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See below for important information about Free Agency from the NFL Players Association.

Club Salar Cap room will be made available later today after the conclusion of the 2015 League Year.

What is the history of Free Agency in the NFL?

In 1989, Freeman McNeil of the New York Jets filed an antitrust lawsuit to challenge the NFL’s Plan B free agency, which granted teams a first right of refusal for up to 37 players per roster each season. In 1992, a jury found that the NFL was in violation of antitrust laws and struck down Plan B, awarding damages to plaintiffs.

This set the stage for a class-action lawsuit filed by Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles, also in 1992. The settlement of Reggie White v. NFL in 1993 provided true free agency to players and created the salary cap and salary floor. On February 1, 1993, when their contracts expired, members of the NFL’s first free-agent class had the right to negotiate with any of the NFL’s 28 clubs.


When does Free Agency begin?

The League Year, and Free Agency, begins at 4:00 p.m. EST on March 9, 2016. There are other important deadlines on March 9, 2016 to keep in mind:

  • The first day of the 2016 League Year will end at 11:59:59 p.m. EST on March 9. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m. EST and 11:59:59 p.m. EST on March 9.
  • Prior to 4:00 p.m. EST, Clubs must exercise options for 2016 on all players who have option clauses in their 2015 contracts.
  • Prior to 4:00 p.m. EST, Clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
  • Prior to 4:00 p.m. EST, Clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2015 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
  • Top-51 Begins: All Clubs must be under the 2016 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m. EST.
  • All 2015 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m. EST.
  • Trading period for 2016 begins at 4:00 p.m. EST after expiration of all 2015 contracts.                      


How is the Salary Cap calculated?

The Salary Cap is calculated by taking a percentage of all projected NFL revenues, subtracting projected benefits for the upcoming season, and dividing by 32 Clubs.


How does the 2016 Salary Cap compare to last year?

The 2016 Salary Cap ($155.27 million) is an increase of $11.99 million per team from 2015 ($143.28 million). This is the largest three-year rise in the NFL’s Salary Cap history.


Are player benefits taken out of this $155.27 million?
No. The $155.27 million Salary Cap is the cap on active player salaries. In addition, each Club will spend in excess of $39.5 million in player benefits. This includes pension, severance, workers’ compensation, insurance premiums, disability benefits, etc. 


Why do Clubs have different Salary Caps?

Final Club Salary Caps combine the League-wide Salary Cap with each Club’s carryover and other adjustments from the previous League Year.


What is Carryover?

Under the CBA, each Club has the option to carry over unused cap space from the prior League Year. This mechanism allows Clubs greater flexibility to negotiate player contracts without having “Cap casualties.”


What are Adjustments?

Each Club must reconcile its books at the end of the League Year, which may result in a Club owing money or receiving credits for the previous year. This can include signing bonuses being forfeited back to the Club and truing up of the Club’s books on incentives (e.g., an incentive marked likely to be earned and therefore counted toward the Salary Cap was actually unearned, or an unlikely incentive to be earned that was not included in calculations was earned).


What impact has the 2011 CBA had on Franchise and Transition Tags?

Prior to 2011, tag values were calculated on the top-five Salary Cap numbers for that position in the previous League Year. The 2011 CBA uses a five-year average of those numbers but includes the rising Salary Cap in the equation as well. This tethering ensures tag values will continue to grow as the cap rises, and that players will increasingly be able to use them to their advantage while negotiating long-term deals.


What are team minimum cash spends?

Under the current CBA, Clubs have minimum cash spending requirements. For the years 2013-2016, individual Clubs are required to spend an average of 89% of the Salary Cap over the four-year period. League-wide, all Clubs combined must spend an average of 95% of the Salary Cap over the four-year period.

This creates a cash-spend floor, forcing historically low-spending Clubs to offer overall competitive compensation for players.

Two Clubs, the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, are shy of the 89% requirement as of the end of the 2015 League Year. These teams are at 85% and 87%, respectively.




Tags Press Release Economics Salary Cap

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