ITP Glossary: Exclusive Rights Free Agent

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From honey hole to 3 technique, 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.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent

An Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA) is a player that has less than three accrued seasons in the NFL. An accrued season is awarded to a player for being on the roster for six or more games in a given season. Games on injured reserve (IR) or the physically unable to perform (PUP) lists count toward the accrued season calculation provided that the designation was not a result of a non-football injury.

When the contract of a player with less than three accrued seasons expires, the last team with whom they had a contract has the right to tender the player a non-guaranteed contract for the minimum salary as specified in the CBA. If the player is tendered, they no longer have the right to negotiate a contract with any other team in the NFL and can only sign a contract with their former team. Since the player has limited experience the contract they sign is almost always for the minimum salary.

For example, a player with no accrued seasons signed to a one-year $450,000 contract in 2016 can be tendered a one-year contract for $540,000 in 2017 because they are an ERFA. Once tendered they can not sign with another team and will be forced to re-sign with their original team for $540,000. When a player is not tendered with the ERFA tag, or the tag is removed, they become an unrestricted free agent and are free to negotiate and sign with anyone.

Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots was an exclusive rights free agent after the conclusion of the 2015 season. Butler, played his first two seasons in the NFL on a contract signed after the conclusion of the 2014 draft. When his contract expired, the Patriots retained his rights after tendering him a contract required by the CBA. Butler had no choice but to accept (and sign) this contract, and to play for the Patriots for another season (in 2016). After 2016, Butler will be a restricted free agent, where he will need to be tendered another contract or cut loose by the Patriots. He will be free to sign a contract with another team, subject to compensation.

Editor’s Note: This entry was updated on August 10, 2016 with content from Jason Fitzgerald (OverTheCap, @Jason_OTC), with assistance from Ryan Dukarm (@DBRyan_Dukarm).

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

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