Clarifications about UFA restictions

Several Colts devotees have sent mailbag notes asking about how the restrictions on free agent signing for the eight teams that played on wild card weekend will work.

Too many people are envisioning the uncapped season that awaits us if there is no new CBA -- and it’s highly unlikely the sides agree on one of those -- as the Wild West. Actually there are so many mechanisms attached to no cap that the players may come out worse, not better.

It takes six years, not four, to be unrestricted. Teams get both a franchise and a transition tag. And the final eight teams can’t sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose one.

The Colts are highly unlikely to stray from their typical practice, and a high priced free-agent addition is unlikely.

Here’s an except from a news release the NFL recently sent out that provides a better sense of how things will work.

What is the Final Eight Plan?

During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team.

For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.

In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.