Richard Seymour Can't Get to Free Agency if He Doesn't Play
But according to one NFL source, Seymour can't sit out the year and expect to be a free agent next spring. If he never reports to the Raiders, his contract is frozen, meaning he'd still be expected to play one year for the Raiders (or whichever team controls his rights at that point if the Raiders trade them in the meantime) before hitting the market.
It's a murky situation that still could end up in the hands of the NFL commissioner, because right now, the two teams involved seem to disagree on how official and final the deal is.
Raiders coach Tom Cable said on Monday that he's spoken to Seymour, that Seymour wants to be a Raider and that he still has "some issues" to work out with the Patriots before the deal is done. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has deflected all Seymour questions in recent days, insisting that the whole thing is in his rear-view mirror and all he's thinking about is beating Buffalo in Monday night's regular-season opener.
It's easy to see why the Patriots would take the stance that they're clear of this thing. They've got a first-round pick (and probably a good one, given the way the Raiders run their operation) in their pockets and Seymour off their books for this year and beyond. Their position is that the paperwork has been filed with the commissioner's office and whatever dispute remains is between Seymour and his new team.
But if Seymour doesn't show up, the Raiders could contend (according to another league source) that the trade was never finalized because the player didn't pass a physical exam. And if that case holds water, a very cranky Seymour could conceivably be returned to the Patriots with the Raiders getting their first-rounder back. The Raiders probably could smooth all of this over by signing Seymour to a contract extension, but there's no indication that they want to do that. They made this deal in an effort to help their 2009 team, with little thought to 2010 and beyond.
The commissioner's office isn't commenting on the matter.
"Any comment on the details of a trade between two teams would have to come from the teams, not us," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail.
But it's possible, unless Seymour shows up and decides to play 2009 as a Raider, that Roger Goodell will have to comment on this sooner or later. And that it could be up to him to determine whether this trade actually happened or not.