Restricted free agent

A restricted free agent is a type of free agent in the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), or National Basketball Association (NBA). Such players have special restrictions on the terms under which they can retain or change employment status with their athletic club teams.


In the National Football League, a restricted free agent (RFA) is one with three or fewer accrued seasons (six or more regular season games with a team)[1] of service, who has received a "qualifying" offer (a salary level predetermined by the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players, known as a "tender") from his current club. He can negotiate with any club through a certain date. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new club, his old club has "right of first refusal," a five-day period in which it may match the offer and retain him, or choose not to match the offer, in which case it may receive one or more draft picks for the upcoming draft from the player's new club. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player's rights revert to his old club the day after negotiations must end.

Tender amounts

In 2007, a second-round tender offer was added, and after the 2011 lockout, the top tender was removed. The three tender amounts for 2018 are as follows:[2]

Tender amount Compensation required
$4.149 million First-round
$2.914 million Second-round
$1.907 million Determined by RFA's original draft status

Each player that signs a tender receives a non-guaranteed one-year salary that corresponds to the tender level. Teams which choose not to match an offer on a player with a low tender receive a draft pick corresponding to the round in which the player was originally drafted (except that the highest pick that can be surrendered for such a tender is a second-round pick). For example, a player who was originally drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft would force the team signing him to give his former team a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft as compensation for his service. No compensation is required for an undrafted player on the lowest tender amount, so teams with valued undrafted RFAs are taking a risk by offering such tenders. (The top tender prior to 2011 required first- and third-round picks as compensation.)

Examples of possible outcomes

In addition to the following outcomes, if a player does not receive an offer sheet from his original team, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If a player signs the offer sheet from his original team, he remains with that team.

  • Team declining to match offer sheet. Carolina Panthers cornerback Ricky Manning was a restricted free agent in the 2006 offseason. Based on the tender placed on Manning by the Panthers, the team would receive a third-round pick in the NFL Draft if Manning signed with another team. On April 21, the Chicago Bears signed Manning to an offer sheet – a five-year contract worth up to $23 million. Although the Panthers had a full week to decide if they wanted to match the offer sheet, they announced on April 24 that they would not match. At this time, Manning became a member of the Bears and the Panthers received a third-round draft choice in the 2006 draft from Chicago.
  • Team matching offer sheet. Arizona Cardinals offensive guard Reggie Wells was a restricted free agent in the 2006 offseason. On March 17, the Buffalo Bills signed him to an offer sheet – a five-year deal worth approximately $18 million. Four days later on March 21, the Cardinals matched the Bills' offer sheet for Wells, and he reverted to the Cardinals.
  • Team consummating a trade. The Miami Dolphins offered wide receiver Wes Welker a second-round tender in 2007. Although it was widely rumored that the New England Patriots would offer Welker a seven-year, $35 million deal, the Patriots ultimately traded their second- and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins for Welker, signing Welker to a five-year, $18 million contract.


A player who is no longer considered to be entry-level, but does not qualify as an unrestricted free agent, becomes a restricted free agent when his contract expires. A player may only declare himself to be an unrestricted free agent if he is over the age of 27 or has played in the league for a minimum of 7 years.

Qualifying offers

The current team must extend a "qualifying offer" to a restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that player. Qualifying offers are for one year contracts. The minimum salary for the qualifying offer depends on the player's prior year salary.

Players who earned less than $660,000 in the previous season must be offered 110 percent of last season's salary. Players making up to $1 million must be offered 105 percent. Players making over $1 million must be offered 100 percent.

  • If the qualifying offer is not made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
  • If the player rejects a qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent.
  • If the player does not sign before December 1, he is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.

