The NFL is making sure that teams make up their minds much quicker on their team picks as they’re moving the free agency deadline from June 1 to May 12. The decision wasn’t made lightly as you can see below what they had to take in mind before setting the May 12 date.
June 1st used to be the date where after it came and went NFL clubs would cut veteran players that they no longer wanted who had multiple years left on their contract. Teams could cut the player after June 1st and not absorb the full amortization of the contract in the current year, instead pushing it to the next fiscal year.
The date lost its punch when the NFL allowed teams to cut up to two players prior to June 1st, yet still designate them as post-June 1st cuts to move their cap hits into the next year.
The only real significance left to the date is if free agents are signed after June 1st they don’t factor into determining whether a team had a net loss of free agents which is the primary criteria to qualify clubs for compensatory picks. Now that date will be May 12th, which will allow players who sign after that date to participate in most of the offseason practices with their new club (OTAs, minicamp, etc.).
Years ago, June 1 had extreme significance on the NFL calendar. Teams looking to reduce the cap hit from cutting a veteran player would wait until June 1, resulting in half or more of the acceleration to hit the cap in the following league year.
In 2006, the NFL changed the rule, allowing teams to cut two players per year before June 1, with a June 1 designation. Few teams currently have cap issues; as a result, the entire notion of using the designation or waiting until June 1 to cut a player has become largely irrelevant.
June 1 had continued significance for another reason. After June 1, unrestricted free agents signed by other teams don’t count toward the compensatory draft-pick formula. Starting this year, that date will move from June 1 to May 12, according to the league office.
The Competition Committee had been considering shifting the date from June 1 to May 1. With the draft still happening as of May 1, it makes sense to let the draft end and to let the dust settle before allowing free agents to sign without the move helping their former team or potentially hurting their new one.
The shift gives free agents more of an opportunity to participate in the offseason program. It also gives teams reason to wait on adding some of the currently available free agents, in order to avoid reducing their potential haul of compensatory picks.
The Ravens have mastered the craft of waiting to sign unrestricted free agents until the deadline has come and gone. Today’s addition of quarterback Matt Schaub doesn’t change that. Because he was cut by the Raiders, Schaub’s addition neither helps the Raiders nor hurts the Ravens when it comes to determining compensatory selections.