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NFL Free Agency: CBA, Labor Impact On Practice, Salary Cap

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In opening up a new free agency thread, I thought I'd address a few questions that have repeatedly come up over the last few days. They deal with the ability to practice and also salary cap issues. It's not shocking information, but I figure it's helpful to have an actual post addressing the issues.

Practicing Before August 4
Alex Smith, Ray McDonald, Tony Wragge, David Akers, and the other veteran free agents signed by the 49ers are not able to practice until the new CBA is ratified by the players. The union did recertify this past week. However, they still have to finish negotiating a few elements of the CBA. Those elements include drug testing and discipline, among other things.

The two sides were negotiating this weekend on those matters. The big issue is the players want to be able to appeal disciplinary matters to an independent arbitrator. For now they can only appeal directly to the NFL...the same group disciplining them.

The two sides could come to an agreement before August 4, in which case players could practice before then. Alex Smith and Tony Wragge apparently took some receivers to San Jose State today to get some work in. It will be interesting to see if the NFL views this as a violation of the rules. I doubt a coach was present since that would be a much more direct violation of the rules, and we know Alex Smith is no dummy.

Salary Cap
Much of the discussion has centered on the team having to spend a minimum amount, which would make their free agency approach all the more baffling. Well, I was wrong on comments earlier in the weekend. There is a minimum league-wide cash spend requirement. The league must spend cash equal to 99% of the salary cap in 2011 and again in 2012. If the league does not spend that 99%, they will cut a check for the difference to the players association.

Based on the $120M cap per team, the total cap for the league is approximately $3.84 billion. 99% of that comes out to $3.8016B. These numbers might not be 100% accurate, but you get the general idea. So, the 49ers could sit tight as is and be finished with their spending.

I'd like to think they'll at least add some more camp bodies for now since they have seven open roster spots, but we'll see. Aubrayo Franklin is coming to town to chat, Dashon Goldson is still out there, and of course the pursuit of Olin Kreutz continues.