212 in NFL would have lesser free agency if no cap

Miles Austin of the Cowboys, Brandon Marshall of the Broncos and

six other Pro Bowl picks are among more than 200 NFL players who

would lose their status as unrestricted free agents this offseason

if the league and its union can’t agree on a new labor

contract.

According to a list obtained by The Associated Press on

Wednesday, there are 212 players who would be considered restricted

free agents – instead of unrestricted – if there is no salary cap

in 2010. There is at least one player from each of the NFL’s 32

teams on the list.

Pro Bowl linebackers Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos and DeMeco

Ryans of the Texans are in the group of potentially affected

players. So are dozens of other starters from across the NFL,

including quarterbacks Kyle Orton of the Broncos and Jason Campbell

of the Redskins.

“Free agency’s always been something for the players, always

been a great thing. If you get one crack at free agency as a

player, that’s what you dream of,” Orton said before Denver

practiced Wednesday. “How it stands right now … guys aren’t

going to be able to have that dream, to be a free agent. That’s a

shame for the players, I think.”

In an uncapped year, a player would need at least six years in

the NFL, up from the current minimum of four years in the league,

to be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team.

Dallas receiver Austin was aware his free agency status could

change, but said he wouldn’t consider his breakout season bad

timing.

“I can’t control any of that,” he said. “I’ve just got to

stay focused on the things I can control, and that’s playing this

week and playing hard.”

The other players announced Tuesday as selections for this

season’s Pro Bowl who could find themselves missing out on a chance

to cash in this offseason are Packers safety Nick Collins, Patriots

guard Logan Mankins, Saints guard Jahri Evans and Eagles fullback

Leonard Weaver.

In addition to the NFL’s sacks leader (Dumervil), and the NFC’s

leader in yards receiving (Austin), other prominent names on the

list include Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, Jets receiver

Braylon Edwards, Colts safety Antoine Bethea, Dolphins running back

Ronnie Brown and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

“If you’re a guy that’s been in the league a long time, and you

know you’re pretty much set, you probably have a different opinion

about it. But if you’re a guy that’s in my position, it’s going to

affect us not just short term but long term,” Washington’s

Campbell said.

If they lose out on the chance to become unrestricted free

agents this offseason, players might not get as big a payoff as

they could have been expecting. They also won’t have the luxury of

moving freely anywhere in the league.

A restricted free agent’s old club gets a chance to offer the

player a one-year contract at different levels of pay which

determine what level of draft-choice compensation the old club

would receive for losing the player. And the old club has the right

to match any offer another club makes to a restricted free

agent.

“If you’re a free agent, of course you’ve got a lot of options,

but if you’re a restricted free agent, it’s pretty much the team’s

choice, depending on what they want to do,” Campbell said.

Other rules changes would go into effect if there is no salary

cap in 2010. There would be no minimum or maximum amounts teams

could spend on payroll, and each club would get an extra

“transition player” tag. A “transition player” must be offered

a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season

at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous

year’s salary, whichever is greater.

“All of a sudden, your rules change,” said Campbell, one of

seven Redskins players on the list. “That’s the situation I’ve

been dealt and so have other guys on the team.”

AP Sports Writers Jaime Aron in Irving, Texas; Pat Graham in

Englewood, Colo.; and Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to

this report.