Possible outcomes

If a player accepts a qualifying offer, he then signs a one-year contract with his current team under the terms of the offer. If the player rejects the qualifying offer, or has not yet accepted it, he is able to negotiate offer sheets with other teams. Qualifying offers are required for a team to retain a player's rights, but in most cases the player and team will agree to a contract differing from the qualifying offer. Should the player sign an offer sheet with another team, his current team is notified and can no longer negotiate a new contract or trade the player rights to another team. The current team has 7 days to make a decision whether to match the offer sheet, or decline and receive draft pick compensation from the team making the offer sheet.

  • Accept The player remains with his current team on a contract identical to that of the offer sheet, with the exception that the current team does not have to match any clauses restricting their ability to trade or reassign the player like a "no trade clause". The team is not allowed to trade the player for one year.
  • Decline The player becomes a member of the team with whom he signed the offer sheet under all the terms of said offer sheet. His now former team claims draft picks from the player’s new team as compensation. Compensatory draft picks are determined by the player’s new salary on a sliding scale.

For example:

  • In 2008 a team that signed a restricted free agent to a salary averaging $2,615,625 to $3,923,437 per season lost a first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick to the player’s former team.
  • Signing a restricted free agent to a contract worth over $6,539,062 per year costs a team four first-round draft picks.

At any point during the negotiation process, if the player has been in the NHL for longer than 4 years (less if the player signed his first contract after the age of 20), either the player or his current team may file for salary arbitration as a means of settling a contract dispute. At this point the player may no longer sign an offer sheet. The deadline to file for salary arbitration is July 5 with cases being heard between late July and early August.

  • Salary Arbitration. Both the player and his current team submit their expectations for the player's salary for the coming year. The team cannot request a reduction in salary of greater than 15%. The arbitrator hears the case from both player and team and renders a verdict. The verdict sets the salary the team is required to pay the player. In cases where the player requested arbitration, once the arbitrator's verdict is rendered the team must make a decision within 48 hours of the verdict being rendered. If the team accepts, the player is signed to a new contract at the salary set in the verdict. Should the team decline, the player then becomes an unrestricted free agent. Teams cannot decline contracts resulting from club-elected arbitration.

A team can take a player to arbitration once in his career. While there is no explicitly-stated maximum number of times a player may request salary arbitration, since under the current CBA players spend four off-seasons as potential arbitration-eligible RFA's, a player could feasibly make up to four such requests before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.


Players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with four or fewer years of experience may become restricted free agents under certain conditions.


Kontinental Hockey League players under 28 years of age as of July 1 of a given calendar year whose contracts are expired are considered restricted free agents. Just like the NHL and the NBA, the original team of a player who signed an offer sheet tendered by another team has seven days to match the offer sheet. However, unlike its North American counterpart, teams that decide not to match offer sheets collect transfer fees instead.

Liga ACB

In the Liga ACB, the right of first refusal is a rule that allows clubs to keep players who finish the contract. From 2015, non-FIBA Europe players have also been included, since they are within the collective agreement and therefore may be subject to the right of first refusal.[3]

The players that appear in the list of not subject to the right of first refusal are totally free to sign for the club they wish at the end of their contract. Some of them, however, have already reached a renewal agreement with the club.[3]

Analyzing what can happen from the moment a player appears on the list of the right of first refusal when the league publish the list:[3]

  1. If a club includes a player in the list of the right of first refusal, it means that they have submitted a renewal offer. In the event that no other club bid for the player, that offer would be effective and, if remaining in the Liga ACB the player would renew his contract with that offer.
  2. From this moment and until the next 12 calendar days, each player can accept and sign a single offer and present it in the ACB office. If that happens, the current club has 5 calendar days to match it and remain, in this way, with the player. If the current club does not match the offer, the player becomes a member of the club that has submitted the offer in the conditions reflected therein.

