At noon ET on March 7, clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2016 player contracts at 4 p.m. ET on March 9. Contracts cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 9. This was a recent change added to the NFL year and, last year, it helped spark some contract deals right at the start of free agency. Click here to view all transactions.
What does Unrestricted Free Agent mean?
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. A player with four or more Accrued Seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to signwith any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through August 3rd (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 June 1 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 to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, 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 the season.
What does Restricted Free Agent mean?
There are two criteria required to describe a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in the NFL. First the player must have played three seasons and their contract has expired (a season is defined by 6 or more regular season games played). The second step is that the player then receives a qualifying offer from his team, "qualifying offers" are a predetermined dollar amount that was negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement).
If those two conditions are met, the player is considered a restricted free agent. They are able to negotiate a new contract with any other team in the NFL up until April 15th, upon acceptance of an offer with a new team, the player's original team has the right of first refusal to match the offer. If matched, the player remains with the same team under the contract terms negotiated with the potential suitor. Should the player's original team decide not to match the offer, then the player joins the new team.
What does Exclusive Rights Free Agent mean?An exclusive rights free agent is a player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing EFAs.