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A Q&A about free agency

Posted Mar 8, 2013

Q. When does the 2013 free agency signing period begin?
A. At 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12.

Q. What is permitted during the new three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?
A. Beginning at midnight ET on Saturday, March 9 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, and only with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4 p.m. ET on March 12. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 12.

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. The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential Unrestricted Free Agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

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 12 to April 19. For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 12 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For Franchise Players, from March 12 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 12. If a Franchise Player does not sign by November 12, 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 2013 League Year, players with three Accrued Seasons become Restricted Free Agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2012 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, injured reserve or physically unable to perform lists.

Q. What could restrict the ability of a Restricted Free Agent to sign with a new club?
A. Once he has received a salary tender from his old club, he can negotiate with any club through April 19. 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 19, 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. No Restricted Free Agents were designated as such this year.

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 June 1 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 12) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, 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.

Q. What is the salary cap for 2013?
A. The salary cap is $123 million per club.

Q. When must teams be in compliance with the cap?
A. At the start of the 2013 League Year, which begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 12.

Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team carry over room to the next season?
A. Yes. A team may “carry over” room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 4 p.m. ET on the day before the team’s final regular-season game indicating the maximum amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?
A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

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