One month until free agency opens
With draft season about to shift into full gear next week in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, you can't forget about free agency. February 25 is the first day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players, a window that closes on March 10. From March 16-18, 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 2019 player contracts at 4 p.m. on March 18, when the new league year officially begins.
Below is a look at the key dates:
February 25-March 2 -- NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
February 25 -- First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
March 10 -- Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
March 16-18 -- During the period beginning at 12:00 noon, New York time, on March 16 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 18, 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 2019 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18. During the above two-day negotiating period, a prospective UFA who is not represented by an NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor is permitted to communicate directly with a new club's front office officials (excluding the head coach and other members of the club's coaching staff) regarding contract negotiations. No prospective Unrestricted Free Agent is permitted to execute a contract with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18.
March 18 -- The 2020 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time. The first day of the 2020 League Year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 18. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the League office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 18.
March 18 -- Trading period for 2020 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2019 contracts.
March 29-April 1 -- Annual League Meeting, Palm Beach, Florida.
April 6 -- Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2019 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.
April 17 -- Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets
April 20 -- Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
April 22 -- Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents.
April 23-25 -- NFL Draft, Las Vegas, Nevada.
April 27 -- Beginning this date, NFL clubs may request permission to visit with, try out, or sign any player who was under contract to the XFL at the conclusion of the XFL season.
View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins March 18.
Which Giants are set to become free agents?
Heading into March 18, the Giants currently have 13 players set to become unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and one exclusive rights free agent. Here are some commonly asked questions about the distinctions and other free agency topics:
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 difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent?
A. In the 2020 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 2019 league year. Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. Upon expiration of his 2019 contract, 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, reserve/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.
Q. How do the free agency rules apply to restricted free agents?
A. If a player with three accrued seasons 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. 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 by the deadline, the player's negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, prior to the start of free agency 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.
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; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below. Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the "Cap Percentage Average," for calculating the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player:
The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years . . . ; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year . . . (the "Cap Percentage Average") . . . ; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater . . . .
If a club extends a required tender to a "non-exclusive" franchise player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft-choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.
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 2020 league year, or when his 2019 contract expires if the tender is withdrawn before the start of the 2020 league year.
The 2020 league year and free agency period begin on March 18.