From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the National Football League, a
restricted free agent (RFA) is one with three
accrued seasons of service, who has received a "qualifying" offer
(a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the
league and its players) from his current club. He can negotiate
with any club through a certain date. If the restricted free agent
accepts an offer sheet from a new club, his old club has "right of
first refusal," a seven-day period in which it may match the offer
and retain him, or choose not to match the offer, in which case it
may receive one or more draft picks for the upcoming draft from the
player's new club. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player's
rights revert to his old club the day after negotiations must
In 2007, a second-round tender offer was added. The four tender
amounts for 2008 are as follows:
||First- and third-round
||Determined by RFA's original draft status (see below)
Each player that signs a tender receives the one-year salary
that corresponds to the tender level. Teams which choose not to
match an offer on a player with a low tender receive a draft pick
corresponding to the round in which the player was originally
drafted (except that the highest pick that can be surrendered for
such a tender is a second-round pick). For example, a player who
was originally drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft would force the
team signing him to give his former team a sixth-round pick in the
upcoming draft as compensation for his service. No compensation is
required for an undrafted player on the lowest tender amount, so
teams with valued undrafted RFAs are taking a notable risk by
offering such tenders.
Examples of possible
In addition to the following outcomes, if a player does not
receive an offer sheet from his original team, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If a player signs
the offer sheet from his original team, he remains with that
- Team declining to match offer sheet. Carolina
Panthers cornerback Ricky Manning,
Jr. was a restricted free agent in the 2006 offseason. Based on
the tender placed on Manning by the Panthers, the team would
receive a third-round pick in the NFL Draft if Manning signed with another
team. On April 21, the Chicago Bears signed Manning to an offer
sheet - a five-year contract worth up to $23 million. Although the
Panthers had a full week to decide if they wanted to match the
offer sheet, they announced on April 24 that they would not match.
At this time, Manning became a member of the Bears and the Panthers
received a third-round draft choice in the 2006 draft from
- Team matching offer sheet. Arizona
Cardinals offensive guard Reggie Wells was a restricted free agent
in the 2006 offseason. On March 17, the Buffalo Bills signed him to an offer
sheet - a five-year deal worth approximately $18 million. Four days
later on March 21, the Cardinals matched the Bills' offer sheet for
Wells, and he reverted to the Cardinals.
- Team consummating a trade. The Miami Dolphins
Welker a second-round tender in 2007. Although it was widely
rumored that the New England Patriots would offer
Welker a seven-year, $35 million deal, the Patriots ultimately
traded their second- and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins
for Welker, signing Welker to a five-year, $18 million
Players who are no longer considered "entry-level" but do not
qualify as unrestricted free agents become restricted free agents
when their contracts expire.
The current team must extend a "qualifying offer" to a
restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that
Players who earned less than $660,000 in the previous season
must be offered 110 percent of last season's salary. Players making
up to $1 million must be offered 105 percent. Players making over
$1 million must be offered 100 percent.
- If the player rejects a qualifying offer, he remains a
restricted free agent.
- If the player does not sign before December 1st, he is
ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
In addition to the preceding outcomes, if a player accepts a
qualifying offer, he goes with that team.
- Salary arbitration. A team or player can file
for salary arbitration as a mechanism to resolve or settle contract
disputes. A team can take a player to arbitration once in his
career, and cannot ask for a salary reduction greater than 15
percent. Players can ask for salary arbitration as often as they
want. It is noted that a player going through salary arbitration
cannot sign an offer sheet.
- The team matches the offer sheet. When an
offer sheet is signed, the player’s current (original) team is
notified. The original team cannot negotiate a new contract under
different terms or trade the player’s rights and has seven days to
makes its decision; that team can keep the player under the terms
of the offer sheet, or decline and let the player join the new team
under those terms. In the former case, the player cannot be traded
for one year.
- The team declines to match the offer sheet. If
the original team declines the offer sheet and loses the player, it
receives draft picks from the player’s new team as
compensation. Compensatory draft picks are determined by the
player’s new salary, on a sliding scale.
- In 2008 a team signing a restricted free agent to a salary
averaging $2,615,625 to $3,923,437 per season will lose a
first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick to the player’s
- Signing a restricted free agent to a contract worth over
$6,539,062 per year costs a team four first-round draft picks.