The right of first refusal only affects the ACB scope, but it does not expire. If a player subject to the right of first refusal reaches an agreement with a non-ACB club, the current club retains the rights for when it returns to the Liga ACB.[3]


  1. ^ "NFL free agency: Frequently asked questions". National Football League. 2013-03-07. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c d "ACB.COM - ¿En qué consiste el derecho de tanteo?". (in Spanish). 3 July 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
1994–95 Golden State Warriors season

The 1994–95 NBA season was the Warriors’ 49th season in the National Basketball Association, and 33rd in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the offseason, the Warriors acquired Ricky Pierce from the Seattle SuperSonics. Tim Hardaway returned after missing all of last season with a knee injury. After having finished 50–32 the previous season, the Warriors made a number of deals to toughen the team in the middle by trading Billy Owens to the Miami Heat for Rony Seikaly. Before the season even started, second-year star Chris Webber began the season by exercising his option to become a restricted free agent, claiming irreconcilable differences with head coach Don Nelson. He asked to be traded, and the Warriors obliged, sending him to the Washington Bullets for Tom Gugliotta, who would later on be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for rookie Donyell Marshall midway through the season.The Warriors won their first five games of the season, winning 8 of their 13 games in November. However, they struggled losing ten straight games afterwards as Pierce, Seikaly and Chris Mullin all missed large parts of the season due to injuries. All of this led to the resignation of Nelson after a 14–31 start. Under replacement Bob Lanier, the team finished sixth in the Pacific Division with a 26–56 record. Latrell Sprewell was selected for the 1995 NBA All-Star Game. Following the season, Pierce signed as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers, and Lanier was fired as coach.

1998 New England Patriots season

The 1998 New England Patriots season was the franchise's 29th season in the National Football League and the 39th overall. They finished with a 9–7 record, good for fourth place in the division but also a playoff berth; they lost in the first round to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the offseason, the Patriots tendered restricted free agent running back Curtis Martin with the highest possible tender, which would return the Patriots first- and third-round draft picks if any team were to sign him and the Patriots were to decide not to match the offer. Fueling the rivalry between the two teams, the New York Jets and head coach Bill Parcells, who had resigned from the Patriots two years earlier, signed Martin, the 1995 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and per restricted free agency rules ceded their first- and third-round picks in the 1998 NFL Draft to the Patriots. With the first-round pick the Patriots selected another running back Robert Edwards, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in his rookie campaign. Suffering a broken finger in November, veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe was unable to start the team's final two regular season games and was replaced by Scott Zolak. With a 9–7 record the Patriots finished fourth in the AFC East but earned a sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. With Zolak still at the helm, the Patriots were defeated on the road by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the second straight playoff defeat for second-year head coach Pete Carroll, and is one of only two games the Patriots have ever lost to the Jaguars, the second being in 2018.

Alex Chiasson

Alex Chiasson (French pronunciation: ​[ˈalɛks ˈʃjasɔ̃], born October 1, 1990) is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who is currently playing with the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League (NHL). He had previously played for the Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals. Chiasson won the Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Capitals.

Arron Asham

Arron Miles Asham (born April 13, 1978) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player who played 15 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL). Over his 15 seasons, he played for 6 different teams.

Avery Bradley

Avery Antonio Bradley Jr. (born November 26, 1990) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for Texas before being drafted 19th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA draft. With the Celtics, he was twice recognized as an NBA All-Defensive Team member. Bradley has also played for the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers.

Brandon McManus

Brandon Tyler McManus (born July 25, 1991) is an American football placekicker for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). He was a member of their Super Bowl 50 championship team, beating the Carolina Panthers. He played college football at Temple and was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2013. McManus has also been a member of the New York Giants.

Chris Baker (defensive lineman)

Christopher Isaiah Baker (born October 8, 1987), nicknamed "Swaggy", is an American football defensive tackle who is currently a free agent. He played college football at Hampton University, and was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 NFL Draft. Baker has also been a member of the Miami Dolphins, Hartford Colonials, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Free agent

In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is eligible to sign freely with any club or franchise; i.e., not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present but who is allowed to solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent's options are limited by league rules.

