2014’s free agent period doesn’t officially get underway for another month, but NFL teams have announced new roster additions nearly every day as of late. Players signing contracts now are inking deals that are known as reserve or futures deals. What exactly does that mean? Here’s a quick breakdown:
Reserve/futures contracts essentially function like regular free agent deals, except that only players who didn’t finish the previous season on an NFL team’s active roster can sign them. So a player on a practice squad could ink a futures contract, and many have in recent weeks. After the Super Bowl, for instance, we saw the Broncos and Seahawks lock up each and every player on their respective practice squads, allowing those teams to continue working with those players leading up to the 2014 season.
These deals are known as “futures” contracts because they don’t technically go into effect until the 2014 league year begins on March 11. So signing a player to a futures contract now will not have an impact on a team’s 2013 cap. As for the 2014 books, players on reserve/futures deals are counted toward a club’s cap if they’re among the top 51 highest-paid players on the roster. Often, that’s not the case though, and those players simply count toward a team’s 90-man offseason roster limit.
Players on futures contracts don’t frequently rank among a team’s 51 highest-paid contracts because they’re generally on minimum salaries. There’s no rule that says futures deals can only be worth the minimum or can’t include signing bonuses, but because these players weren’t previously on NFL rosters, they generally don’t have a ton of leverage. As Brian McIntyre notes (via Twitter), only 19 of 374 futures contracts signed since the regular season ended include any sort of guaranteed money, with former CFLer Henoc Muamba receiving the largest guarantee — $107K from the Colts.
We’re only a few more weeks away from 2014’s full free agent class hitting the open market, but in the meantime, we’ll likely see plenty more futures contracts inked. Nick Mensio of Rotoworld.com has been staying on top of these deals throughout the offseason, so to track the players currently on reserve/futures deals, be sure to check out his complete list.
Note: This is a PFR Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to free agency, trades, or other aspects of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Information from Joel Corry, Steeler Addicts, and Bleacher Report was used in the creation of this post.