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By Jack Ryan

NFL free agency gets underway at today  at 4 p.m., which is also the start of the new year for the league.

Teams and representatives for unrestricted free agents were allowed to begin talking about potential deals Monday, a stretch known as the legal tampering period.

The salary cap went up about $11 million, to $188.2 million per team. To calculate a team’s specific cap, add unused cap money the team carried over from last year and then add or subtract any incentives that were or were not earned from last year.

All teams have to be compliant with the salary cap when the league’s new year starts. Teams can have up to 90 players on the offseason roster, but only the top 51 contracts are counted against the salary cap.

A look at each team’s carryover, cap, and cap room for 2019, according to the NFLPA.
TeamCurrent ContractsPrevious Year CarryoverTeam CapCap room
Arizona Cardinals60$6,405,131$156,288,428$37,614,625
Atlanta Falcons54$1,139,791$182,327,335$7,164,182
Baltimore Ravens54$4,504,955$169,811,985$18,637,947
Buffalo Bills55$8,726,270$123,610,234$76,001,583
Carolina Panthers61$2,597,139$176,228,306$16,684,065
Chicago Bears54$3,693,213$177,127,572$17,427,041
Cincinnati Bengals60$7,483,742$145,720,502$50,831,867
Cleveland Browns61$56,581,986$174,043,106$72,644,465
Dallas Cowboys58$11,777,592$173,501,222$27,553,751
Denver Broncos54$8,006,116$160,487,041$34,578,450
Detroit Lions59$6,460,868$162,616,174$31,914,589
Green Bay Packers60$7,885,426$162,680,832$34,467,094
Houston Texans52$18,867,251$137,414,284$74,015,467
Indianapolis Colts61$49,146,053$136,079,627$102,067,086
Jacksonville Jaguars56$11,608,733$197,777,660$3,938,573
Kansas City Chiefs62$715,502$181,040,517$9,107,167
Los Angeles Chargers57$1,016,504$164,984,417$22,658,599
Los Angeles Rams48$466,566$159,294,377$159,294,377
Miami Dolphins58$5,938,494$186,765,577$8,993,917
Minnesota Vikings52$4,172,170$187,019,654$5,240,898
New England Patriots55$3,173,423$173,115,577$23,898,521
New Orleans Saints52$1,804,665$200,850,468$10,300,288
New York Giants54$5,904,991$171,641,905$23,748,527
New York Jets42$12,289,854$100,636,045$101,432,783
Oakland Raiders59$1,924,523$130,421,493$63,184,280
Pittsburgh Steelers64$18,248,920$194,701,729$12,108,662
San Francisco 49ers65$35,031,574$166,859,693$65,036,340
Seattle Seahawks48$2,585,161$157,862,557$32,591,354
Tampa Bay Buccaneers59$4,508,998$191,029,273$3,350,607
Tennessee Titans62$25,676,137$174,636,011$43,473,647
What are the key league dates this year?

March 13, 4 p.m.: The start of the new league year and free agency. Teams also must be under the salary cap and submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents to retain right of first refusal by 4 p.m.

March 24-27: Annual league meeting in Phoenix.

April 1: Teams with new head coaches can start offseason workouts.

April 15: Teams with returning head coaches can start offseason workouts.

April 19: Deadline for RFAs to sign offer sheets.

April 25-27: NFL Draft in Nashville.

May 3-6 or May 11-13: Teams may hold a three-day post-draft rookie minicamp.

May 13: Rookie football development programs begin.

May 16-19: NFLPA Rookie Premiere.

May 20-22: League meeting in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Late June: Rookie Transition Program to be held by individual teams.

July 15: Deadline for teams that used the franchise tag to sign a multiyear deal with the player. Otherwise the player has to play out the year on the franchise tag.

Mid-July: Teams can open training camp for rookies and first-year players seven days prior to the earliest mandatory reporting date for veteran players. Veteran players other than quarterbacks or injured players can’t report to training camp earlier than 15 days prior to the first scheduled exhibition game or July 15, whichever is later.

What are the different classifications of free agents?

Unrestricted: A player becomes a UFA after four years in the league when his contract expires. In each of those four years, he must have spent at least six weeks on a roster (injured reserve counts). He can negotiate and re-sign with his current team at any point until the league’s new year begins — this year it’s March 13 — but cannot do the same with any other teams before that date. However, his agent may begin reaching out to other teams on his behalf two days before the league’s new year.

Restricted: A player becomes an RFA after three years in the league. The majority of RFAs are undrafted free agents, since contracts for draftees must be at least four years. A team has until the new league year begins to offer an RFA a one-year tender, which means that team can match any offer the player receives from another club.

Even if a tender is used, an RFA can negotiate with other teams after the league’s new year begins, but only until April 19, when the RFA period ends. After that date, the player can negotiate only with the team he most recently played for. A team has five days to match another club’s offer.

There are four types of tenders: first-round compensation, second-round compensation, original-round compensation, and right of first refusal.

A first-round compensation tender results in the RFA signing with another club if his old team declined to match the offer. That new club then sends a first-round draft pick to his old team. The same principle applies for the other three types of tenders, though the compensation level changes. A second-round tender sends a second-round pick to the old team; an original-round tender sends a pick equal to the RFA’s draft round; right of refusal results in no compensation.

The pay scale for each of these tenders changes, according to Over The Cap:

  First round: $4.442 million

  Second round: $3.110 million

  Right of first refusal and original round: $2.035 million

If an RFA is not tendered, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

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