Keep An Eye On June 15
On June 15 NFL teams can reduce their contract tenders to unsigned restricted free agents.
The Green Bay Packers have three remaining unsigned players — safety Atari Bigby, defensive end Johnny Jolly and cornerback Tramon Williams.
Bigby’s tender is for $1.759 million, Jolly’s if for $2.521 million and Williams is for $3.043 million. The Packers could reduce those numbers to 110 percent of the players’ 2009 salary on June 15. In the case of Jolly and Williams, those reductions would be substantial.
The San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns have already informed their unsigned restricted free agents their tenders will be reduced on June 15, and it may make some sense for the Packers to follow suit.
Williams is the only key component among the Packers’ three unsigned players. The Packers have more than a few question marks at cornerback, so Williams has some leverage.
Of course, Williams made only $900,000 last season, with $525,000 of that coming in the form of base salary. Reducing his tender to 110 percent of his 2009 salary would be a huge hit.
Jolly, on the other hand, has absolutely zero leverage. In addition to facing some serious drug trafficking allegations, it looks like the Packers have given away his starting spot by moving Ryan Pickett to left defensive end.
Bigby isn’t quite in the same boat, but he doesn’t have much leverage either. The Packers drafted safety Morgan Burnett in the third round and he appears to be the heir apparent at strong safety, making Bigby nothing more than a well-paid backup.
Bigby isn’t exactly helping his case by staying away from Green Bay, but that’s another matter entirely.
In short, the Packers don’t risk much by reducing their restricted free agents’ tenders, since the players can no longer negotiate with other teams. It could be an effective way to assure all of their veterans are under contract when training camp starts.
Of course, the players could sign their tenders and hold out for a long-term contract. Again, it appears Williams is the only player of the three with a chance to receive such a deal.
If the last scenario plays out, the players would be subject to fines for every day of mandatory team functions they missed.