ITP Glossary – UFA

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.


UFA refers to an Unrestricted Free Agent, which describes a vested veteran whose contract ended at the start of the new league year. Unrestricted Free Agents differ as the vested veteran status allows the player to enter the full free agent market with his previous team having no ‘right of first refusal’. This constitutes one of the major differences between Unrestricted and Restricted Free Agency. The previous teams’ only ability to limit the potential Unrestricted Free Agent’s access to free agency is to apply the Franchise Tag (Exclusive or Non-Exclusive).

Free Agency begins at the start of the new League Year and allows UFA players to sign contracts with any team.

Prominent examples of UFA players in 2016 were Brock Osweiler and Eric Weddle. Players who are released, such as Mike Wallace, become street free agent players when the franchise terminates their existing contract.

The Franchise Tag (or Transition tag) can be applied to players who are about to become UFA, restricting their access to the market by requiring compensation from any new team that signs the Franchise tagged player to an offer sheet. The player receives compensation commensurate with the top players at their position in exchange for such a restriction to the marketplace. In the case of Olivier Vernon, who had the Transition Tag applied by the Miami Dolphins, he did not immediately sign that offer letter, leaving him in a unique position of being tethered to the Dolphins while technically being a free agent. Vernon’s move was designed to maintain leverage against the Dolphins as he would not technically be under contract with them. However, a drawback exists. After the Dolphins signed DE Mario Williams (a street free agent who essentially replaced Vernon) the organization rescinded the tag. This meant Vernon became an unrestricted free agent, and was allowed to shop his services to any team in the league.

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Dan Hatman and David R. McCullough wrote this entry. Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman. Follow David on Twitter @ITP_davemc

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