NFL Rarity – Russell Street Report UFA Bid

Ravens Recruit Rarely Used UFA Bid

Last week news broke that the Ravens are applying UFA Tender to free agent LB Justin Houston. This tender is rarely used and is largely unknown to most fans. In fact, it has only been used a few times over the past decade.

The UFA bid, which must be applied by the first Monday in May, does essentially three (3) things:

1. Houston will not be able to play for the Ravens unless it remains unsigned by July 22. After this date, the Ravens will have exclusive negotiating rights with Houston and will be barred from signing elsewhere.

2. If Houston signs with another team before July 22, it will be counted into the compensatory selection formula (if his contract is big enough to qualify – about $2.7 million a year).

3. If Houston does not sign elsewhere, he will receive a one-year contract worth 110% of his 2021 salary. Since Houston received $2.075 million in 2021, the UFA tender is worth $2.283 million in 2022.

So why do the Ravens use the UFA tender in Houston and why is it so rarely used?


The easy answer to why the Ravens chose to use it this time around (and also why the Kansas City Chiefs did the same with LB Melvin Ingram) is that Houston’s salary was so reasonable in 2021 that a 10% increase in his salary is minimal stumbling and that Houston, at $2.283 million in 2022, is still a huge deal. In essence, the “mega-deal” part also answers the second question because usually the last year’s worth of a coveted free agent contract is much more than $2.075 million, so using a bid isn’t a really attractive option for a team. But with Houston’s salary declining in 2021 (due to the impact of the COVID pandemic on the salary cap), using the bid to try to secure a player when needed comes at a very reasonable price in this case.

While this move also widens the Comp selection window and may sneak in an unexpected Comp selection for the team, it doesn’t really seem to be the primary driver in this case. Given that Houston is still in the market at this point, and there have already been no reports of significant interest in Houston from other teams, Houston may not even receive a contract from another eligible Comp pick team. So while the Ravens love their Comp picks, the move appears to be about retaining a respected player, which would bring veteran presence and leadership to the team and would, at worst, be a nice rotation piece on the edge. And at a very reasonable price.

So, what happens from here?

At this point, it’s really just a matter of waiting and seeing. Houston could be expected to bid or the Ravens and Houston could, of course, negotiate a different deal (perhaps, with incentives to pay Houston if he performed well), but other than that, the Ravens family would wait to see if Houston found a new home. decides to stay.

According to NFLPA records, the bid amount of $2.283 million has been applied to the Ravens’ salary cap. This was unexpected as it contravened the terms of Section 5(b)(4) of Article 13 of the Anti-Corruption Law, which states that:

UFA Tender

Therefore, according to the CBA, the bid amount isn’t supposed to be counted toward the cap until later than July 15 or the first day of first training camp in the NFL. However, the NFLPA added the bid amount to Cap for both the Ravens and Chiefs (Ingram). This could simply be a mistake on the part of the NFLPA (not an uncommon occurrence) or perhaps at some point the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to amend this clause with a side letter. This may actually be the case since all other bid types (ERFA, RFA, franchise/transfer mark, draft pick bid) almost always count towards the team cap immediately upon application. Therefore, the NFL and NFLPA may have recognized the inconsistency in bid terms and fixed it by immediately calculating the UFA bid against the cap.

Regardless of applying the appropriate salary cap, the bottom line is that Houston has until July 22 to sign elsewhere or it will essentially be on the Ravens’ roster with either the bid amount or any other amount as agreed by Houston and the team.

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