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Everything You Need to Know About NFL Free Agency



It’s the free agency signing season once again. It is considered the first phase of the NFL offseason, making it crucial for roster building purposes.

NFL fans wait for this glorious moment in the league, and for sure, you have questions. You can be confused or curious.

NFL Communications has always been well-prepared with answers.

Things to know about NFL free agency

When is the NFL free agency signing period?

The two-day signing period happens in March. This 2020, it will be officially on March 18. However, the teams may negotiate with the free agents or their certified representatives starting on March 16.  

Self-represented players are not permitted to participate in the window.

When an NFL player becomes a free agent?

When the player has played out his contract, which is usually four or five years, he becomes a free agent afterwards. He can be on the open market.

What are the categories of free agents?

Free agents can be restricted or unrestricted free agents. A restricted free agent is eligible for a “qualifying offer.” Either the restricted or unrestricted free agent can be contracted by the last club to be its franchise or transition (tag) player.

Restricted agents 1) have three accrued seasons and 2) received a qualifying offer while unrestricted agents have four or more accrued seasons. Unrestricted free agents have no standing contract, making him free to negotiate and sign with any club.

An accrued season refers to at least six regular-season games. 

How much will the salary cap be?

Indeed, there will be a salary cap of between $196.8 and $201.2 million, which applies to all 32 teams. The clubs can use this cap on acquiring free agents or re-signing current players on free agency.

Unused salary cap space can be carried over to the next season. However, the club needs to notify the NFL. The notification must include information on the amount that the team decides to carry over. With this, a team can carry over 100% of the salary cap space.

Which NFL teams have the highest salary cap space in 2020?

Teams with the biggest salary cap space coming into 2020 NFL offseason include:

  • Miami Dolphins ($89.3 million)
  • Indianapolis Colts ($86.1 million)
  • Buffalo Bills ($80.1 million)
  • Tampa Buccaneers ($79.8 million)
  • Dallas Cowboys ($77.2 million)
  • Denver Broncos ($61.9 million)
  • New York Giants ($61.8 million)
  • Houston Texans ($55.1 million)
  • Las Vegas Raiders ($54.9 million)
  • Arizona Cardinals ($53.6 million)

How much is the guaranteed money for the signing free agent?

Guaranteed money depends on three factors: skill, cap, and/or injury. If the money is protected (as outlined in the contract), the agreed amount is fully guaranteed to the player at signing. If money is guaranteed for skill or cap only, then it is partially guaranteed.

  • Skill guarantee happens when the club terminated the contracted player if the player does not perform or deliver as expected. This is more so if the reason is that he doesn’t have the required skill set. Nonetheless, he is entitled to the money the skill guarantee protects. 
  • Cap guarantee occurs when the contracted player was terminated so the club may sign or re-sign a player so it won’t go over the cap. The player is entitled to the money the cap guarantee protects.
  • Injury guarantee applies when the contracted player was released due to an injury that made him unable to perform any football duties. He will receive the sum the injury guarantee protects. 

As such, guaranteed money is only partially guaranteed.

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