Free Agency Glossary

Posted Mar 5, 2013

Have you ever picked up a newspaper or turned on the NFL Network only to wish you had a National Football League Free Agency Glossary? All the talk about unrestricted and restricted, or franchise tag and right of first refusal, it’s enough to make your head spin.

Ever wonder what the “CBA” is or how they determine the salary cap? Well, scratch your head no more because, with the help of Vikings Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski, has all the definitions to important free agency terms.

And the timing couldn’t be better. Free agency begins on March 12 and the two-week designation period for teams to place the franchise tag on players just concluded on Monday.

Our thanks to Rob for helping with the tricky language. NFL front office executives such as Rob deal with these issues on a daily basis and they know these rules like the back of their hand. Rob is one of the most-respected at his position in the NFL, and the Vikings are fortunate to have him in a leadership position.


Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA: A fully binding agreement that governs all business (wages, hours, working conditions, etc.) that takes place between the National Football League Management Council (essentially, the NFL) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA – essentially, the players).

Accrued Season: Any playing season for which a player received credit with respect to his qualifications for Unrestricted Free Agency or Restricted Free Agency.

All Revenue (AR): All of the League and Team revenues that are included within the definition of AR, as set forth in Article 12 of the CBA. For example, AR is comprised of, but is not limited to, the money earned from national television contracts, ticket sales, NFL merchandise sales, naming rights, local advertising, suites sales, club seats sales, concessions, parking and sponsorship agreements.

Compensatory Draft Selection: An additional draft choice awarded to a club in any draft as compensation for lost free agents.

Draft Choice Compensation: The right of any club to receive draft pick(s) from any other club.

Exclusive Rights Player: A player with less than three Accrued Seasons whose contract has expired but who has received the Required Tender.

Franchise Tag: A club is permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent as a Franchise Player each season. If given the Nonexclusive Franchise Tender, the tender will be a one-year NFL Player Contract for the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position, which is calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years;  (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year; or 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater. If given the Exclusive Franchise Tender, the tender will be a one-year NFL Player Contract for the average of the five largest salaries in Player Contracts for that League Year.

Free Agent: A player who is not under contract and is free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any NFL club, without Draft Choice Compensation or any Right of First Refusal.

League Year: The period from March 13 of 2013 through and including March 12 of the following year, or such other one-year period to which the NFL and the NFLPA may agree.

NFL Player Contract or Player Contract: A written agreement between a person and an NFL club pursuant to which such person is employed by such club as a professional football player.

Qualifying Offer: The Required Tender for a Restricted Free Agent.

Required Tender or Tender: A Player Contract tender that a club is required to make to a player either as a matter of right with respect to the player, or to receive Rights of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation and/or other rights with respect to the player.

Restricted Free Agent: A Veteran who has three Accrued Seasons and who completes performance of his Player Contract, but who is still subject to a Right of First Refusal and/or Draft Choice Compensation in favor of his prior club.

Right of First Refusal: The right of a NFL Club to retain the services of certain Veteran players by matching offers made to those players.

Rookie: A person who has never before signed a Player Contract with a NFL club. The first Player Contract signed by such a person is a “Rookie Contract.”

Salary Cap: The absolute maximum amount of salary that each club may pay or be obligated to pay or provide to players, or may pay or be obligated to pay to third parties at the request of and for the benefit of players, at any time during a particular League Year. The cap is determined by taking a percentage (agreed upon in the CBA) of All Revenue (AR), which includes all revenues derived from, relating to, and arising out of the performance of players in NFL games. Then, the projected League-wide benefit (dollar value) is subtracted from the players’ share of All Revenue to establish the amount of revenue available for player salaries. This number is then divided by 32 to come up with the salary cap.

Unrestricted Free Agent: A Veteran with four or more Accrued Seasons, who has completed performance of his Player Contract, and who is no longer subject to any exclusive negotiating rights, Right of First Refusal, or Draft Choice Compensation in favor of his Prior Club.

Veteran: A player who has signed at least one Player Contract with an NFL Club.