The 2010 season is over and the 2011 season will begin.
When it does, the Detroit Lions will have some decisions to make. They have several players that will have contracts expiring at the end of the league year (March 3rd, 2011). What happens with those players will depend on what is decided between the NFL and the NFLPA as they negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
In the past, NFL players accrued seasons toward free agency by being on the active, inactive or injured reserve list for six (6) or more regular season games. However, a player who is on the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, the Reserve Physically Unable to Perform/Non Football Injury List, or the Practice Squad for any of the six (6) qualifying games will not earn an Accrued Season regardless of his pay status. I don't see the requirements of how players accrue seasons toward free agency changing with the new CBA agreement.
Based on the above information, the following players contracts expire at the end of the league year; the chart includes the number of years that they have accrued toward free agency, 2010 salary, 2011 estimated salary, 2011 projected role, RFA compensation (if applicable) and the likelihood of signing with the Lions for 2011.
The NFL has given the green light to teams to use a 2011 franchise or transition tag if they choose, but the Lions don't have a player that would be worth applying the tag to.
All players with expiring contracts will fall into one of three categories of Free Agents: Unrestricted Free Agents, Restricted Free Agents or Exclusive Rights Free Agents. The rules for 2011 will likely be very similar to what they were under prior CBA's and are outlined in the links above.
Players with 5 or more accrued seasons – These players will be UFA's and when a new CBA is agreed to will be free to sign with any team.
Players with 4 or more accrued seasons – In past CBA's, these players were UFA's, but there remains a possibility that they could be RFA. If they are restricted, the Lions would likely give all of them a tender, likely somewhere around $1.3M for the year with Chris Houston receiving a stepped up tender of around $2.6M. However, based on information coming out about the CBA negotiations, it's highly probably that these players will be UFA's with the ability to sign anywhere they choose.
Players with 3 accrued seasons – In Past CBA's, these players were RFA's and it's likely that these players will once again be restricted free agents. If the amounts of the tender don't change significantly, the amounts for a general tender should come in around $1.2M. Cliff Avril will likely get an step up tender (estimated at a 2nd level tender at a cost of $2.6M).
Players with less than 3 accrued seasons – In past CBA's, these players are required to sign with the team that holds their rights, for the league minimum. Once again, that's not likely to change.