NFL free agency explained for the 2014 league year

Q. When does the free agency signing period begin this year?

A. At 1:00 p.m Pacific Time on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. A three-day negotiating period precedes that start, beginning at noon on Saturday, March 8.

Q. When does the free agency signing period end?

A. May 2, 2014 for restricted free agents or July 22, 2014 (or the first day of training camp) for unrestricted free agents.

Q. What is the difference between "restricted" or "unrestricted" free agents?

A. Players who were on a club's roster for six or more regular-season games during three seasons become restricted free agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more seasons and are free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.

Q. What restrictions could apply to restricted free agency?

A. If a restricted free agent has received an offer from his current team, he can still negotiate with another. If he signs an offer sheet with a new club, his current club can choose to keep him by matching the offer. If the old team does not match the offer, it can receive compensation through a draft choice.

Q. What if a player does not sign an offer during the free agency period?

A. If an restricted free agent does not sign an offer sheet by May 2, the only club allowed to negotiate with him is his current team.

The answer for unrestricted free agency is more complex. If a player's current team has made a one-year offer involving a raise of at least 10 percent by June 1, that team will retain exclusive negotiating rights after the free agency period ends on July 22. In that case, the team will have until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the season to sign him or he will be forced to miss the whole season.

If the unrestricted free agent's current team did not tender an offer by June 1, the player can be signed by any team at any time during the season.

Q. How do "Franchise" tags impact free agency?

A. Each team can designate one "franchise" player by offering them either the average of the top five salaries in the league for that player's position or an amount determined by a calculation involving averages and salary caps for the past five years that must be equivalent to a raise of at least 20 percent.

Additionally, franchise players can be either "exclusive" or "non-exclusive." Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams, but non-exclusive franchise players can negotiate with any club. If the non-exclusive player signs with another team, his current team will be compensated with two first-round selections in the draft.

Q. How do "transition" tags impact free agency?

A. A transition tag guarantees the player's current team the right to match any offer the player negotiates with another club. His current team has seven days to decide if it will match the competing team's offer.

Q. How many Franchise Players and Transition Players can a team have?

A. A team can name just one "Franchise" Player or one "Transition" Player.   

Q. What is the salary cap for 2014?

A. $133 million per club, plus whatever additional cap room was carried over from the end of the previous season.

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