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Acorns & how they impact contract extensions

The loyal readers of this blog (and there seem to be a couple of you, thank God) might remember the subject of "acorns" has come up a few times here because general manager Jeff Ireland once brought it up, and because about a year ago the club plucked an acorn named Chad Pennington off the market, which helped turn the franchise around.

You might remember that I told you the Dolphins were budgeting for the possibility that another acorn might fall from heaven this year. The team was basically putting aside some salary cap space -- a couple of million, I am assuming -- to use on that acorn were he to materialize.

Hate to tell you, but no acorn has come available and it doesn't look great that one might be coming anytime soon. The Dolphins will continue to wait on that.

But assuming no such well-priced veteran that might help the Dolphins now come available, the team will definitely put the acorn savings to use. It will be used to extend the contracts of future free agents.

The Dolphins, by my unofficial count, have 15 players unsigned for the 2010 season. A couple of those such as Joey Haynos and Rodrique Wright may or may not be on the roster in a couple of weeks so that number could decrease.

But the team will be proactive in trying to extend the contracts of players it deems important to the future of the franchise. And trust me, Ireland and Bill Parcells have already identified those players.

Some of the players not currently under contract for 2010 won't be leaving the Dolphins regardless of whether the team does an extension or not if there is no new collective bargaining agreement and the NFL goes to an uncapped year. In that uncapped year, players with less than six accrued seasons of service are restricted free agents.

In capped seasons, players need have only four accrued season to be unrestricted free agents. In the uncapped season, a player must have six accrued seasons of service to hit unrestricted free agency.

For the Dolphins, that means Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter, William Kershaw, Brandon London, Quentin Moses, Anthony Fasano, Wright and Haynos are unsigned for 2010 and are scheduled to be restricted, assuming they're on the team and there is no cap. 

Want to know a secret? Everyone who has been running around saying Matt Roth is in a contract year and could be a free agent in 2010 is only half right. Matt Roth is indeed unsigned for 2010. But he will have only five accrued seasons to his credit.

That means if 2010 is an uncapped season, and Roth is not signed, he will be a restricted free agent, rather than an unrestricted free agent.

(Side note of worth: Most folks who follow the collective bargaining game as much as they do the actual game are of the opinion that no collective bargaining agreement will be signed before they play that uncapped year, so players like Fasano and Roth who might otherwise be unrestricted simply won't be.)

The Dolphins do have veterans scheduled to become unrestricted free agents regardless of the CBA because they have more than six accrued seasons of service. They are: Jason Taylor, Chad Pennington, Jason Ferguson, David Martin and Nathan Jones.

So it is quite possible the Dolphins will try to lock up a couple of these guys if the acorn hunt yields no harvest. The team might also lock up a restricted player or two -- Fasano is my guess -- to avoid having to place a high tender offer on the player.

Assuming Ferguson wants to play and his production doesn't fall off the table this year, Parcells will want him on the team at least another year. And remember that Taylor is hinting that he might want to play two more years, so perhaps the Dolphins approach him about an extension at some point this season if his production is good.

The issue of Ronnie Brown is interesting because, in the case of an uncapped year, he is signed for 2010. He is scheduled to make $5 million. If a new agreement is reached, Brown becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Pennington?

We've been through it a million times. That one will work itself out, with him playing at such a high level than the Dolphins are forced to re-sign him. Or he doesn't, in which case he will be free to find another team that wants him as a starter while the Dolphins go with Chad Henne.

Such is the case in the NFL. Acorns come. Acorns go.

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