Explaining Free Agency

If you are a sports fan, or a casual observer of sports, or just hear about them from time to time, you have no doubt heard of free agency.  But what, exactly, does that term, free agency, mean? There are basically three classifications of free agency in professional sports.

An unrestricted free agent is a player without a team.  They were either released from a team, or their contract expired, or they were not drafted in the league’s draft of amateur players.  These free agents are free to discuss contracts with any team in the league.

A restricted free agent is one who is currently signed with a team but is free to seek contract offers from other teams.  A restricted free agent may not go to another team without the consent of the current team and compensation to the current team, and the current team, in most professional sports, has the opportunity to match the new offer.

An undrafted free agent is one who is not drafted in the annual draft of amateur players.  They are also considered unrestricted free agents.  This term is most often used in the National Football League.

There wasn’t always free agency in professional sports.  In 1969 Curt Flood, an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, became the first professional player in any sport to battle for free agency, challenging MLBs reserve clause.  His case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court where in 1972, in Flood vs Kuhn, Flood lost his case in a 6-3 decision.  However, by 1976, Major League Baseball agreed that players with six years of experience could apply and be granted free agent status.

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