NFL Pre-Season Primer

It may seem like the Super Bowl was just yesterday, but luckily for us Forty-Niners fans, a new season is already ratcheting up!  With the NFL combine behind us and the draft just around the corner, we’re easily in the most confusing time of the year – players are being traded, released, and tagged.  What exactly is a free agent?  Who is this franchise player?  It’s time for a primer!

Combine: the combine is held every winter and allows NFL execs, coaches, and various staff from all the professional teams to evaluate college players before the draft.  This year it was held from February 20th-26th in Indianapolis, where over 300 prospective NFL players were invited to showcase their skills in a series of drills.  The drills include the 40-yard dash, bench pressing, a series of jumps, and running agility drills.

Draft: the draft is an event before the start of every NFL season in which teams select rookie players.  The draft consists of seven rounds.  This year’s draft is held at Radio City Music Hall in New York from April 25th to 27th.

Franchise Player: a player who would otherwise be an unrestricted free agent, but has been tagged as a “franchise player” by his team. A franchise player is not eligible for free agency, as the team has claimed the player. A franchise player’s compensation comes at a premium; options include the average of the salaries of the five highest paid players in the same position, 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, or the average of the salaries of the five highest paid players in the current year.  

Free Agent: a player whose contract with a team has ended, leaving them free to sign with another team.  To complicate things a little, there are also two further designations of “free agents” – unrestricted and restricted. The difference between restricted and unrestricted comes down to how many seasons a player has played; an unrestricted free agent has accrued four or more seasons, whereas a restricted free agent has only accrued three seasons.  The period when teams can first sign a free agent begins at 4pm EDT on March 12th.

Salary Cap: the finite amount that every team can spend on salaries each season. To stay within the cap, teams often restructure players’ long-term contracts or release players. 

Photo credit Marianne O’Leary

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Written by

Alexandra Goldstein

Alexandra received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was the President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Prior to graduating law school, Alexandra worked for two athlete management agencies, as well as the NFL Players Association and NCAA. Her areas of interest are licensing and right of publicity law. With her passion for collegiate and professional sports, Alexandra seeks to make Legal Timeout an accessible source of information about current sports law issues and ongoing topics in the field. A native of San Francisco, Alexandra received her B.A. in mass communication from UC Berkeley and roots for Cal and the 49ers every Saturday and Sunday. Follow her on twitter @LeagueAl.
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