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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sliding free agency back?

In case you missed my story on this earlier in the week, the start of the NFL free agency period March 3 is in jeopardy.

Coming off their first Super Bowl championship in more than 25 years, the Steelers figured to be in a rush to re-sign their own free agents before they could test the open market starting March 3.

But with the NFL Player’s Association and the league’s owners still negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, there has been talk of moving the opening of free agency back to April 1.

Both the players and owners could benefit from a shift in the start of the free-agency period.

With no extension in place, the 2007 season is scheduled to have no salary cap. Because of that, owners may be wary about signing players to new deals until they know the cap status for 2007.

Also, if 2007 remains as an uncapped year, signing bonuses will only be permitted to be pro-rated for four years instead of the seven-year maximum. In addition, any new contracts signed with no collective bargaining agreement in place, by league rule, would only be able to increase their base salary and roster and reporting bonuses by 30 percent in the following years.

The extra month before the free-agent period begins could allow the Steelers to re-sign some of their own players and make some key moves to get under the 2006 salary cap of $95 million, which they must do before the free agency begins.

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