2005 Free Agency Begins With 483 Free Agents

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The National Football League announced that 483 players are free agents who now can negotiate with all 32 clubs.

The free agents include 11 players who this year were designated by their clubs as "franchise" players, and one who was named a "transition" player. Franchise and transition players are special categories for restricted and unrestricted free agents. The deadline for making these designations for 2005 was Feb. 22.

Franchise Players

John Abraham, DE, New York Jets

Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle

Drew Brees, QB, San Diego

Donovin Darius, S, Jacksonville

Darren Howard, DE, New Orleans

Edgerrin James, RB, Indianapolis

Rudi Johnson, RB, Cincinnati

Orlando Pace, OT, St. Louis

Julian Peterson, LB, San Francisco

Corey Simon, DT, Philadelphia

Adam Vinatieri, K, New England

Charles Woodson, CB, Oakland

Transition Players

Bubba Franks, TE, Green Bay

In 2004, eight players were designated as franchise players and one as a transition player.

There are two types of franchise players. Clubs retain exclusive negotiating rights to an "exclusive" franchise player by committing to a minimum offer of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on April 15, or a 20 percent increase over his 2004 salary, whichever is greater. Other clubs cannot negotiate with exclusive franchise players. No exclusive franchise players were named this year.

The second type of franchise player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at his position in the 2004 season, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. This type of franchise player may negotiate with other clubs.

His original club may match the offer and retain the player, or receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if the original club elects not to match.

Each club is permitted one franchise designation in any year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If a franchise player signs a multi-year contract with his current club between Feb. 22 and March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, the club retains its franchise player designation for the following league year. After March 16, if the player signs a multi-year contract while under this designation, the club exhausts its franchise player rights for each year of that contract unless it matched another club's offer for that player, in which case the designation is used only for that year. Any club which elected not to use its franchise player designation in 2005 retains franchise designation rights for 2006 and subsequent years of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, provided the club did not exhaust those rights from a previously signed franchise player.

Also, a club may designate a transition player in lieu of a franchise player in any year when the franchise designation is available. A transition player designation gives the club a first refusal right to match an offer sheet given to the player by another club. To designate a transition player, the club must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of 2004 at the player's position, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater.

In the event a player retires, suffers a career-ending injury or is otherwise unavailable due to non-football circumstances, a club has the right to designate another franchise or transition player for the remaining years covered by the club's prior designation.

A club may withdraw a franchise or transition designation at any time. The player becomes an unrestricted free agent when that withdrawal occurs, and the team can use one of the designations on another player at the appropriate time.

Unrestricted veteran free agents are players who have completed four or more accrued seasons of service and whose contracts have expired. They are free to sign with any club through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). On July 23, their exclusive rights will revert to their original club if that club made a June 1 tender to these players.

Teams will have until the 10th week of the season (Nov. 15) to sign their unrestricted veteran free agents to whom a tender was made on June 1. If the player does not sign by Nov. 15, he must continue to sit out the remainder of the season. If a June 1 tender is not made to an unrestricted free agent, he continues to be free to sign with any club.

Restricted free agents are players who have completed three accrued seasons of service and whose contracts have expired. They have received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are free to negotiate with any club until April 15, at which time their rights revert to their original club. If a player accepts an offer from a new club, the old club will have the right to match the offer and retain the player. If the old club elects not to match the offer, it may receive draft-choice compensation depending on the level of the qualifying offer made to the player.

The signing period for unrestricted free agents begins March 2 and concludes on July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). The signing period for restricted free agents also began today but concludes on April 15.

NFL free agency movement since 1993:

1993

Unrestricted: 108

Restricted: 8

Transition: 4

Franchise: 1

Total: 121

1994

Unrestricted: 121

Restricted: 7

Transition: 4

Franchise: 0

Total: 132

1995

Unrestricted: 171

Restricted: 6

Transition: 2

Franchise: 0

Total: 179

1996

Unrestricted: 99

Restricted: 4

Transition: 2

Franchise: 0

Total: 105

1997

Unrestricted: 85

Restricted: 2

Transition: 2

Franchise: 0

Total: 89

1998

Unrestricted: 110

Restricted: 4

Transition: 1

Franchise: 2

Total: 117

1999

Unrestricted: 115

Restricted: 2

Transition: 1

Franchise: 0

Total: 118

2000

Unrestricted: 107

Restricted: 4

Transition: 0

Franchise: 0

Total: 111

2001

Unrestricted: 93

Restricted: 4

Transition: 0

Franchise: 0

Total: 97

2002

Unrestricted: 130

Restricted: 1

Transition: 0

Franchise: 0

Total: 131

2003

Unrestricted: 111

Restricted: 5

Transition: 1

Franchise: 0

Total: 117

2004

Unrestricted: 124

Restricted: 1

Transition: 1

Franchise: 0

Total: 126

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