Vikings offer tenders; NFL clarifies rule

Tarvaris Jackson (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

When the Vikings tendered several of their restricted free agents, there was a rule few knew about. The level of tender offered to Fred Evans kicked down the compensation for the Vikings if another team signs Tarvaris Jackson.

There may be some confusion about how the Vikings tendered a few of their players Wednesday, but the league helped clear up the issue.

Defensive tackle Fred Evans was offered a second-round tender as a restricted free agent and Tarvaris Jackson was given an "original-round" round tender, meaning the Vikings would normally get a second-round pick as compensation if another team offer Jackson a contract that the Vikings declined to match. However, in this case the Vikings would only get a third-round pick if Jackson is signed by another team.

To preface how restricted free agency works, there are five levels of tenders, each with its own cost structure and compensation requirements. The highest calls for a first- and third- round draft pick in return, followed by a first-round draft pick as compensation, then a second-rounder, then an "original-round tender" (compensation commensurate with the round the player was drafted in), and finally the right of first refusal, which carries no compensation if the original team doesn't match an offer sheet signed by the free-agent player.

Dan Masonson, the NFL's director of corporate communications, helped clear up some of the confusion in a statement sent to Viking Update Wednesday. Here's how it works. By league rule, if a player (Evans) is given a second-round tender and was drafted after the second round, the team must give any of its restricted free agents that were second-round draft picks at least the "second-round tender" option to be eligible for second-round compensation. In Jackson's case, he was given an "original-round tender." In such instances, that compensation would be one round lower than his original draft round. Because Evans was tendered at a higher level than his draft pick, by giving Jackson the "original-round tender" the Vikings couldn't put it at a level of a second-round pick as compensation. It becomes a third-round pick.

The same level applies for any first-round draft picks that might be free agents – the Vikings don't have any this year, but the principle remains the same. By giving Ray Edwards (a fourth-round pick in 2006) a first-rounder tender, if the Vikings had any other first-rounders that were restricted free agents, by placing an "original-round tender" to that player, the most the Vikings could get as compensation to an unmatched offer sheet would be a second-round pick.

One of the keys to original-round tender is saving money. If Jackson had been tendered at a second-round level, he would be due $1.76 million in 2010, but if another team signed him, the Vikings would get a second-round pick as compensation. By tendering him an original-round tender, if he stays with the Vikings, his salary would be $1.18 million, but the Vikings would receive a third-rounder as compensation. If the Vikings were afraid of losing Jackson, they wouldn't have put the original-round tender on him. The likelihood of a team making an offer with a third-round pick as compensation is much greater than a second-round pick due to the value placed on descending-round draft picks. What might get a team to shy away for a second-round pick could easily get them to bite if it only costs a third-round selection. The Vikings have another second-round RFA in tackle Ryan Cook. No announcement has yet been made as to what kind of offer (if any) they will tender toward him. On Wednesday afternoon, he hadn't received any tender.

On the other end of the tendering spectrum is Denver. The Broncos on Wednesday tried to cover their bases and will pay the price for it. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a fourth-round pick, was given a first-round qualifying offer. As a result, QB Kyle Orton and guard Kris Kuper both received first-round tender offers and DE Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL in sacks, received the mother of all tenders, which would require compensation of a first- and third-round draft pick.

Each team is taking its own approach to the new rules because, in the past, only third-year players were subject to the RFA rules. With the salary cap going away, one of the safeguards put in place to prevent a mass exodus and the potential of teams stockpiling young talent, players must have six years vested in the NFL, as opposed to four under the expiring CBA.

If a team refuses to tender an offer to a player, as was the case with CB Karl Paymah, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team without compensation to the Vikings.

Still confused? Don't worry. You're not alone in that boat.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • The tendered offers for free agents with four accrued seasons is as follows (note that all but right-of-first refusal tenders are either the figure shown or 110 percent of that player's 2009 salary, whichever is greater): Right of first refusal: $1.18 million; Original draft round: $1.18 million; Second round: $1.76 million; First round: $2.52 million; First- and third-round: $3.17 million. For fifth-year players, those same rates of designation are $1.23 million, $1.23 million; $1.81 million; $2.62 million and $3.27 million.

  • Talks are still going on between the Vikings and the agent for Chester Taylor, according to the Star Tribune. If a contract isn't signed, Taylor will become a free agent at midnight ET tonight. Taylor has been rumored to be a player that might be a hot commodity early in the free-agent process because of the lack of young talent among the running back crop in free agency.

  • Fullback Naufahu Tahi was given the right-of-first-refusal tender, which will pay him $1.18 million if he stays, but the Vikings would receive nothing in return if they decline to match an offer sheet.

  • There is still no word on whether Cook or Eric Frampton will receive a tendered offer. If not, like Paymah, they will become free agents open to sign with anyone.

  • For those who don't know or have a short memory, Brett Favre will be on "The Tonight Show" with host Jay Leno, who has skewered Favre for months, but fawned over him when announcing the following night's guests, getting Leno yes-man Kevin Eubanks to agree that Favre "is a great guy."

  • A player who might be on the Vikings' radar is cornerback Richard Marshall of the Panthers. He was tendered at a second-round level and is coming off a very strong season. It might be viewed as a slap in the face, since backup quarterback Matt Moore was hit with a tender of a first- and third-round pick as compensation. The Panthers are going to lose defensive end Julius Peppers, viewed as the plum of free agency, in free agency and the only first-round tender they made was to linebacker Thomas Davis.

  • In a follow-up to a story earlier this week about Adrian Peterson and three other NFL players from the University of Oklahoma (Tommie Harris, Roy Williams and Mark Clayton) heading to Uganda March 15, the purpose of the trip is to travel with a team of doctors to provide food for thousands of people, set up clinics and build wells in villages that no longer have clean water. The humanitarian effort will hope to accomplish a lot in a short period of time and they are said to have a very ambitious schedule.

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