NFL Glossary

Salary Cap NFL Glossary

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Accrued Season – A player earns an Accrued Season if he is on the team’s 53-man roster, Injured Reserve (IR), or Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) for 6 or more games in any one season.

Compensatory Draft PicksCompensatory Draft Picks are awarded to teams who have suffered a net loss of Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs).  On occasion, a team that has lost and gain the same amount of UFAs will receive a 7th round Comp Pick, but only if the quality of UFAs lost greatly outweighs the quality of UFAs signed.

Only Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) – i.e. players whose contracts have expired – are considered for Comp Pick purposes.   Players released by their prior teams – often referred to as Street Free Agents – do not count when determining Comp Picks.

Comp Picks are awarded at the ends of rounds 3 through 7.  The formula for determining the value of those picks is somewhat of a mystery as it’s never been published, but it appears that the main criteria is the average yearly salary of the contract the UFA signed with his new team.  That sets the round in which the Comp Pick is initially awarded.  From there, the pick can go up or down a round based on performance, measured by post season awards or lack of playing time (including games missed due to injury).

The total number of Comp Picks – 32 – is set out in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which essentially adds an 8th round to the draft via Comp Picks.  If there are less than 32 Comp Picks awarded under the formula, then additional draft picks are awarded at the end of the 7th round based on the draft order until 32 Comp Picks are awarded.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA) – A player not under contract, but who has less than 3 years of accrued service time.  The team must tender the player with an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA) tender offer (usually the applicable minimum salary based on service time) in order to retain its rights over the player.  Other teams have no ability to try and sign the player once tendered.

Franchise Player (FP) – A team may designate one UFA as its Franchise Player.  The tender for the Franchise Player is the average of Salary Cap numbers of the top 5 players at his position.  If the player signs an offer sheet with another team, the original team has the right to match the contract.  If they choose not to do so, then they receive compensation of two 1st round picks from the team that signed the franchised player.

Once franchised, the team has until July 15th to sign its franchised player to a long term deal.  If they fail to do so, the player can only sign the one-year Franchise tender and cannot be signed to a contract extension until after the season has been completed.

Game Day Active Roster – A team must designate its 46 –man game day active roster and, by extension, it’s 7 inactive players.  The 7 inactive players do not dress for, and cannot play in, the game.

Injured Reserve (IR) – Once a player is placed on Injured Reserve (IR), the player is done for the season and can not practice with the team until after the completion of the season.  A player on Injured Reserve (IR) does not count against any roster limit, but does count against the team’s Salary Cap.

A player can be released from Injured Reserve (IR) once he has passed his physical and has been deemed to be recovered from his injury or if the player and team agree to an Injury Settlement.  The player is then free to sign elsewhere and can participate in games for the new team.

In May of 2012, the NFL owners passed a new IR rule that allows a team to designated 1 player for an in-season IR spot that would allow the player to return later in the season.  At this time, the exact details of the new rule will need to be worked out with the NFLPA before the rule comes into effect.  As presently proposed by the NFL, the player would have to be on the team’s 53-man roster for the 1st game of the season and could then be placed on IR.  After that the player would have to sit out for 6 weeks, during which he could not practice.  After 6 weeks, the player could practice for 2 weeks and then be activated to the 53-man roster.

Injury Settlement – In the NFL, an injured player cannot be released.  Often a team and player will reach an Injury Settlement in lieu of putting, or keeping, the player on IR for the rest of the season.  Once an Injury Settlement is reached, the player is released.  This is done when the player has a chance to recover from injury and play again in that season.  However, if the player is still under contract for future seasons and the team wants to retain the player’s rights for the future, the team will not agree to an Injury Settlement and instead decide to continue to carry the player on Injured Reserve (IR).

An Injury Settlement is usually based on the amount of time that the team and player agree the player will be unable to play.  So, for example, if the player is only expected to miss the first month of the season, the team and player will usually agree to a settlement of 4/17ths of the player’s scheduled base salary.   The team then receives a Salary Cap credit of 13/17th of that salary.  An Injury Settlement is attractive to both the team and player because it allows the team to create additional Salary Cap space and allows the player an opportunity to catch on with another team and not have to sit out the entire season on IR.

