UFL Remains Clear on Player-Contract Conditions to NFL
According to information provided by the UFL in October, players are free to join NFL clubs AFTER the UFL season is over if the NFL is willing to pay a $150,000 release fee. UFL players are under contract until February, hence the $150,000 fee if they wish to join an NFL team before their contracts are up. Once their contract is up in February, they are free to join any NFL team they want.
On Tuesday, Pro Football Talk reported these contract conditions as recent news. They cited a source that said that the UFL would seek the $150,000 payment for a player whom the NFL wanted to sign, and that NFL teams had been advised to stay away from UFL players until after the season.
While PFT is reporting this as a recent occurrence, the UFL has made contract conditions clear from day one.
Back in October, when Michael Vick was injured in a game against the Washington Redskins, Jeff Garcia of the Omaha Nighthawks was rumored to be going to the Eagles. When asked by the UFL if such a deal would be possible, they pointed out that players cannot leave the UFL until after the season, regardless.
Also in October, Nick Novak of the Florida Tuskers was reported to be going to an NFL team, until denied by UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue. Only Charles Grant, who was waived by the Omaha Nighthawks this season, was able to be signed by the Chicago Bears the next day, but he was no longer a UFL employee at that point.
The transfer fee has been reiterated to agents, players and the NFL from the beginning of the first UFL season in 2009. Last season the commissioner chose to waive the transfer fee, allowing 43 players to move to NFL clubs. The result was that some signed and played (some started), some signed but were cut, some were signed to futures contracts.
This season the $150K is considered a revenue stream because the UFL has identified its players as a valuable asset.
While many believe that the UFL serves as a feeder league to the NFL, they are trying to build their own brand and protect the value of their players, rather than spoon feed them to the NFL.
Mike Florio of PFT cited an unidentified source who thinks that if the UFL protects its players, it could be a death nail.
Said the source, "UFL coaches and GMs are pissed. If Huyghue follows through on this, the [UFL] is over. No one will send a player there."
But $150,000 shouldn't be too hefty an expense for the NFL.
Sure, if the quality of players in the UFL increases, so will the demand for their services by NFL clubs. NFL clubs might be more selective in who they sign rather than pick up a player as a long shot and then cut him a few weeks later. But really, $150,000 is a drop in the bucket for NFL teams.
More Looming Contract Questions
Moving forward, and something the UFL and NFL will have to figure out and make clear at some point, is whether or not the $150K becomes a figure that NFL teams need to fit under a salary cap as part of the new CBA. In other words, would a team be in a situation where they are maxed out in cap terms and then have a need that a UFL player could fill but whom they can't acquire because they are over the tax?
Additionally, what about the looming possibility of the NFL going on lockout next season? Would the UFL seek NFL players wishing for a paycheck? UFL minority partner Mark Cuban thinks so. Last month he told FanHouse that the UFL would target NFL players if the NFL undergoes a lockout.
Certainly, there is still much to figure out between the UFL and NFL relationship.