What is a Free Agent

A Free agent is a term, used in professional sports, for a player whose binding or contract with the current team has expired and that he is free to choose another club or team to get into a fresh contract. The association of “free agent” term is found in various sports like National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball”, National Basketball Association”, National Hockey League and also in professional Soccer League. The concept of “free agent” came as a big boon to the players who were originally restricted by the “reserve clause”.

“Reserve clause” was a clause which was initially used by the contracts signed by the professional sports teams of North America which stated that, on the termination of a player’s contract with a sports team, the rights of the player were still retained by the team and hence the player was not let to sign any new contracts with another sports team. Therefore the player was just left with the option of either renewing the contract with the same team or should oblige to the team to be released and traded further. There came the emergence of “free agency” in 1975 in a baseball league which abolished the “reserve clause” and freed the players in moving around the nation to play for different teams.

Broadly there are three types of free agents namely restricted agents, unrestricted free agents and undrafted free agents.

  • Restricted free agents have different rules for various sports. However in general, a restricted free agent is free to request offers from another sports team to get into a new contract. But before doing so, the current team has an opportunity to match its terms to the new contract thereby retaining the player in the same team. There are some leagues where the new team offers compensation to the current team for losing its player, in case where the current team doesn’t intend to match the terms.
  • An Unrestricted free agent on the other hand is a player without any team wherein he is free to accept offers from any sports team he decides to get into. This is a case where he is already released from his existing club and has not become a part of any draft of eligible players.
  • Finally an undrafted free agent, similar to an unrestricted free agent, is free to get into new contracts with any team, wherein his name has not been drafted in the league’s draft of amateur players.

Free agency though relieved players from getting bound by a single club, resulted in lower profits for the club owners, who had to enter into bidding for players thereby increasing the salary of the players.