Gentlemen, Start Your Wallets … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Here’s the complete list of restricted and unrestricted free agents as released by the NFL on Monday.

The most unusual time in pro football history – heck, maybe the history of American professional sports – will begin Tuesday morning when NFL teams can reopen their facilities to their players. That will happen at the Truman Sports Complex at 9 o’clock, as players can report for physicals, voluntary strength and conditioning and meetings with coaches.

It’s the first step of a remarkable two to six weeks between now and the start of the 2011 regular season. Not only must 257 players from April’s NFL Draft be signed, plus another couple hundred undrafted rookie free agents, there are more than 500 free agents in various categories.

The league has approximately 1,900 players with its 32 teams, and Tuesday morning there are over 1,000 that need to be signed to their first contract or their next deal.

This unprecedented period will test the abilities, patience and skill of every front office in the league. What normally happens over the span of four-plus months (March-April-May-June and part of July) is going to be crammed into the next 10-15-25 days. It will have an effect on every team as they sort their new 90-man roster and begin training camp in the next few days.

There are 546 players on the free agent list released by the league Monday afternoon. Now, we know at least three of the names on that list have retired – G Alan Faneca, QB Brett Favre and LB Mike Vrabel. But we also know the time players can be released by league teams on Thursday, that number will grow to close to 600 players. Some teams like Baltimore have already started that process by telling TE Todd Heap, RB Willis Maghee, NT Kelly Gregg and WR Derrick Mason that they will be released. The Bears told punt Brad Maynard that they will be making a change as well.

The big numbers come from a combination of a normal year of contracts ending and players who last year saw themselves held back by the uncapped season that pushed the threshold for unrestricted free agency to six seasons.

The new agreement that was ratified on Monday brings it back to the previous limit of four seasons to qualify to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and three seasons to be considered a restricted free agent (RFA).

Starting at 9 o’clock CDT Tuesday morning, NFL teams can begin negotiating with all UFA, RFA and other players without contracts. They cannot sign those players until 5 o’clock CDT on Friday evening.

None of those deals will actually be official until the official start of the league year on Thursday, August 4 at 3:01 p.m. CDT. Those free agents who sign can report to their teams and attend meetings and classroom instruction. But they cannot take part in on-field activities and weight straining.

The rules are different for draft choices and other rookies – they can sign as early as Tuesday at 9 a.m., and they can immediately take part in all on-field work when training camp starts. While their contracts will not be “official” until August 4, there are provisions negotiated in the labor agreement that will allow any rookie that is seriously injured to collect his contract as written.

On the league’s list, there are 21 names that were with the Chiefs during the 2010 season. Here’s how they break down:

  • 1 – Non-exclusive Franchise Player Designation – OLB Tamba Hali.
  • 1 – UFA/Club has right of first refusal (ROFR) – WR Kevin Curtis.
  • 14 – UFA – LB Charlie Anderson, RB Jackie Battle, RB Tim Castille, WR Terrance Copper, QB Brodie Croyle, DB Travis Daniels, NT Ron Edwards, LB Corey Mays, DB Jon McGraw, C Rudy Niswanger, OT Ryan O’Callaghan, TE Leonard Pope, DE Shaun Smith, C Casey Wiegmann.
  • 4 – RFA – CB Brandon Carr, FB Mike Cox, DE Wallace Gilberry, OT Barry Richardson.
  • 1 – RFA/no tender offer – DB Maurice Leggett.

Because the Chiefs face no salary cap problems in 2011, they will not have to release any veteran contracts to help with their number. But it would not be a surprise if WR Chris Chambers is given his walking papers. He’s set to make $2.9 million, plus another $500,000 in a roster bonus from that now ridiculous contract he signed last year (3 years, $12 million with $5.9 guaranteed.)

FREE AGENT NOTES

There are 11 former Chiefs draft choices on the league’s free agent list. Here’s how they break down:

  • 2008 – Carr, Richardson.
  • 2007 – Turk McBride (Detroit).
  • 2006 – Hali, Croyle, S Bernard Pollard (Houston), S Jarrad Page (New England).
  • 2004 – DT Junior Siavii (Seattle), LB Keyaron Fox (Pittsburgh).
  • 2003 – LB Kawika Mitchell (New Orlreans), DE Jimmy Wilkerson (New Orleans).

Other former Chiefs on the lists include DE Jason Babin (Tennessee), CB Dimitri Patterson (Philadelphia), FB Tony Richardson (N.Y. Jets), QB Tyler Thigpen (Miami), QB Todd Collins (Chicago), K Connor Barth (Tampa Bay).

TRAINING CAMP

The Chiefs are allowed to report to training camp on Thursday. That matches up with the day they had planned before the owners’ lockout started.

But whether they report to Missouri Western in St. Joe on Thursday is something that GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley will address on Tuesday morning when they meet with the media.

The new agreement does not allow for padded practices in the first three days of training camp, so even if they reported on Thursday, they would not be able to get anything more than a walkthrough session in before Sunday.

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