An interesting twist in the MLS offseason (or pre-offseason for teams that made the playoffs): while we typically wait for the league’s announcement of current players who are eligible for being picked up via various roster mechanisms, the Players Association beat ’em to the punch with a release of those eligible for free agency.
With the change in eligibility in the most-recent CBA (players age 24 or older with five-plus years of MLS service are now able to participate in free agency, whereas the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement mandated age 28 and eight years in the league), the list is bigger than usual. Keep in mind that many of these players will have their team options exercised, or negotiate new deals with their current clubs. But they’re free to pursue opportunities around the league.
The free agency period typically begins within a couple days after MLS Cup.
Nashville has five players who are subject to team options after the season:
- F David Accam
- M Dax McCarty
- G Bryan Meredith
- D Eric Miller
- M Alex Muyl
…and two who are completely out of contract.
- D Jalil Anibaba
- F Abu Danladi
As noted at the top, Nashville can negotiate with all seven of those guys before the free agency period actually opens, and can exercise its team options on the five guys in the first category to extend their contracts by another year.
Accam – on loan in Sweden to mitigate NSC’s burden of his $975k salary – is certainly a guy who won’t have his option picked up. McCarty certainly will have his exercised as long as he wants to keep playing, and he told us last week that he’s not ready to retire.
The other three are less clear: Pending whether Elliot Panicco is ready to be the No. 2 keeper, Meredith may be surplus to requirements at the position. Miller has once again emerged as a contributor late in the 2021 season, but his production is probably replaceable at a lower price point for Nashville SC. Muyl very much fits the personality of this club – he’s closer to the McCarty category than the true fence-sitters – but like Miller may run a little on the expensive side (especially now that he no longer qualifies for some of the benefits of Homegrown status, entering his Age 27 year).
Anibaba and Danladi are both the sorts of guys Nashville will engage in negotiations, and if the price is right, sign to new contracts.
The absence of come guys indicates that their contracts extend through at least 2022 (because if they were out of contract, they’d be free-agent eligible):
- D Dave Romney, GK Joe Willis, and D Walker Zimmerman have all been publicly extended, with contracts running through 2023, 2022, and 2023 (each with a club-option year), respectively.
- F Charles Nana Kwabena “CJ” Sapong signed to a publicly-known two-year deal (through 2022) with a club option for a third.
- M Aníbal Godoy
- D Dan Lovitz
Among those not otherwise eligible for free agency one way or another, the only contract length that has been publicized is striker Daniel Ríos, who extended through 2022 with 2023 option.
Around the league
It will surprise nobody to know that I will cover this pool in much, much deeper depth when the 2021 season comes to an end. But a few intriguing names among the 72 team-option players (I quite honestly do not know how the four guys with team options… that have been released by their teams… are handled. I would imagine that they just end up in option-decline – i.e. “out of contract” – status, and I believe they’re all intending to retire anyway) and the 45 out-of-contract guys:
- RB Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew). A guy who had a bad year and thus may be available cheaper than his 2021 number – $365k in this case. He’s old at 35, but an elite fullback on his day.
- M Diego Chara (Portland Timbers). lol he’s re-signing with Portland or leaving MLS, cmon.
- M Sean Davis (New York Red Bulls). Top-top notch central midfielder in my eyes. The Red Bulls pipeline has been productive for NSC in the past.
- M Roger Espinoza (Sporting KC). Not a bargain at $500k this year, he also had a not-great season. The Sporting KC connection to Mike Jacobs and the fact that he may be willing (forced) to take a pay cut could allow for a bit of a bargain.
- W Derrick Etienne Jr. (Columbus Crew). Extremely “serious football guy” voice: “I rate the player.” NSC doesn’t necessarily need to add right-footed wingers, but he’s on a cheap budget hit and also is good. He had a bad year (as did many Crewmen), so might be available even cheaper.
- LB Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas). Obligatory stathead love for Hollingshead. (Nashville SC likely isn’t in the market for another LB, particularly a right-footed one, and definitely not one that’s making $350k).
- RB Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United). He’s on a big budget number right now ($375k), but if Nashville wants to move to a back-three as its primary philosophy and play Alistair Johnston inside, he’d be a really nice RB/RWB combo, particularly if the price can come down a bit.
- CB/RB Andy Najar (DC United). He was… making $100k for DC? A smaller (5-8) version of the same type of positional versatility Alistair Johnson showed this year would be nice on a cheap budget hit. He’s also a domestic player, though he’s a Honduras international.
- M Wil Trapp (Minnesota United). Dax ain’t playin’ forever, and neither is Aníbal Godoy. Even if they’re sticking around for another year – and they are – we saw in 2021 that depth is needed because they aren’t 34-game guys.
“Just a few names to keep in mind!”