Lamarr Houston, remain unsigned by the team. There is no indication that either is close to a deal at the time of writing, although events often move quickly in the NFL.
In the next three days, both players will get a better idea of their value as teams sift through all of the free agents and discuss numbers with their agents.
But this does not mean that either of both will be signed by other teams. Many players test the open market and find the team they are comfortable with and the town they call home are offering approximately the same deal as other teams and they re-sign with their home team, knowing they are earning their fair market value.
In fact, some teams consider free agency not as an adversarial development but, conversely, as a benefit to both the player and the team. Baltimore, specifically, frequently uses free agency to help set the value of their players’ contracts.
Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens’ long-time GM, is a former NFL player as is Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie. This being the case, both men have a somewhat unique understanding of what motivates players and how to talk with the men who put their body on the line for the game every week.
Newsome explains to prospective free agents that he wants them back but instead of building up free agency as a “if you don’t sign with us now, you’re gone,” he takes the teeth out of the situation by telling the player how it’s a positive for both of the team and the player.
Newsome will typically start the conversation something like this: “You deserve to see what you’re worth,” Newsome will say to players that are going to hit the market, “but we want you back if we can. You’re going to get an idea of what you’re worth and all I ask is that you give us an opportunity to match it before you sign with another team.”
This is a brilliant strategy. In essence, not only does he set a positive tone for the player to go to the open market without any rancor the player may feel about not being re-signed. If the player finds out from multiple teams that he’s worth less than he thought, he can come back to Baltimore and re-sign with his pride intact.
The benefit for the team is also that other teams set the terms of the contract. Newsome doesn’t have to exert as much of his effort with these players, knowing he can piggy-back a bit on the work of the other teams with the players’ agent.
Instead, he can reach out to players on other teams. If he finds a player that he thinks fits better or comes at a better price, he can decline to match his players’ contract and the team benefits by getting the best priced and fitting player.
The Raiders have let two of their best players to hit free agency, in large part, because the players think they are worth more than McKenzie is willing to pay at this time. The free agency window will help them both determine the players’ value and a contract can always be agreed upon a little later when both parties have better value information.