Injury Waivers – In the NFL, an injured player cannot be released.  So, teams have the option of putting that player on Injured Reserve (IR) or putting the player on Injury Waivers (officially described as “Waived-Injured”).  The player is designated as such so that other teams will be aware that they are possibly placing a Waiver claim on an injured player.

If the player clears Injury Waivers, then the team has the option of either placing the player on Injured Reserve (IR) or working out an Injury Settlement with the player, thereby allowing the team to release the player.

League Year – The League Year runs from early March to early March the following year.  The League Year begins at 4:00 p.m. EST on the 6th Tuesday after the Super Bowl is played.  Teams must be under that year’s Salary Cap for the entire period of the League Year.  Player contracts do not expire until the last day of the League Year, even though the season has already been completed.

Non-Football Injury List (NFI) – This list is available for players who are injury or have an illness that is not related to football activities.  The NFL and NFLPA have agreed that any injury – even workout or conditioning injuries – that occur away from the team’s facilities are considered “Non-football”.  If a player is placed in NFI, he will not be paid while he remains on NFI.  NFI works similarly to PUP, in that the player must sit out the first 6 weeks of the season and cannot practice with the time during that time.  After week 6, the player can practice with the team for 3 weeks and must be activated to the 53-man roster by week 9.  If the player isn’t ready to return by week 9, he can remain on NFI or be placed on IR.  If he remains on NFI, he continues to be unpaid.  If he is placed on IR, he will be paid for the remainder of the season.

Non-Vested Veteran – A Non-Vested Veteran is a player with less than four (4) years of accrued service time.

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) – At the beginning of Training Camp, teams can place players on either of the two (2) PUP lists.  A player may not be added to either PUP list once Training Camp has commenced.

There are two (2) PUP lists – “active” and “reserve”.  The “active” PUP list is for players who may, or will, be activated during Training Camp.  A player on “reserve” PUP cannot be activated during Training Camp and must sit out at least the first six (6) games of the season.

A player on “active” PUP does count toward the applicable preseason roster limit (90 or below, depending on the limit at that time).  A player on “reserve” PUP does not count toward the 53-man roster limit during the season.

A player on either PUP list is prohibited from practicing with the team.  During Training Camp, a player can be removed from “active” PUP at any time.  If a player remains on PUP once the season starts, he must be moved to the “reserve” PUP list, but he does not count toward the 53-man roster.  He cannot practice with the team for the first 6 weeks and cannot be removed from PUP until after week 6 (other than to go on Injured Reserve (IR)).  Once week 6 has passed, the player can practice with the team for up to 3 weeks and then must either be added to the 53-man roster or put on IR for the rest of the year, thereby ending his season.

Practice Squad (PS) – The Practice Squad (PS) consists of eight (8) players who have cleared waivers and are free to sign a Practice Squad (PS) contract.  Once on the Practice Squad (PS), a player can be signed by the team to its 53-man roster at any time.  The player can also be signed by another team, but must be signed to that team’s 53-man roster.  If that player is then released by his new team, he must again clear waiver to be added to that team’s Practice Squad (PS) (or is free to be signed to another team’s Practice Squad (PS)).

A player cannot be signed from one team’s Practice Squad (PS) directly to another team’s Practice Squad (PS).

A player is eligible for the Practice Squad (PS) if he (1) has no prior Accrued Seasons in the NFL or (2) has one prior Accrued Season in which he was on the team’s active roster for less than 9 games and (3) has not been on that team’s Practice Squad (PS) for more than 2 prior seasons.

Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – A player, whose contract has expired and who has 3 years of accrued service time, but less than 4 years of accrued service time, is considered to be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA).  The team must tender the player with a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) tender in order to secure its rights to the player.  Another team can sign a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) to a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) offer sheet.  If so, the original team has 7 days to match that offer sheet and retain the player under the terms of that offer sheet.  If the team chooses not to match, they may receive compensation based on the level of the Restricted Free Agent (RFA) tender offered to the player.

There are 3 Restricted Free Agent (RFA) tenders:

1st Tender:  allows the team to receive the other team’s 1st round pick in lieu of matching.

2nd Round Tender:  allows the team to receive the other team’s 2nd round pick in lieu of matching.

Low Tender:  allows the team to receive a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted.  If the player was undrafted, there is no draft pick compensation, but the original team does have the right to match the offer sheet.

Reserve/Future Contract – Upon the completion of a team’s season, the team may sign any player who is then a Free Agent to a contract for the following season.  This contract is called a Reserve/Future Contract since the new league year has yet to beginning.  Since Practice Squad contracts end immediately after the completion of the team’s season, Future contracts are often used to re-sign players who have ended the season on the team’s Practice Squad.

Reserve/Retired List – If a player retires prior to the expiration of his contract, the team can place him on the Reserve/Retired List and retain its rights to the player under the player’s contract.  The contract is tolled, so if, for example, a player retires with 2 years remaining on his contract, and is placed on the Reserve/Retired List, then, if he chooses to “unretire”, the player’s rights are still held by the team to the extent of the remaining 2 years of the contract.

Rule of 51 – From the beginning of the League Year until the first game of the season, only the team’s top 51 “salaries” (to include base salaries, roster bonuses and likely to be earned incentives) and all bonus prorations count toward the team’s Salary Cap.  Once the season starts, all players on the 53-man roster, PUP, IR and the Practice Squad count toward the Salary Cap.

“Street” Free Agent – A player who has either been released by his prior team or who did not play in the prior league year is considered to be a Street Free Agent.  This designation has implications for the awarding of Compensatory Draft Picks (see above).

Transitional Player (TP) – A team may designate one UFA as its Transitional Player (but may not do so if a Franchise Player has already been named).  The tender for the Transitional Player is the average salary of the top 10 Salary Cap numbers of the players at his position.  If the player signs and offer sheet with another team, the original team has the right to match the contract.  If they choose not to match, they receive no compensation.

Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) – A player whose contract has expired and who has more than 4 or more years of accrued service time.  As a Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), the player is free to sign with any team and his prior team receives no compensation – unless he has been designated as a Franchise Player or a Transitional Player.

The contract of a Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) does not expire until the end of the League Year and is only allowed to negotiate with his present team from the end of the season until the beginning of the next League Year.

Vested Veteran – A Vested Veteran is a player with four (4) or more years of accrued service time.

Waivers – If a Non-Vested Veteran (i.e. less than four (4) years of accrued service time) is released he is subject to a 24-hour waiver period during which teams can place a claim to that player.  If multiple teams place claims, the player is awarded to the team with the highest waiver priority based on team records, worst to first.  During the offseason, waiver order is the same as the draft order.  Waiver order then resets after week 4 of the season and begins to be based on the present records of the teams.

From the trade deadline (now after week 8 of the regular season) through the end of the season, a Vested Veteran (i.e. a player with four (4) or more years of accrued service time) is also subject to Waivers.

A team claiming a player on waivers acquires the player’s remaining contract as well.

A Vested Veteran claimed on Waivers after the trade deadline, and who is under a long term contract, has the option of opting out of that contract after the season is completed, allowing him to become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA).


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Brian McFarland

About Brian McFarland

Known on Ravens Message Boards as "B-more Ravor", Brian is a life-long Baltimorean and an avid fan of the Ravens and all Baltimore sports.  A PSL holder since 1998, Brian has garnered a reputation as a cap-guru because of his strange (actually warped) desire to wade through the intricacies of the NFL's salary cap and actually make sense of it for those of us who view it as inviting as IRS Tax Code.      Brian, who hails from Catonsville, MD and still resides there, is married and has two children. More from Brian McFarland


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