The Jets have 11 restricted free agents this season. The tenders to Smith and Smith give the Jets the right to match any contract offers and, depending on the dollar value of the tender, allow the Jets to receive draft choice compensation if another club signs them.

As one of eight clubs that reached the 2009 Divisional Playoffs, the Jets also are limited in the unrestricted free agent market in the uncapped 2010 season.

Following are some frequently asked questions we have heard recently about the “Final Eight” rule:

Frequently Asked Questions – Tender and “Final Eight” Rules

Q. Are teams which reached the 2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs able to sign any unrestricted free agents in an uncapped 2010 season?

A. Yes. As per the “Final Eight” rules in an uncapped 2010 season, those eight clubs can sign unrestricted free agents as listed below. (Note: For all “Final Eight” teams, the unrestricted free agents signed to replace their own lost unrestricted free agents cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.)

FINAL FOUR CLUBS

Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints – can sign unrestricted free agents only if they lose unrestricted free agents. Saints can sign the same number of unrestricted free agents as the number of their own unrestricted free agents who signed with other clubs.

AFC champion Indianapolis Colts – can sign unrestricted free agents only if they lose unrestricted free agents. Colts can sign the same number of unrestricted free agents as the number of their own unrestricted free agents who signed with other clubs.

NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings – can sign unrestricted free agents only if they lose unrestricted free agents. Vikings can sign the same number of unrestricted free agents as the number of their own unrestricted free agents who signed with other clubs.

AFC runner-up New York Jets – can sign unrestricted free agents only if they lose unrestricted free agents. Jets can sign the same number of unrestricted free agents as the number of their own unrestricted free agents who signed with other clubs.

FINAL EIGHT CLUBS

AFC Divisional Playoff San Diego Chargers – 1 unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million* or more in Year One of contract + the same number of Chargers unrestricted free agents who sign with other clubs + any unrestricted free agent for less than $3.7 million* in Year One of contract with limitations on per season increases.

AFC Divisional Playoff Baltimore Ravens – 1 unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million* or more in Year One of contract + the same number of Ravens unrestricted free agents who sign with other clubs + any unrestricted free agent for less than $3.7 million* in Year One of contract with limitations on per season increases.

NFC Divisional Playoff Arizona Cardinals – 1 unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million* or more in Year One of contract + the same number of Cardinals unrestricted free agents who sign with other clubs + any unrestricted free agent for less than $3.7 million* in Year One of contract with limitations on per season increases.

NFC Divisional Playoff Dallas Cowboys – 1 unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million* or more in Year One of contract + the same number of Cowboys unrestricted free agents who sign with other clubs + any unrestricted free agent for less than $3.7 million* in Year One of contract with limitations on per season increases.

* Estimate

Q. Can an unrestricted free agent be signed by one club and traded to a “Final Eight” club to circumvent the “Final Eight” rules?

A. No. A “final eight” team can’t use another team as a pass-through to sign a player it would otherwise be prohibited from signing. For example, if one of the 24 clubs which did not reach the Divisional Playoffs signs an unrestricted free agent, that club can’t trade him to New Orleans unless the Saints also lost an unrestricted free agent who had a Year One salary of equal or greater value than the player acquired in the trade. In addition, the contract of the player acquired via trade would also have to comply with the yearly contract increase limitation.

I’m not sure if I confused you more than before you started reading or if you have a better feel for the process but that’s a pretty comprehensive overview.

In summary, if you finished in the top eight your not going to get Julius Peppers unless you are losing your best most expensive player. If you finished in the final four, unless you draft really well, your going into battle with pretty much what you went into battle with this year.- Keith A. Baker

Keith is a sports agent in Stamford, Connecticut. His goal is to offer a unique insight to the world of sports. Comments in his columns are for entertainment purposes only and do not reflect the views and opinions of his firm or his clients.

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