5 things to know about 2024 NFL free agency

What to know about NFL offseason, from franchise players to salary cap
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Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 16:58:57-04

NFL free agency officially began Wednesday at 4 p.m. Here are five things to know about the start of the new league year.

What is significant about the start of free agency?

The start of the new league year means teams can sign free agents.

Teams can sign restricted free agents through April 19.

Unrestricted free agents who have received a tender from their previous team by April 29 can be signed by another team until July 22 or the start of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.

What is the difference between restricted and unrestricted free agents?

Players who have received a qualifying offer and have played three accrued seasons become restricted free agents at the start of the new league year.

Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent can sign with any team without any draft-choice compensation owed to his former team.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins scores TD vs. New York Jets, Dec. 19, 2021
Miami Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins scores a touchdown as New York Jets linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips missed the tackle during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

If a restricted free agent has received a qualifying offer from his former team, he can negotiate with any team through April 19. If the restricted free agent signs with a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him. That's because the old team is entitled to the first right of refusal on any offer sheet the player signs.

Should the old team fail to match the offer, it may receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet isn't executed on or before April 19, the player's negotiating rights revert exclusively to his former team.

What is the difference between a franchise player and a transition player?

A team may designate one franchise or transition player among its potential free agents. There are two types of franchise players — exclusive and non-exclusive.

Exclusive franchise players are not able to sign with another team. An exclusive franchise player is offered the greater of the average of the top five salaries at that player's position for the current league year or the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player.

Non-exclusive franchise players can negotiate with another team. The tender for a non-exclusive franchise player is the average of the five greatest salaries for players at that position during the previous season. Should franchise players sign with another team, the former team is entitled to two first-round draft selections as compensation.

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen fumble return for TD in fourth quarter vs. Tennessee Titans, Jan. 7, 2023
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) returns a fumble for a touchdown as defensive end Arden Key (49) covers in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Teams can instead choose to designate transition players, giving the original teams the first right of refusal to match any offer during the free agency period. The transition tag is a one-year tender offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at that player's position. The original team is not awarded compensation if it chooses not to match an offer.

Franchise players can sign with another team until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the regular season. There were no exclusive franchise players designated in 2024.

Transition players have until July 22 to sign with another team.

Teams can withdraw a franchise or transition designation at any time. If withdrawn after the start of the new league year, those players become unrestricted free agents.

These determinations must be made before the start of the new league year.

What constitutes an accrued season?

The NFL considers an accrued season to be six or more regular-season games on a team's roster. This includes a team's active and inactive roster, injured reserve list or physically unable to perform list.

A player under contract must report to his team's training camp to earn an accrued season. Any player who holds out for a "material period of time" is at risk of not accruing a season.

What is the salary cap for 2024?

The salary cap for the 2024 season is $255.4 million per team.

Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa runs away from Kansas City Chiefs defense in second half of wild-card playoff game, Jan. 13, 2023
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa runs away from the Kansas City Chiefs defense during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.

This means a team cannot exceed that amount by the start of the new league year. It's meant to provide parity within the league from year to year.

A team under the salary cap at the end of the previous league year may carry over room to the next league year if the team has notified the league office by 4 p.m. on the day after the team's final regular-season game. The team must specify the amount of room it wants to carry over.

Teams can carry over 100% of their remaining 2023 cap room to their adjusted salary cap for the 2024 season.