The start of the NFL’s 2020 league year is nearly here, and free agency is the most visible and newsworthy part of that deadline coming to pass. Players who have expiring or terminated contracts will go into the free agency process, a process that looks very different depending on the players’ experience level within the league.
With just over a week to go until the start of the new league year, here is a quick primer on the different types of free agency that are specified in the current and proposed collective bargaining agreements (free agency is essentially the same in both). In addition, find a list of the major dates associated with free agency below, plus lists of the Green Bay Packers’ impending free agents and the biggest names scheduled to be available in free agency at the team’s major positions of need.
Free Agency Primer
Unrestricted Free Agents: Players with at least four accrued seasons whose contracts are expiring are free to sign with any team at any time after the new league year begins. The movement of these players will define the allocation of compensatory draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Restricted Free Agents: Players with three accrued seasons whose contracts are expiring and who received a qualifying offer (“RFA tender”) from their prior team may sign an offer sheet with any other team. The tender grants the team the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet, and certain tenders may require a team signing a player to an offer sheet to send draft pick compensation to the original team if it chooses not to match that offer sheet.
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents: Players with two or fewer accrued seasons whose contracts are expiring may receive a qualifying offer (“ERFA tender”) equivalent to a one-year contract at league minimum salary for the upcoming season. If an ERFA receives this offer prior to the start of the league year, he may sign that contract or may negotiate a different deal with his prior team, but he may not negotiate with any other teams.
Street Free Agents: These players had their contracts terminated by their prior teams, and became free agents immediately. They are free to sign with any team at any time after they were released, and they do not count towards or against compensatory draft pick calculations.
Free Agency Schedule
All times Eastern
- March 10th, 4:00 PM: Deadline for teams to use Franchise or Transition tags
- March 16th: Negotiation/”legal tampering” period begins; teams may begin negotiating with agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents
- March 18th, 4:00 PM: New league year begins; players may begin signing free agent contracts; deadline for teams to use Restricted or Exclusive-Rights tenders; all teams must be under the salary cap for 2020
- April 17th: Deadline for tendered Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets with other teams
Packers’ Free Agents-To-Be
Running Backs: Tyler Ervin*, Danny Vitale*, Malcolm Johnson~
Wide Receivers: Geronimo Allison*, Ryan Grant*, Jake Kumerow^, Allen Lazard^
Tight Ends: Marcedes Lewis*, Robert Tonyan^
Offensive Linemen: Bryan Bulaga*, Jason Spriggs*, Jared Veldheer*
Defensive Linemen: Tyler Lancaster^
Outside Linebackers: Kyler Fackrell*
Inside Linebackers: B.J. Goodson*, Blake Martinez*
Safeties: Ibraheim Campbell*, Will Redmond*
Cornerbacks: Tramon Williams*, Chandon Sullivan^
Specialists: Mason Crosby* (re-signed)
The Packers appear to have some significant needs at a handful of positions. Among the most significant are wide receiver, inside linebacker, both lines, and tight end. Here are some of the top free agent options at each position, along with their former team:
Inside Linebackers: Nick Kwiatkoski (Bears) Cory Littleton (Rams), Blake Martinez (Packers), Joe Schobert (Browns)
Defensive Linemen: Michael Brockers (Rams), Marcell Dareus (Jaguars), Damon Harrison (Lions), Gerald McCoy (Panthers), Michael Pierce (Ravens), Ndamukong Suh (Buccaneers), Leonard Williams (Giants)
Offensive Tackle: Kelvin Beachum (Jets), Bryan Bulaga (Packers), Anthony Castonzo (Colts), Jack Conklin (Titans), Demar Dotson (Buccaneers) Jason Peters (Eagles), Andrew Whitworth (Rams)
Wide Receivers: Robby Anderson (Jets), Amari Cooper (if not Franchise-tagged, Cowboys), Taylor Gabriel (Bears), Paul Richardson (Washington), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)
Tight Ends: Hunter Henry (if not Franchise-tagged, Chargers), Austin Hooper (Falcons)