As we wait for news of yet more legal maneuvers in the on-going NFL vs. NFLPA dispute, a report has come down that adds a further layer of uncertainty to this already painfully confusing situation. Just what we needed: less clarity!
The frustrating new report, via Sports Business Daily, touches on the NFL’s free agency rules. All along we’ve been led to believe that, if and when the lockout is lifted and the league year begins, the NFL would go forward under the 2010 rules. But now it appears that assumption was a little hasty. The new report says the NFL is in fact putting together a new set of rules for 2011 that might be entirely different than the 2010 rules.
Your average Viking fan is going to immediately wonder what this means for the team’s handful of restricted free agents, especially Sidney Rice and Ray Edwards, who were both tendered before the lockout. And the answer is: nobody knows.
Nobody really knew before either, but at least we could feel somewhat safe in assuming the 2010 rules would carry over into 2011, leaving Rice and Edwards as RFAs. But now if the league decides to alter the free agency rules, changing Rice and Edwards to unrestricted free agents, the Vikings could very well lose both of them.
Not many people would cry if Ray Edwards left. But Sidney Rice? There would be weeping and lamentation in Viking Nation if he were allowed to walk.
The Vikings have at various times reportedly been working on a long-term deal with Rice, but Rice himself has made it clear that he wants to test the market. The feeling among some is that Rice got annoyed at the Vikings’ tardiness in negotiating a new deal with him last off-season, which led him to waffle on having hip surgery. In the end, Rice’s dilly-dallying cost him half the season.
In short, if the NFL imposes new, looser free agent rules, there’s a very good chance the disgruntled Sidney Rice will bolt. This would leave the Vikings with a very thin receiver corps in a year where they might be starting a rookie at quarterback. Can you say 4-12?
That’s the cup-half-empty view. The cup-half-full view is, maybe the NFL will keep the 2010 free agency rules in place, in which case Rice would remain an RFA. If that happened, we’d be guaranteed to have an unhappy Rice around for at least one more year. That might not mean much for a rebuilding team, but for a team looking to take one last shot at the playoffs with a veteran QB at the helm? It would be huge.