The Arizona Cardinals have four restricted free agents this offseason. Restricted free agents are players with three accrued seasons that are no longer under contract. They may negotiate with other teams once the free agent period begins, but, before that happens, their previous team may offer them a tender that makes it such that they have the right to match any contract offer that another team makes and, in many cases, get a draft pick as compensation.
By offering a restricted free agent tender, they commit a reasonably higher salary than what the player likely made the previous season, and a team can make one of four tenders -- a first round tender, a second round tender, an original round tender or a right of first refusal tender.
A first round tender means that if another team signed the player to an offer sheet and the original team decides not to match the deal, they will receive the offering team's first round pick. Likewise it is with a second round tender, only with a second round pick and the original round tender, only the team would have to give up the pick equal to the round the player was drafted in.
In 2013, a first round tender was worth almost $2.9 million. A second round tender was just over $2 million. an original round or right of first refusal tender was worth more than $1.3 million. These are not guaranteed contracts. Last offseason, them gave a second round tender to quarterback Brian Hoyer, but the cut him later after the quarterback situation was more stable. He had to find work to get paid.
Bringing us back to the Cardinals, let us look at the players this could apply to.
Tight end Jake Ballard, running back Alfonso Smith, linebacker Marcus Benard and defensive lineman Ronald Talley are the team's restricted free agents. The interesting thing about all of them is that none of them was drafted. All came into the league as undrafted free agents. This means that the original round tender does not apply. Arizona could only get a first or a second round pick for these players if they chose to use those tenders.
Now, of the four, you have Talley who was inactive much of the season, Smith, who was a special teams contributor and didn't see the field offensively really at all over the last several game. Benard saw the field defensively for a handful of snaps a game, while Ballard was a late-season addition. He did not get much time until the last three games of the season.
Are any of these guys players you want to commit $1-2 million for the season if they were to make the team?
Personally, I would be surprised to see any of them tendered other than Ballard, who has impressed the coaching staff since the first day he arrived. I could see the team using a right of first refusal tender, but then again, it wasn't as if he were some hot commodity when he signed with Arizona.
Now, not using the tenders doesn't mean the other players won't be back. Reggie Walker was a great example. They refused to use a restricted free agent tender, but then inked him to a contract later -- just for much less than the tender.
Alfonso Smith was lucky to get signed by the team in 2012. He showed value in 2013, but not as a runner. I would expect him back as probably the team's fourth running back again. I would be shocked if Arizona used a tender on him.
I would expect Benard and Talley to come back, but without the tender. I don't expect other teams to come looking for their services, either.
Are your expectations any different? I would not invest more than a million dollars on any of these players, expect maybe Ballard. And more than anything, I think he will get tendered because of the team's situation at tight end. as of right now, the only tight ends under contract are Rob Housler and Darren Fells, who only spent time on the practice squad and didn't even play football in college.
What are your expectations? Will the team use any of the tenders? How many? Which of the four RFAs do you think will be back in training camp?