An Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) is a player who has four or more Accrued Seasons and whose contract has expired. UFA’s are free to sign contracts with any team, and any team can sign such player without penalty or restriction (NFL CBA, Art. 9, Sec. 1 (a), 35). Unrestricted free agency is coveted by players because it’s an opportunity to truly get market value for their services.
Teams can begin to start signing UFAs at the start of the League Year, which started on March 9 this year. If by July 22 or the first day of scheduled NFL training camp (whichever is later) the player has yet to sign a contract with a new team, his former team has a means to retain the player’s rights.
If by June 1 of the League Year the player’s prior team offers a one-year contract with a salary at the greater of 110% of either his Prior Year Salary or his P5 Salary, the UFA can only negotiate and sign with his former team after July 22 deadline.
The player and team have a rather long window for negotiating. The team and player can agree to a contract from July 22 until the 4PM Eastern Time on the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season. If the player has not signed by this time, he can no longer play in the NFL for the remainder of the League Year. If he sits out the season, he can again sign with any team.
A player can be an UFA for any period of time and any number of times (Sec. 1, (b) (i-iii), 35).