The National Football League’s 2017 free agency signing period officially began at 4 p.m. today. Here’s some common questions and answers about the entire process.
Q. When does the 2017 free agency signing period begin?
A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 9.
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 March 9 to April 21. For unrestricted free agents who have received the May 9 tender from their prior club, from March 9 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For franchise players, from March 9 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 14. 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.
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 April 21. 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 April 21, 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 July 22 (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 May 9 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 (November 14) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by May 9, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.etc