Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL

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Alder, James. "Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL." ThoughtCo, Jun. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408. Alder, James. (2017, June 4). Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408 Alder, James. "Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408 (accessed October 18, 2017).
Russell Okung is a top free agent. Getty Images

Definition: An unrestricted free agent may sign with any club, with no compensation owed to his old club, through the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp (generally late July). At that point, his rights revert to his old club if it made a "tender" offer (110 percent of last year's salary) to him by June 1. His old club then has until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season to re-sign him.

If he does not sign by then, he must sit out the season.

If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

An unrestricted free agent must have completed four or more accrued seasons with an expired contract.

For 2016, there are some high-profile unrestricted free agents. For example, here are some of the best available.

1 - Russell Okung, OL, Seattle

Okung is by far the top name left. He was picked sixth overall by Seattle in the 2010 NFL draft, and has pretty much lived up to the billing he had out of Oklahoma State.

The Seahawks recently signed two new offensive linemen to cheap, one-year deals just in case Okung leaves. They've already lost a couple of linemen to free agency.

Okung is still considering a Seattle offer, and he's visited the Steelers, Giants and Lions. Okung is reportedly visiting Pittsburgh again.

Okung is representing himself and the word is he is looking to get at least $10.5 million a year.

He had shoulder surgery in February, and he will probably not get that.

Still, he's a young left tackle in a league where that position is highly prized.

2 - Andre Smith, OL, Cincinnati

Smith was a consensus All-American at Alabama and a first-round draft choice by the Bengals in 2009, No. 6 overall.

He is known to be a much better run blocker than protecting the quarterback, and after a rocky start in Cincinnati he became a solid starter.

The Vikings rolled out the red carpet for him this past weekend, but were unable to get him to sign a contract.

The Cardinals are equally interested, as are the Bucs, but this appears to be a two-team contest between the Vikings and Cardinals right now.

3 - Chris Long, DE, Los Angeles Rams

Long entered the NFL in 2008 with some pretty big expectations after being picked second overall by the Rams. He had tremendous athletic ability, as shown by the Rams plan of using him as both a defensive end and linebacker.

In his seven NFL years, all with the Bengals, he stacked up 51.5 sacks.

But, it was his last two years that hurt his stock. Slowed by injuries, Long's production declined significantly.

He visited the Patriots, who are pretty much stacked at defensive end, but Long would certainly make them stronger.

The 30-year-old is still checking out other teams and he has said he wants to play for a winner.

He is planning a trip to Dallas, where, unlike new England, he would fill a gaping hole. He has also visited Washington and Atlanta.

Despite the fact he only had four sacks his last two years, Long has shown he can be a disruptive force when healthy, as evidenced by the 41.5 sacks he had in the four years before his injuries.

The Cowboys would love to have him particularly since Randy Gregory will miss the first four games of the season because of violating the league's substance abuse rules.

4 - Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington

According to former Washington Redskins player Chris Cooley on ESPN, the Redskins offensive line did not like Robert Griffin III and the wide receivers weren't exactly crazy about him either.

But, quarterbacks with his size and skill level simply do not come around that often in the NFL, and I still think he can do it in a big way in this league. He has before, remember.

I like the way Griffin didn't bitch and moan when Kirk Cousins took over his starting job last year. He never demanded to be traded, and he never caused a fuss in the locker room, at least that the public knows about.

This guy is a legitimate high-caliber NFL quarterback and he can still help a team in a big way.

He impressed the Jets in a recent workout. It's obvious the Jets don't want Ryan Fitzpatrick bad because they're offering him peanuts.

There was talk Griffin wants to play in Los Angeles, but he ultimately signed with Cleveland.

5 - Reggie Nelson, Safety, Cincinnati

Nelson is 32 years old, but safeties in the NFL tend to hang around a lot longer than cornerbacks, where quickness is all-important. Safeties rely on smarts as much as instincts and the good ones can play in the NFL until they're old and gray. The safety spot is where old cornerbacks are put out to pasture.

Plus, Nelson had one of the best years of his career last year with the Bengals with eight interceptions and his first Pro Bowl bid.

He also has the ability to stay healthy, having missed only six games since he entered the league.

The Bengals do not appear inclined to go out of their way to keep him since they re-signed 25-year-old George Iloka, but the Giants have shown interest.

6 - Nick Fairley, DT, Rams

Nick Fairley has a ton of talent, but he has never quite lived up to expectations when he was drafted with the 13th overall picks by the Lions in 2011.

He was disappointing his first four years in Detroit, although he showed flashes of that exceptional ability.

Fairley is one of those guys who could be among the league's elites if he gave his full effort all the time. Unfortunately, that isn't the case.

You have to dangle something in front of him, like the one-year deal he signed with St. Louis and he played well.

7 - Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Jets

Good 'ol Ryan Fitzpatrick. You have to pull for this guy. He's been in the league so long as a non-descript backup and he finally has a breakout year.

And the Jets offer him backup checks.

Granted, he isn't Joe Namath, but he's worth more than what the Jets are offering; the two sides are $7 million a year apart, according to various media reports with knowledge of the talks.

About the only team showing ANY kind of interest in Fitzpatrick is Denver, which of course lost its top two quarterbacks to retirement and free agency.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Alder, James. "Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL." ThoughtCo, Jun. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408. Alder, James. (2017, June 4). Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408 Alder, James. "Becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in the NFL." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unrestricted-free-agent-1335408 (accessed October 18, 2017).