Blog & Tackle: 2010 NFL Free Agency primer

March 05, 2010 | Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL free agency period began March 5 with 531 players who can negotiate with all 32 clubs, and the landscape in an uncapped year is much different. Here are the Ravens players directly impacted by free agency, and some of the rules going forward in the 2010 season.

Restricted free agents in the 2010 Final (uncapped) League Year are players who have completed three, four or five accrued seasons and whose contracts have expired. They have received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are free to negotiate with any club until April 15, at which time their rights revert to their original club. If a player accepts an offer from a new club, the old club will have the right to match the offer and retain the player. If the old club elects not to match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, and the player receives the June 1 tender from his old club, the player’s rights revert exclusively to his old club on June 1.

Restricted free agents who received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are subject to the first refusal/compensation system of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The old club has a right of first refusal to all players listed below.  Compensation is as listed in the column on the right. If the old club has only a right of first refusal but is not entitled to any compensation, the designation “ROFR” appears in the column. In order to submit an offer sheet, a new club must have available the required choice or choices, defined as its own or better choices in the applicable rounds, in the 2010 NFL Draft. Offer sheets may be submitted to an old club by no later than 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on Friday, April 15.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School, Compensation)
Barnes, Antwan  LB  Florida International 4th
Beck, John  QB  Brigham Young  3rd
Burgess, Prescott  LB  Michigan  6th
Chester, Chris  G  Oklahoma  3rd
Clayton, Mark  WR  Oklahoma  2nd
Cundiff, Billy  K  Drake  ROFR
Gaither, Jared  T  Maryland  1st
Koch, Sam  P  Nebraska  2nd
Landry, Dawan  DB  Georgia Tech  2nd
McClain, Le’Ron  RB  Alabama  1st
Moll, Tony  T  Nevada  5th
Smith, Troy  QB  Ohio State  5th
Washington, Fabian  DB  Nebraska  2nd
Williams, Demetrius  WR  Oregon  4th
Yanda, Marshal  G  Iowa  2nd
 
Unrestricted veteran free agents in the 2010 Final (uncapped) League Year are players who have completed six or more accrued seasons whose contracts have expired. They are free to sign with any club, with no compensation owed to their old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, their rights revert to their old club if it made a “tender” offer (110 percent of last year’s salary) to the player by June 1. Their old club then has until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season (November 16) to sign the player. If the player does not sign by November 16, 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.

Unrestricted free agents with six or more accrued seasons. Subject to the CBA’s “Final Eight Plan” rules, the players in this category may be signed by any club in the league until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first training camp, whichever is later), with no rights of any character held by the old club.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School)
Bannan, Justin  DT  Colorado
Edwards, Dwan  DE  Oregon State
Ivy, Corey  DB  Oklahoma
Mason, Derrick  WR  Michigan State
Smith, L.J.  TE  Rutgers
Tyree, David  WR  Syracuse
Walker, Frank  DB  Tuskegee
Washington, Kelley  WR  Tennessee
 
Players with fewer than six accrued seasons who received no qualifying offer or no minimum tender from their old club.  The players in this category may be signed immediately with no rights of any character held by the old club. There is no signing deadline applicable to these players.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School)
Jones, Edgar  TE Southeast Missouri
Ryan, Greg  C  Western Kentucky
Saucedo, Lou  T  Montana State
Terry, Adam  T  Syracuse
 
Here are some of the rules pertaining to the above players, especially in light of the “Final Eight Plan” currently in place that impacts the Ravens for the 2010 NFL season.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?
A. For restricted free agents, from March 5 to April 15.  For unrestricted free agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior Club, from March 5 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For franchise players, from March 5 until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the regular-season (November 16).  If he does not sign by November 16, he must sit out the season. There are no transition player designations this year.
 
Q. What is the difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent?
A. In the 2010 League Year, players become restricted free agents when they complete three, four or five accrued seasons and their contract expires. Unrestricted free agents have completed six or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no 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 “physically unable to perform” lists.
 
Q. What is the Final Eight Plan?
A. During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of unrestricted free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own unrestricted free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team.
 
For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs (including the Ravens), in addition to having the ability to sign unrestricted free agents based on the number of their own unrestricted free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5,807,475 million or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for no more than $3,861,823 million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.
           
In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.

Q. Is there an Entering Player Pool in the Final League Year?
A. Yes. The CBA provides that the league has the right to keep the rookie pool in the Final League Year.
 
Q. Is there a Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year?
A. There is no Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year.
 
Q. Are there individual player minimum salaries in the Final League Year?
A. Yes, but they rise at a rate somewhat slower than player minimum salaries rise in capped years.
 
Q. Do any player contract rules from capped years remain in place for the Final League Year?
A. Yes. Some rules like the “30% increase rule” are still in effect in the Final League Year for player contracts signed in capped years. That rule restricts salary increases from 2009 to 2010 and beyond. For example: a player with a $500,000 salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010.

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