Dozens of players with exactly three years of NFL experience were eligible for restricted free agency this offseason, but not all of those players received RFA tenders from their respective clubs. Any player eligible for restricted free agency who was non-tendered became an unrestricted free agent instead, free to sign with any team.
Of those players who did receive RFA tenders, some ultimately signed longer-term contracts with their clubs, and a couple – George Johnson and Sean Richardson – even inked offer sheets with rival suitors. Johnson’s offer sheet with the Buccaneers went unmatched by the Lions, who worked out an agreement to let the defensive end go to Tampa Bay, while the Packers matched Richardson’s offer sheet from the Raiders, bringing the safety back to Green Bay.
2015’s remaining restricted free agents ultimately signed their one-year tenders from their teams, though some players did so faster than others. Browns safety Tashaun Gipson became the last RFA to formally put pen to paper on his tender earlier this month, just days before the team gained the ability to reduce the amount of his one-year offer.
In total, by our count, 30 restricted free agents signed one-year tenders and will play out the 2015 season on those contracts, unless they reach longer-term deals at some point before the end of the year. These 30 players will subsequently be eligible for unrestricted free agency in March of 2016, assuming they’re not franchised or extended before then.
Here’s the complete list of RFAs who are currently set to play the season on one-year contracts and potentially become UFAs in 2016:
Any player who received a first-round tender, worth $3.354MM, would have cost a rival suitor a first-round pick had that team signed him away from his current club. However, no players were assigned this level of tender. Gipson may have been the best candidate — his brief holdout was reportedly due at least in part to his displeasure at receiving a second-round tender instead of a first-round offer.
These offers function in the same way that first-round tenders do, as any team wanting to poach one of these players from his current club would have had to part with a second-round pick to do so. That steep price explains why we didn’t see anyone from this group attracting much outside interest in free agency. Players receiving second-round tenders will earn salaries of $2.356MM for 2015.
- Jerrell Freeman, LB (Colts) (link)
- Tashaun Gipson, S (Browns) (link)
- Damon Harrison, DT (Jets) (link)
- Jermaine Kearse, WR (Seahawks) (link)
- Emmanuel Lamur, LB (Bengals) (link)
- Rodney McLeod, S (Rams) (link)
- Craig Robertson, LB (Browns) (link)
- Derrick Shelby, DE (Dolphins) (link)
- Rod Streater, WR (Raiders) (link)
- Cedric Thornton, DE (Eagles) (link)
- Justin Tucker, K (Ravens) (link)
Most players eligible for restricted free agency were at one point undrafted free agents, since players selected in the draft sign four-year contracts, whereas RFAs only have three years of NFL service time. So while the lowest level of RFA tender, worth $1.542MM for 2015, is often referred to as an “original-round” tender, it usually just gives a team the right of first refusal on an offer sheet.
If a player was at one point a fifth-round pick, for instance, a suitor signing the player to an offer sheet would have to part with a fifth-rounder to land him. For undrafted players though, no draft pick compensation is required. Johnson and Richardson both received ROFR tenders, opening the door for the Bucs and Raiders to put together offer sheets.
- Larry Asante, S (Raiders) (link)
- Johnson Bademosi, S (Browns) (link)
- Don Barclay, OL (Packers) (link)
- Antwon Blake, CB (Steelers) (link)
- Tony Carter, CB (Broncos) (link)
- Austin Davis, QB (Rams) (link)
- Lance Dunbar, RB (Cowboys) (link)
- Kai Forbath, K (Washington) (link)
- Robert Golden, S (Steelers) (link)
- Cory Harkey, TE (Rams) (link)
- Mike Harris, T (Vikings) (link)
- Will Hill, S (Ravens) (link)
- Andre Holmes, WR (Raiders) (link)
- Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (Jets) (link)
- Will Johnson, FB (Steelers) (link)
- Marquette King, P (Raiders) (link)
- Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, DT (Browns) (link)
- Bobby Rainey, RB (Buccaneers) (link)
- Brandian Ross, CB (Raiders) (link)