5 things to know about 2023 NFL free agency

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:30 AM EDT
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Here are five things to know about the NFL free agency period for 2023 when the new league year begins Wednesday.

When does free agency start?

The start of the new league year begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, at which time teams can officially sign free agents.

Teams can sign restricted free agents through April 21.

Unrestricted free agents who have received a tender from their previous team by the Monday immediately following the last day of the NFL Draft are able to be signed by another team until July 24 or the start of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.

What is the difference between restricted and unrestricted free agents?

Players who have received a qualifying offer and have played three accrued seasons become restricted free agents at the start of the new league year.

Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent can sign with any team without any draft-choice compensation owed to his former team.

If a restricted free agent has received a qualifying offer from his former team, he can negotiate with any team through April 21. If the restricted free agent signs with a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him. That's because the old team is entitled to first right of refusal on any offer sheet the player signs.

Should the old team fail to match the offer, it may receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet isn't executed on or before April 21, the player's negotiating rights revert exclusively to his former team.

What is the difference between a franchise player and a transition player?

A team may designate one franchise or one transition player among its potential free agents. There are two types of franchise players – exclusive and non-exclusive.

Exclusive franchise players are not able to sign with another team. An exclusive franchise player is offered the greater of the average of the top five salaries at that player's position for the current league year or the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player.

Non-exclusive franchise players can negotiate with another team. The tender for a non-exclusive franchise player is the average of the five greatest salaries for players at that position during the previous season. Should franchise players sign with another team, the former team is entitled to two first-round draft selections as compensation.

Teams can instead choose to designate transition players, giving the original teams the first right of refusal to match any offer during the free agency period. The transition tag is a one-year tender offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at that player's position. The original team is not awarded compensation if it chooses not to match an offer.

Franchise players can sign with another team until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the regular season.

Transition players have until July 24 to sign with another team.

Teams can withdraw franchise or transition designations at any time. If withdrawn after the start of the new league year, those players become unrestricted free agents.

These determinations must be made prior to the start of the new league year.

What constitutes an accrued season?

The NFL considers an accrued season to be six or more regular-season games on a team's roster. This includes a team's active and inactive roster, injured reserve list or physically unable to perform list.

A player under contract must report to his team's training camp to earn an accrued season. Any player who holds out for a "material period of time" is at risk of not accruing a season.

What is the salary cap for 2023?

The salary cap for the 2023 season is $224 million per team.

This means a team cannot exceed that amount by the start of the new league year. It's meant to provide parity within the league from year to year.

A team that is under the salary cap at the end of the previous league year may carry over room to the next league year, if team has notified the league office by 4 p.m. on the day after the team's final regular-season game. The team must specify the amount of room it wants to carry over.

Teams can carry over 100% of its remaining 2022 cap room to its adjusted salary cap for the 2023 season.

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