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Labor Update: Owners Want Right Of First Refusal On Some 2011 Free Agents

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The NFL labor negotiations continued today up in New England and the latest news courtesy of a Chris Mortensen radio appearance is that the owners are looking to get three or four right of first refusals for this year's unrestricted free agents. Although the league has not discussed this proposal, I'd have to imagine the reason for this request has to do with the expected flood of unrestricted free agents that will hit the market.

The 2010 uncapped year featured a rule that required players to have six years of service time to reach unrestricted free agency. This changed the previous rule requiring fewer years to get past restricted free agency. Restricted free agency results in fewer moves because of draft pick tenders so that mean fewer players changed teams under the 2010 system. The latest CBA proposal would return to pre-2010 and allow players with at least four years of service time to become UFAs.

However this plays out, the 49ers will be paying close attention given the fact that Dashon Goldson, Manny Lawson, and Ray McDonald would all be hitting free agency earlier than otherwise expected. If you add in David Baas, Aubrayo Franklin, Alex Smith, and Takeo Spikes, among others, that's a whole lot of free agents facing the 49ers.

Although this could be viewed as a restriction on player movement, without draft pick compensation included would it really slow down players from getting their pay days? The one drawback I could see would be teams not wanting to bother wasting their time with offers since the original team could match it, but I'm not so sure about that. Furthermore, is it possible that a player with a right of first refusal from his original team might be able to leverage a higher deal because the new team would want to keep the old team from matching the deal?

Is this an issue on which the players would want to getting overly contentious?