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Seahawks free agency primer: Explaining unrestricted free agency, restricted free agency, and exclusive rights free agency

Talking Seahawks' ERFAs, RFAs, and UFAs

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

ERFA, RFA, UFA, BFA, SDA. Okay, I made the last two acronyms up. As we approach the madness that is the NFL's free agency, you're going to start to see many national commentators and reporters use weird terms and acronyms that, frankly, most people don't understand. I'm going to break down and define these acronyms and terms in order for you to better understand the football world's offseason.

Let's start with the basics.

ERFA stands for Exclusive Rights Free Agent, RFA stands for Restricted Free agent, and UFA stands for Unrestricted Free Agent.  Now...what do these terms mean and how do we know which players are which type of agent?

In order to determine the correct classification of free agent, you have to identify how many seasons a player has accrued.

An ERFA has 2 or fewer accrued seasons.
An RFA has 3 accrued seasons.
A UFA has 4 or more accrued seasons.

In order to accrue a season, a player must be on full regular season pay for at least six regular season games (playoffs do not count). It's important to note that players cannot accrue a season if they're on the practice squad or the exempt Commissioner Permission list.

Once they become a UFA, a player has the option to sign with any team that he wants. His former employer has zero contractual control over him. He is a free man. On the other hand, RFAs are offered "tenders" by their team. There are several types of tenders, and our friends at Over the Cap did a phenomenal job of explaining them:

"The team can place one of three tenders on the player. The highest tender is the 1st round compensation tender, meaning if another team signs the player and the original team decides to not match it the new team will have to give the team a 1st round draft pick in 2014. If the team does not own their first round pick (such as the Bills) they are unable to sign the restricted free agent. The other tenders are a 2nd round tender, original draft round, and finally right of first refusal tender. The ROFR means you get no compensation if you decide to not match the offer sheet. Teams have five days to match the new offer sheet. During that time period the player will count on both teams' salary cap."

The RFA tenders offered by employers are non-guaranteed. Furthermore, ERFAs are even more restricted by their employers. ERFAs have zero ability to negotiate with other teams and are handed tenders by their team with varying compensation levels (compensation depending on amount of credited seasons).

More than anything, these free agent classifications are designed to prevent rookie holdouts.

For the 2016 offseason, the Seahawks have 8 ERFAs:

DeShawn Shead
Jesse Williams
Eric Pinkins
Cooper Helfet
Mohammed Seisay
Marcus Burley
A.J. Francis
Steven Terrell.

The Seahawks have 6 RFAs:

Ricardo Lockette
Nick Moody
Christine Michael
Patrick Lewis
Alvin Bailey
Derrick Coleman.

The Seahawks have 16UFAs:

Jeremy Lane
Anthony McCoy
Demarcus Dobbs
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Will Tukuafu
Chase Coffman
J.R. Sweezy
Michael Morgan
Tavaris Jackson
Fred Jackson
Bryce Brown
Jon Ryan
Brandon Mebane
Jermaine Kearse
Ahtyba Rubin
Russell Okung

(All per OTC)'s time to let John $$$$ Schneider do his magic.