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CBA 101: Intro and Definitions

Part one in a series meant to demystify the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFLPA.


First off, let me introduce myself. My name is Max Schultz and I am a lifelong Chargers fan. I live in San Diego with my wife, Emily, and I am currently employed as a Mechanical Engineer at a local Medical Device company.

As a member of the BFTB staff, I am tasked with being knowledgeable of the CBA, the current and future state of the Salary Cap, and making those mundane rules and formulae a bit more transparent to the readers. To that end, I will be posting a series on the CBA, drawing parallels to recent events and the current stage of the season as I tackle one or two sections at a time. With 71 Articles and 15 Appendices, there is a lot of content I will be digesting into "just the facts." Without further ado, I will dive into Article 1, Definitions.

This section is intended to define terms used later in the document, but it provides a great starting point for clarifying some terms you've often heard, but may not fully understand.

Accrued Season

An Accrued Season (AS) is the number of seasons a player has played. This is important because it defines what sort of Free Agent a player is when their contract expires, and what Minimum Salary they can expect to make. A player gets credit for an Accrued Season if: 1) they are under contract with a team and 2) they are on the Active/Inactive roster or Injured Reserve list for 6 or more games. Players on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, the Practice Squad, or the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, do not qualify.

To put this into perspective, we juggled a number of players back and forth from the Practice Squad last season. Players like Jake Byrne and Kenny Wiggins get an AS because they meet the 6 game threshold, while Marcus Cromartie would not with 4 games. Players like Steve Williams who were on IR all season get an AS too.


Any player with at least one AS.

League Year

The one year period during which a season occurs. This starts some day in March, and goes until another day in the next March, as determined by the league and NFLPA. This year it is March 11th.

Minimum Salary/Paragraph 5 Salary

The fifth paragraph of the standard player contract is where compensation is discussed. The so-called Paragraph 5 Salary is referenced all over the CBA, and in many cases is interchangeable with Minimum Salary. The terms are not equivalent though.

Minimum Salaries are laid out in Article 26, and combine the players AS and the League year to determine the benefit.

Exclusive Rights Player

An Exclusive Rights Player, or Exclusive Rights Free Agent as the case may be, is a Veteran with less than 3 AS. The Exclusive Rights part refers to the restriction that the player must sign with whichever team he previously played for, as long as they offer him a contract and it is at least the minimum for his AS. If the player is not offered such a contract by the beginning of the League Year, they can sign with whomever.

For the 2014 League Year, the Chargers don't have any ERFAs, but Richard Goodman was one last year.

Restricted Free Agent

A Restricted Free Agent is a Veteran with 3 (but not greater) AS. An RFA can sign with any team, but is subject to Right of First Refusal (RoFR) and, possibly, Draft Choice Compensation (DCC).

Bront Bird is an RFA this coming League Year.

Right of First Refusal

The right of the prior team to meet the offer given by a new team, keeping the player at the specified contract amount. This and DCC are the key parts of the restriction on RFAs.

Draft Choice Compensation

Depending on the offer tendered by the prior team, they can receive draft picks from the new team if they choose to provide a better offer to the RFA. (This process is an article unto itself that I will write in the future.)

Unrestricted Free Agent

A Veteran with four or more AS, or any other player not subject to RoFR and DCC.

Danario Alexander, Ronnie Brown and a number of others are UFAs at the end of this League Year.

Franchise Player

A team may designate a UFA or RFA with the Franchise tag, in order to maintain rights to the player. A Non-Exclusive Tender allows another team to gain rights to the player for the hefty price of two 1st round draft picks. An Exclusive Tender only allows the player to sign with the prior team, or not at all.

The Chargers last placed a Non-Exclusive Franchise tag on Vincent Jackson in 2011.

Transitional Player

Instead of franchise tagging a UFA or RFA, a team can tag them as a Transitional Player and gain RoFR. Like with a Franchise tag, the contract tender will be rather expensive, though not as much for a Transitional Player. However, it is far less binding than the Franchise Tag.

The Chargers have never placed the Transitional tag on a player since its inception in 1993.

So this wraps up the first post. I intend to move on to NFL Draft and Rookie Contract information in my next post. Please feel free to offer up topics you would like to know more about in the comments and I will try to accommodate.

In addition, I will be maintaining my own Salary Cap Spreadsheet come March with the beginning of the League Year. Link to follow. My intention is to keep the spreadsheet more up to date than the many websites that offer similar information.