NFL Free Agency; What’s it All About?

The Free Agency period begins today in the NFL. This is the time when 517 players who are no longer tied to team contracts can attract interest from other clubs. They also attract large fees and interest of a different kind. Players need to balance the ideal football location for themselves with the ideal financial position.

Amongst the best-known names available are Tony Romo, (who posted a farewell video to Cowboys Fans today), Alshon Jefferey and Adrian Peterson. All three have had injury concerns but each could easily turn around an ailing offense if they remain fit. On the defensive side of the ball, big names available include Dant’a Hightower, Julius Peppers and Demarcus Ware.

Breaking News

  • Alshon Jeffery – The Philadelphia Eagles snag the biggest receiver in the free-agency pond on a 1 year $14m deal
  •  Brock Osweiler is headed to Cleveland but only to get him off the Texans payroll and they will drop him if they can’t get a trade (they also get a 2nd round pick)
  • Brandon Marshall signs with Giants on two-year deal
  • Colts to trade Dwayne Allen to Patriots
  • The Redskins sign Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to a one-year deal worth $8 million
  • DeSean Jackson agrees to three-year deal with Bucs
  • Calais Campbell leaving Arizona for Jacksonville
  • Veteran Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is headed to Miami
  • Julius Peppers the veteran pass rusher is signing with his former team, the Carolina Panthers
  • One day after making a trade to acquire Brock Osweiler  Cleveland released QB Robert Griffin III
  • The New Orleans Saints are trading wide receiver Brandin Cooks to New England
  • New England’s Martellus Bennett will be catching passes in Green Bay this year
  • Green Bay make another TE feel at home as they sign the Rams Lance Kendricks
  • A.J. Bouye, moves from Texans cornerback to join the Jaguars on a five-year, $67.5 million deal
  • Kevin Zeitler, Bengals guard joins the Browns on a five-year, $60 million contract
  • Logan Ryan, Patriots cornerback is signing with the Titans on a three-year deal worth $30M
  • Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver is joining the Browns on a four-year, $32.5 million deal
  • Brian Hoyer, Chicago Bears QBk and backup to Jay Cutler who steel reeled off four consecutive 300-yard performances before going down with a season-ending arm injury agrees a deal to the 49ers
  • Robert Woods, Bills WR is signing a five-year, $39m deal ($15m guaranteed) with the Rams
  • Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers WR agrees deal with The Saints
  • Seahawks sign RB Eddie Lacy from The Packers on a one year $5.5 million deal

Q&A

Here are some questions and answers to help you understand what Free Agency is all about.

Q. When does the 2017 free agency signing period begin?

A. At 9:00 p.m. UK Time Thursday 9 March.

Q. What are the categories of free agency?

A. Players are either “restricted free agents” or “unrestricted free agents.” A restricted free agent may be subject to a “qualifying offer.” A restricted or unrestricted free agent may be designated by his prior club as its franchise player or transition player.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?

A. For restricted free agents, from 9 to 21 March. For unrestricted free agents who have received the 9 May tender from their prior club, from 9 March to 22 July (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For franchise players, from 9 March 9 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, 14 November. No players were designated as transition players this year. If the above-listed players do not sign by November 14, they must sit out the season.

Q. What is the difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent?

A. In the 2017 league year, players with three accrued seasons who have received a qualifying offer become restricted free agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2016 league year. Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.

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Q. What constitutes an “accrued season”?

A. Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Q. What could restrict the ability of a restricted free agent to sign with a new club?

A. If he has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through 21 April. If the restricted free agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed on or before 21 April, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a restricted free agent may be designated by his old club as its franchise player or transition player.

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 draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through 22 July (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club if by 9 May the old club tendered the player a one-year contract for 110 percent of his prior year’s salary. His old club then has until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (14 November) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by 9 May, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

Q. What determines a franchise player?

A. The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.

An “exclusive” franchise player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on 21 April; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player.

Q. How many franchise players and transition players can a team designate each season?

A. A club can designate one franchise player or one transition player among its potential restricted or unrestricted free agents.

Q. Can a club decide to withdraw its franchise or transition designation on a player?

A. Yes. A club can withdraw its franchise or transition designation and the player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent, either immediately if the tender is withdrawn after the start of the 2017 league year, or when his 2016 contract expires if the tender is withdrawn before the start of the 2017 league year.

Q. What is the salary cap for 2017?

A. The salary cap is $167 million per club.

Q. When must teams be in compliance with the salary cap?

A. At the start of the 2017 league year 9pm UK Time Thursday, 9 March.

Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team “carry over” room to the next season?

A. Yes. A team may carry over room from one league year to the following league year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 9pm on the day following the team’s final regular-season game, indicating the amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?

A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

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