NFL free agency is a process that usually kicks in at the completion of the season. In short, it’s when some player’s contracts come to an end and they are free to talk to and negotiate contracts with any of the NFL teams. There are a few slightly different forms of free agents.
Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)
This is when a player’s contract has come to an end and he is completely free to negotiate a new contract with any of the teams who may want his services.
Restricted Free Agent (RFA)
A restricted free agent is still allowed to talk to and negotiate a contract with any of the other teams in the NFL, but the team he is still under contract with has a 5-day window to match a contract that he may have received and want to accept. If the player’s current team doesn’t match, or better, another team’s offer, the player moves to this new team. If they do match the other team’s offer, they get to keep their man as they have a first refusal kind of right to him.
Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA)
There are so many young hopefuls wanting to join the NFL each year that it’s just not possible for each and every one of them to be drafted during the NFL draft process. Once the draft process has finished, the players who weren’t selected become Unrestricted Free Agents (as above) and are free to sign with any of the league’s teams. Although they are exactly the same as Unrestricted Free Agents, they are usually referred to as Undrafted Free Agents.
It’s as simple as that really
The free agency period opens not too long after the end of the previous season and can be an exciting time for fans of the game. There are lots of heated discussions and speculation leading up to free agency as to which teams are going to sign which player(s). It also has a bearing on the draft as teams wait to see who they can sign in free agency in an attempt to fill gaps in their rosters and improve their teams before deciding who to take from the following draft class.
Free agency and the draft are two of the most important times of the year for NFL teams. They are the processes that can make or break a team for the immediate and long-term futures.