Although the offseason doesn't officially begin until March (assuming there is a new CBA and no lockout), the Miami Dolphins' 2010 season concluded over a week ago and the team is now looking toward the new year.
To that end, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at all of the Dolphins with expiring contracts this offseason, explaining their different free agent statuses as well as discussing the ones that could potentially be retained.
Keep in mind that this article is assuming a new CBA is worked out and that the old free agency levels will be in place. As things were in 2010 due to the lack of a CBA, players had to wait six years before they hit unrestricted free agency. Under the pre-2010 system (and potentially this offseason) it broke down like this:
- Exclusive-Rights Free Agent—Zero to two years of NFL service. If tendered a contract offer by their old club, ERFAs have no choice but to re-sign and play for that team, or not play football at all.
- Restricted Free Agent—Three years of NFL service. RFAs are tendered contract offers at one of four different salary levels. Each level corresponds to a draft pick compensation amount for the old club if the player signs with a new team. Players can either re-sign with their old club or sign an offer sheet with a new team. The old club has seven days to match the offer from the new club and retain the player.
- Unrestricted Free Agent—Four or more years of NFL service. Players are free to sign with another club once the free agent signing period begins. Old clubs receive no compensation if a player signs elsewhere. Old clubs do have the option to place the franchise tag or transition tag on a player before their contract expires in the offseason.
In this instance, "NFL service" is defined as six games or more in a season in which a player was on a full-play level, i.e. active roster, injured reserve, or the PUP list. Players on the practice squad, non-football injury list, etc. do not count.
Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, here are the Miami Dolphins' free agents for the 2011 offseason...