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2006 unrestricted free-agency period ends

(July 27, 2006) -- One hundred and four veteran free agents re-signed with their old teams this year during the free-agency signing period, while 154 signed with new teams, the National Football League announced. The four-month UFA signing period, under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and players, ended July 24.

The Miami Dolphins signed the most unrestricted free agents from other teams (11), while the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions signed 10 each, followed by the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Washington Redskins with eight each.

There were a total of 353 unrestricted free agents this year. The total player pool was approximately 1,700.

Four of this year's 79 restricted free agents signed with a new team -- Minnesota wide receiver Nate Burleson with Seattle, Carolina cornerback Ricky Manning with Chicago, Dallas tackle Torrin Tucker with Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati wide receiver Kevin Walter with Houston. Seventy-four restricted free agents returned to their former clubs. The period for restricted free agents to accept offers from other teams ended April 21.

In addition, one transition player signed with a new team -- Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson with Minnesota.

The 154 total free agents who switched teams represent only nine percent of all NFL players. Of 470 players who were free agents in the various categories of the system, 337 signed new contracts with either new teams or their old clubs. Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, players without 2006 contracts who had four or more seasons of free agency experience qualified to be "unrestricted free agents" and were free to sign with any club between March 11 and July 24.

If a player's prior club made a 110 percent tender on or before June 1, the prior club retained exclusive negotiating rights after July 24 if the player did not sign with another club. If the player and club are unable to negotiate a contract by the 10th week of the regular season (Nov. 14), the player may not play the remainder of the season. If the player sits out the season, he becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.

Under the CBA, restricted free agents are those players who have three seasons of free agency experience and are subject to compensation and/or right of first refusal.

A "transition" player is a designated restricted or unrestricted free agent whose team must tender a one-year contract at the average of the 10 highest-paid players of 2005 at the transition player's position, or a 20 percent increase, whichever is greater. A "franchise" player is a designated restricted or unrestricted free agent whose team must tender a one-year contract at the average of the five highest-paid players at the franchise player's position in 2005, or a 20 percent increase, whichever is greater.

NFL free-agency movement
A comparison of free agent movement since the current CBA went into effect 14 years ago: (Veteran Free Agents Who Signed With New Teams)

Category 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Unrestricted 108 121 171 99 85 110 115
Restricted 8 7 6 4 2 4 2
Transition 4 4 2 2 2 1 1
Franchise 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Totals 121 132 179 105 89 117 118

Category 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Unrestricted 107 93 130 111 124 104 149
Restricted 4 4 1 5 1 3 4
Transition 0 0 0 1 1 0 1
Franchise 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 111 97 131 117 126 107 154

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