As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams prepare for their championship matchup, the Arizona Cardinals are focused on the draft and impending free agency. The new league year and free agency begins on March 13th at 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Before then, Arizona must decide who will receive the franchise or transitional tags, set their draft boards, and decide which free agents will be offered a contract and who will walk away. Arizona is working with three tiers of free agents during the offseason. Today we go over the different tiers and list which Arizona players fall into each.
Unrestricted Free Agents
The most commonly known group is the Unrestricted Free Agent. Players with four or more accrued seasons are eligible for unrestricted free agency. These players are free to sign with any team as of 4:01 PM EST on March 13th. The Cardinals have 13 unrestricted free agents to deal with, if including Mike Iupati, who voided the final year of his contract as part of a restructure last offseason. Every player on the list started a game for the Cardinals.
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Restricted Free Agents
Restricted Free Agents have just three or fewer seasons accrued seasons (min. 6 games in a year) of service. The player has been tendered an offer from his current club with a specific draft round (example: 3rd round tender) and is free to work out a contract offer with any other team. However, if another team offers a contract, the Cardinals have a five-day period to either match the offer or let the player leave. Arizona would then be in line to receive a compensatory draft pick matching the tender designation.
There are three possible outcomes with a restricted free agent. The Cardinals could match any offer on the player and would then retain their services. Arizona could refuse to match and receive the compensatory pick attached to the tender. Finally, the Cardinals and other team could work out a trade deal for the player. This famously happened between the Dolphins and Patriots for Wes Welker.
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Exclusive Rights Free Agents
As the name suggests, exclusive rights free agents are not able to negotiate with other teams. These players have accrued two or fewer seasons. The Cardinals can submit an offer to the player, who can either accept or reject the deal. Typically teams will make an offer on their exclusive rights free agents if there is an intention of keeping them on the roster long-term.
More to Come
As the offseason quickly approaches, it will be interesting to see which, if any players will receive offers from the Cardinals. We’ll be back next week to detail which players from each group should expect an offer from Arizona, and which players are likely to move on. What do you think of the pending free agency?