Free Agency 101
Q. When does the 2023 free agency signing period begin?
A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15.
Q. What is the salary cap for 2023?
A. The salary cap is $224,800,000 per club.
Q. When must teams be in compliance with the salary cap?
A. At the start of the 2023 league year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15.
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 4:00 p.m. ET on the day following the team's final regular-season game, indicating the 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. A club can carry over 100 percent of its remaining 2022 room to its adjusted salary cap for 2023.
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 2023 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 2022 league year on March 15. Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. Upon expiration of his 2022 contract, an unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no draft-choice compensation owed to his old club.
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 24 (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 May 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 Week 10 of the regular season (November 14) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by May 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.
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 through April 21. 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 21, 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 are the right of first refusal/qualifying offer amounts for players who have completed three accrued seasons?
A. For right of first refusal only, a one-year salary of at least $2,627,000.
For right of first refusal and compensation at the player's original draft round, a one-year salary of at least $2,743,000 or 110 percent of the 2022 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.
For right of first refusal and compensation of one second-round draft selection, a one-year salary of at least $4,304,000 or 110 percent of the 2022 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.
For right of first refusal and compensation of one first-round draft selection, a one-year salary of at least $6,005,000 or 110 percent of the 2022 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.
For right of first refusal and compensation of only one first-round draft selection, but any provision in the new club's offer sheet waiving or limiting the new club's ability to designate the player as a franchise or transition player is not a principal term and need not be matched by the prior club, a one-year salary of at least $6,505,000 or 110 percent of the 2022 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.