NFL FREE AGENCY
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q: What are the categories of free agency?
A: Players are either "restricted," "unrestricted" or
"exclusive rights" free agents. Within the categories are also
"transition" and "franchise" players.
Q: What is the time period for free agency signings this year?
A: Please see Offseason Schedule page.
Q: What is the difference between a restricted free agent and an
unrestricted free agent?
A: Players become restricted free agents when they complete three accrued
seasons and their contract expires. Unrestricted free agents have completed
four or more accrued seasons with an expired contract.
Q: What constitutes an "accrued season?"
A: Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive,
reserved-injured or "physically unable to perform" lists.
Q: Other than accrued seasons, what determines a restricted free agent?
A: He has received a "qualifying" offer (a salary level
predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its
players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through April 21.
Then, because of the qualifying offer, his rights revert exclusively to his old
club on April 20. Prior to April 20, if the restricted free agent accepts an
offer sheet from a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him
because it has the "right of first refusal." If the old club does not
match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on
the amount of its qualifying offer.
Q: What determines an unrestricted free agent?
A: A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired.
He is free to sign with any club, with no compensation owed to his old club,
through June 15. On June 16, his rights revert to his old club if it made a
"tender" offer (110 percent of last year’s salary) to him by
June 1. His old club then has until the 10th week of the season to sign him. If
he does not sign by the 10th week, he must sit out the season. If no tender is
offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout
Q: What determines a transition player?
A: His club must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of
last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s
previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player
designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an
offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If
the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no
Q: What determines a franchise player?
A: A club can designate one franchise player in any given year. The salary
level offer by a player’s old club determines what type of franchise
player he is. An "exclusive" franchise player -- not free to sign
with another club -- is offered a minimum of the average of the top five
salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of the player’s
previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. If the player is not
offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries of last season at his
position, he becomes a "non-exclusive" franchise player and can
negotiate with other clubs. His old club can match a new club’s offer, or
receive two first-round draft choices if it decides not to match.
Q: Can a club decide to withdraw its franchise or transition designations
on a player? If so, can it then use them on other players?
A: A club can withdraw its franchise or transition designations and the
player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent either immediately
or when his contract expires. The club cannot name a new transition player (two
allowed in 1993, one in 1994 and one in the final year of the CBA). It can name
a new franchise player the next year. A club can, though, designate a
transition player in lieu of a franchise player at any time. Only one franchise
and transition player can be on a club’s roster.
Q: What determines each team’s salary cap? Is it always in effect?
A: The salary cap is the absolute maximum each club may spend on player
salaries in a capped year. For 2006, that amounts to $94.5 million (determined
by a percentage of leaguewide "Defined Gross
Revenues," divided by 32 teams, made up of preseason, regular-season and
postseason gate receipts and radio and television rights). The cap is in effect
365 days a year. From March 2 to the day before the season begins, a
club’s top 51 salaried players count towards the
cap, plus pro-rated signing bonuses, incentives, etc., but not base salaries of
other players on the roster up to 80. Thereafter, not all salaries on a
club’s roster count toward the cap. The salary cap for 2007 is $109