ITP Glossary: Restricted Free Agent

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Restricted Free Agent

A restricted free agent or RFA, refers to a player who has completed his rookie contract but has not vested (reached the four years of service time needed to become an unrestricted free agent). Restricted free agents are allowed to explore the market and to sign an offer sheet with any team in the league. They are “restricted” in that their original team can make a “tender offer” which offers the player a one year contract at a value that corresponds with a level of compensation. If a player received a tender offer and still signs an offer sheet with a new team, the original team has 5 days to match. If they choose not to match, the new team has to provide compensation according to the tender offer.

The most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement defines a restricted free agent as “free to negotiate and sign a player contract with any club, and any team shall be free to negotiate with any such player, subject to restrictions. Those restrictions provide the player’s prior franchise the right to match any offer made to the player and to receive compensation if the player signs with a new team.”

C.J. Anderson of the Denver Broncos was a restricted free agent in 2016.He could have been given the $2.533 million tender, which would have made the compensation for signing him a second round pick in the 2016 draft. Or Denver could have offered Anderson the $3.635 million tender, which would have required the signing team to give up a first round pick in the 2016 Draft  as compensation. But the Broncos tendered Anderson an offer of $1.671 million, giving Denver the right of first refusal, but no draft pick compensation if Anderson signed with another club.

The Miami Dolphins offered Anderson a contract of four years and $18 million total, with $9 million guaranteed. The Broncos were then given five days to either match Miami’s contract offer. Denver chose to match the contract offer and signed Anderson to the contract offered by the Dolphins. Miami was entitled to no compensation and was free to use the money they offered to Anderson to other players.

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Dan Hatman wrote this entry. Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman

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