Jon Koncak

Jon Francis Koncak (born May 17, 1963) is a former American professional basketball player. A 7'0" center from Southern Methodist University, Koncak was selected with the fifth pick in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Koncak spent ten seasons with the Hawks (1985–1995), mainly in a reserve role, then concluded his career with the Orlando Magic. He retired in 1996 with career totals of 3,520 points and 3,856 rebounds.

Though a reliable defender for much of his career, Koncak is perhaps best remembered for the six-year, US$ 13 million contract he received from the Hawks in 1989 – an unprecedented total for a reserve. Since he was a restricted free agent at the time, the Atlanta Hawks matched this offer from the Detroit Pistons. As a result, he earned the derisive nickname "Jon Contract". This event led NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal to choose a career in basketball over football due to the money he could make in basketball.On February 23, 2008 SMU retired Koncak's jersey. Koncak is an Eagle Scout.

Lamar Odom

Lamar Joseph Odom (born November 6, 1979) is an American professional basketball player. As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he won NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 and was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2011.

As a high school player, Odom received national player of the year honors from Parade in 1997. He played college basketball for the University of Rhode Island, earning all-conference honors in his only season in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He was drafted in the first round of the 1999 NBA draft with the fourth overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team, but twice he violated the league's drug policy in his four seasons with the Clippers. He signed as a restricted free agent with the Miami Heat, where he played one season in 2003–04 before being traded to the Lakers. Odom spent seven seasons with the Lakers, who traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. After the move, his career declined. He was traded back to the Clippers in 2012 and played briefly in Spain in 2014.

Odom played on the United States national team, winning a bronze medal in the Olympics in 2004 and a gold medal in the FIBA World Championship (known later as the World Cup) in 2010.

Odom was married to Khloé Kardashian from 2009 to 2016. During their marriage, Odom made several appearances on the reality television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. He and Kardashian also had their own reality series, Khloé & Lamar.

In October 2015, Odom fell into a coma and was hospitalized with life-threatening medical problems. Odom has since recovered from his health scare and obtained drug treatment.

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Logan Lee Mankins (born March 10, 1982) is a former American football guard who played eleven seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Fresno State, and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Mankins also played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Mitchell “Mitch” Marner (born May 5, 1997) is a Canadian professional ice hockey right winger who is currently a restricted free agent, while his rights remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL). Marner was born in Markham, Ontario, and grew up in Thornhill. He was selected fourth overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

NBA salary cap

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Offer sheet

In US-Canadian professional sports, an offer sheet is a contract offered to a restricted free agent by a team other than the one for which he played during the prior season. Different leagues have different ways to handle offer sheets.

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Richard Gerald Brown (born December 27, 1983) is a former American football linebacker. He was signed by the Ravens as a free agent in 2012. He played college football at Boston College.

He has also been a member of the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots.

Troy Chaplin

Troy David Chaplin (born 23 February 1986) is a former professional Australian rules footballer who played for the Port Adelaide Football Club and Richmond Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). He has served as the offensive coordinator at the Melbourne Football Club since October 2016.Chaplin played for the Maryborough Rovers Football Club and was drafted by Port Adelaide from North Ballarat Rebels at selection 15 in the 2003 AFL Draft.The then 18-year-old left footer debuted in 2004 in Round 4 against Melbourne and played eight matches in 2005. He suffered a fractured left eye socket in round one of 2006, but found consistency and collected 20 or more possessions four times that season.

Standing 196 cm tall, Troy was also a champion basketballer and was a member of the Victorian Under 18 basketball team.

He was nominated for the 2006 NAB Rising Star award in Round 16 of that season.

A restricted free agent at the completion of the 2012 season, Chaplin was made a four year offer by the Richmond Football Club, one which Port Adelaide chose not be match.In July 2016, Chaplin announced his immediate retirement from the AFL.

Xavier Williams

Xavier Ramon Williams (born January 18, 1992) is an American football defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of Northern Iowa. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals.

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