When the Falcons cut longtime pass-rusher John Abraham in the early, early stages of the NFL offseason, it was never a question of "if" the talented defensive end would sign, but "when."
But it's June 14, and Abe still has no NFL home.
The same could be said for Pro Bowl lineman Richard Seymour, who has seemingly been tied with Atlanta for the better part of two months. Many speculated that Seymour would sign with the Falcons after June 1 - once Tyson Clabo's post-cut salary came off the books - but so far nothing has happened.
But it became painfully obvious in the early stages of free agency that this year's market would be slower than normal. Why 2013 of all years, when player salaries seem to have been growing exponentially for the past decade?
Dwight Freeney, who signed just a two-year, $8.75 million deal with the Chargers in May, believes that collusion could be playing a major role in the stalled market. Said the veteran defensive end to CBSSports.com:
"I think the owners made a pact. There's only 32 of them, and none of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money."
Though certainly a tall accusation, Freeney's words at least make sense in theory. There's always the chance of that happening when an entire league's spending is ultimately controlled by so few men.
But as the talented Bill Barnwell writes, the slow free agent market is more likely a result of the league's incredibly unstable salary cap in recent years. Surely everyone remembers the no-cap offseason in 2010? That came right after the salary cap jumped from $85.5 million in 2006 to $129 million.
Then all of a sudden, you have something like this under the new CBA:
2011 salary cap: $120.3 million
2012 salary cap: $120.6 million
2013 salary cap: $123 million
So what you had during those seasons before the new CBA were record deals continually being broken by more record deals. The cap went up at an incredible rate, and likewise so did players' contracts. But then everything settled down, and teams could no longer afford to drop foolishly drop $100 million on Albert Haynesworth - even if they wanted to.
Now the market has contracted, and teams are still on the hook for those expensive contracts agreed upon before 2011. Many of those back-loaded deals were also negotiated with the belief that the league's cap would continue to rise at a rate at least similar to past years.
Teams are beginning to adjust because they have to, but agents and players are being left out in the cold because their asking prices are considered "fair" based on the old CBA's financial restrictions.
Thus, we have talented players such as Abraham and Seymour who remain team-less. Agents double down, hoping that an injury or a release creates an opportunity their player could jump on, while teams are content sitting back and waiting for agents to decrease their demands.
It is the definition of a stalemate, and there's a chance we won't even see these signings pick up until around the time training camp starts. Meanwhile, Abraham - whose talks with Titans have reportedly "stalled" - must continue to wait.
And the Falcons, if they do sign Seymour, will only do it for the right price.