Free Agency 101

Free agency started March 11th @ 4 PM for the NFL. If you keep up on NFL news at all you are probably seeing A LOT of stuff being said about who is going where, why, maybe, possibly…wait my head is spinning!

You aren’t alone there. I’m a football junkie and this stuff gets overwhelming for me. Don’t worry! I’m here  to break down free agency for you. As far as people predicting and discussing who, what, where, when, and why,  that isn’t something we can control. You just have to wait and see where they land.

A free agent by definition is a player who can sign with another team. Sometimes they aren’t under contract any longer and sometimes they are under contract, but eligible to solicit offers from other teams. With me so far? Ok good.

There are two types of free agents. An unrestricted and restricted, I’ll define both so don’t worry. . .

An Unrestricted Free Agent is a player with an expired contract that has 4 or more seasons of “accrued service”, they can sign with any team. The player has until July 22nd or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later to sign with a team. If they haven’t reached an agreement with anybody by then, the rights revert exclusively to his old team if by June 1st the old team has offered the player a 1 year contract worth 110% of his prior year’s salary (sounds pretty good, right?). Then, the old team has until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the regular season to sign him (November 12). If the player doesn’t sign by that date,  he has to sit out the rest of the season (that would be a bummer). If the player’s old team doesn’t offer by June 1st,  the player is eligible to sign with any team at any point in the season.

A Restricted Free Agent is a player with an expired contract that has 3 or fewer seasons of “accrued service”. The biggest thing to remember with RFAs is that the last team he played with gets first rights. RFAs can negotiate with other teams until the deadline; this year’s deadline for an RFA to sign an offer sheet is May 2nd and May 7th is the deadline for the original team to “exercise right of first refusal to RFAs”. If they don’t reach an agreement with another team by the deadline then the rights revert to their original team and they get exclusive rights to the player. If a player agrees to an offer made by another team,  their original team gets the chance to match the offer and retain the player. If the original team elects not to sign the player they may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of the offer.

So you’re probably saying to yourself , “Erica, if free agency doesn’t start until March 12th, then why did I see that some teams are agreeing to sign players who are out of contract?” I’m glad you asked and I have an answer! There is a new 3 day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency, here is the explanation I got from the Panthers website: “Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. During this negotiation period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.”

Whoo! That was a lot huh? I hope I didn’t totally confuse you. We will get through it together! Pretty soon you’ll talk to your hubby, boyfriend, or male friends and saying “Guess who’s a free agent?” “Guess who signed with ‘fill in the blank’”. They’ll be shocked and you’ll walk away satisfied!

There are some big name players in this year’s free agency. I’m not going to include the entire list because, well, it’s pretty long. I will however include the link so you can view the list: Unofficial List of 2014 Free Agents. Find your team and take a look. You may gasp and cry and shake your fist at the football gods, but try to remember that one man does not make a team and it will all work out in the end.

Happy Free Agency to you! Questions? Comments? Trash talk? Tweet me @PatsFanGirl12 I may or may not answer. Depends on how rude you are. I welcome {some} conversations in 140 characters or less.

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