Free Agency Signing Period Begins; 533 Players Become Free Agents


The National Football League today announced that 533 players are free agents who now can negotiate with all 32 clubs.

The free agents include eight players who this year have been designated by their clubs as "franchise" players, and two who have been named "transition" players. Franchise and transition players are special categories for restricted and unrestricted free agents. The deadline for making these designations for 2003 was February 20.


Franchise Players

S Donovin Darius, Jacksonville

S Tebucky Jones, New England

T Walter Jones, Seattle

TE Jim Kleinsasser, Minnesota

CB Chris McAlister, Baltimore

T Orlando Pace, St. Louis

WR Peerless Price, Buffalo

P Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina

Transition Players

DT Cletidus Hunt, Green Bay

LB Takeo Spikes, Cincinnati

In 2002, eight players were designated as franchise players and none as transition players.

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 18, or a 20 percent increase over his 2002 salary, whichever is greater. No other clubs can negotiate with exclusive franchise players. There were no exclusive franchise players 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 2002 season, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. This latter type of franchise player may negotiate with other clubs. The 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 designated franchise player signs a multiyear contract with the designating club between February 28 and March 14 at 4:00 PM ET, the club retains its franchise player designation for the following league year. After March 14, if the player signs a multiyear 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 2003 retains franchise designation rights for 2004 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 2002 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.

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 makes a June 1 tender to these players. Teams will have until the 10th week of the season (November 11) to sign their unrestricted veteran free agents to whom a tender was made on June 1. If the player does not sign by November 11, 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 18, 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 began today (February 28) 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 18.

Complete NFL Lists of Free Agents

Restricted: AFC | NFC

Unrestricted: AFC | NFC

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