As free agency quickly approaches, there are numerous terms that apply to players throughout the league. You will hear terms as franchise, transition, unrestricted, restricted, and exclusive rights to name a few.
Provided below, is a quick and easy reference guide to the different terms and the meanings to those terms that you will see and hear throughout this off-season.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: The ‘Franchise Player' label is attached to a player for the duration of their contract, and removed upon the end of the contract, renegotiation of said contract, or the release of the player that has been designated as a ‘franchise' player. Each team is permitted to name one ‘Franchise Player' from the team roster. A player that has received the ‘franchise' player label must be paid at least the average of the top five highest paid players at his position or higher. A ‘franchise' player may sign an ‘offer sheet' presented by another team, and the original team has seven days to match any offer that is presented. If the original team declines to match the offer, compensation in the form of two first round draft picks in consecutive years will be awarded from the signing team.
TRANSITION PLAYER: The ‘Transition Player' label is attached to a player and will remain for the duration of that player's contract at that time and will be removed upon the end of the contract, renegotiation of said contract, or release of the player that has been designated as a ‘transition' player. Each team is permitted to name two players as ‘Transition Players' from the team roster. A player that has received the ‘transition' player label must be paid at the average of the top ten highest paid players at his position or higher. A ‘transition' player may sign an ‘offer sheet' presented by another team, and the original team has seven days to match any offer that is presented. If the original team declines to match the offer, no compensation will be awarded to the declining team.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT or UFA: With four or more tenured years of service in the league and at the expiration of a contract, a player is deemed an unrestricted free agent (UFA). As an unrestricted free agent, the player may sign with any other team without restriction or recourse from the team that original team.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT or RFA: With less than four tenured years of service in the league, but at the expiration of a contract, a player is deemed a restricted free agent (RFA). As a restricted free agent (RFA), a player may sign an ‘Offer Sheet' with any other team, but the original team has seven days to match any received offer. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENT or EFA: With three or fewer tenured years in the league and at the expiration of a contract, a player is deemed as an exclusive rights free agent (EFA). The player's original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. Compensation is awarded to a team for losing an exclusive rights free agent when a contract is not offered.
COMPENSATORY DRAFT SELECTIONS: Compensation awarded by the NFL to teams who lost more unrestricted free agent players (UFA's) than they signed. All compensation is in the form of additional draft picks that are added to the end of rounds three through seven, in the NFL draft. To determine the number of compensatory draft picks a team is entitled to, the league determines the equivalent difference in the number of unrestricted free agent players signed compared to the number of players lost. The determining factor in the value of compensatory draft picks obtained is based on the contracts signed by the players acquired and players lost in the unrestricted free agency process. The highest possible compensatory pick begins with the last selection in the third round of the draft.
OFFER SHEET: A contract offer forwarded from another team signed by a restricted free agent player (RFA), ‘Transition Player', or ‘Franchise Player'. The original team that the player was under contract with has seven days to match the offer and retain the services of the player.
PLAYER QUALIFYING OFFER: This is an initial contract offer made to restricted free agent players (RFA's). The offer determines the specific compensation a player's original team receives if the restricted free agent player signs with another team. The original team is awarded draft choices from the signing team, which the highest level of compensation is a package of 1st and 3rd round picks. All players tendered minimum offers warrant compensation equivalent to which the round the player was originally drafted.