CINCINNATI — NFL free agency started Tuesday. For all of the splash headlines that grab the attention of most fans, the day is filled with countless other players who now face the prospect of not knowing where they will be playing next season or if they will get a chance to play.
The Bengals announced this morning that they were offering one-year tender contracts to restricted free agent linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and exclusive rights free agent cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris. Neither move was news. The name that wasn’t on the press release was.
Still, who just completed his third season with the Bengals, was not tendered a RFA offer. That means Still may negotiate with any other team in the league as an unrestricted free agent and the Bengals no longer have the right to match any offer he may get elsewhere.
This doesn’t mean the Bengals don’t want Still back in 2015. The club has offered him a one-year deal, just one that doesn’t come with the RFA constraints, according to Bengals PR director Jack Brennan.
Still is in the process of considering Cincinnati’s offer.
These types of decisions and transactions are made every year by teams. Still’s case is news because of the story of the battle his 4-year-old daughter Leah has been fighting against pediatric cancer for nearly a year.
Leah Still was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroplastoma last June. She has undergone surgery and treatments in Philadelphia since. Her story became of national interest last year when it was revealed that the Bengals had been allowing Still extra time away from the team to tend to Leah’s needs during offseason workouts and training camp.
Still was among the Bengals’ final cuts but signed to the practice squad, enabling him to keep his NFL health insurance. He was re-signed to the 53-man roster on Sept. 10. He played in a career-high 12 games, making 19 tackles last season. He was inactive for the final two regular season games and the Bengals’ playoff game at Indianapolis.
RFA tender offers have three tiers. The lowest level of the three designations is one-year for $1.542 million plus compensating the player’s former team with a draft pick in the same round that player was chosen. That would mean a second-round pick in Still’s case.
It is unlikely any team would offer Still a contract at that price.
By waiving their right of first refusal, the Bengals have done Still a favor. He may pursue other opportunities that could allow him to be closer to Leah as she continues to be treated in Philadelphia. If he doesn’t receive any such opportunity, or if one doesn’t fit his and his family’s needs, then he has the option of returning to the Bengals.
Still has used his daughter’s condition as a platform to promote awareness of pediatric cancer and research fundraising. The Bengals were able to present Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with a check worth more than $1.3 million in donations raised through sales of Still’s No. 75 jersey during an in-game ceremony last Nov. 6 against Cleveland.
He recently attended the NYC Hope Gala and helped raise $175,000 for pediatric cancer research.