Free agent

In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is eligible to freely sign with any club or franchise; i.e., not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present but who is allowed to solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent's options are limited by league rules.

Types

Terms

Unrestricted free agent

Unrestricted free agents are players without a team. They have either been released from their club, had the term of their contract expire without a renewal, or were not chosen in a league's draft of amateur players. These people, generally speaking, are free to entertain offers from all other teams and to decide with whom to sign a contract.

Restricted free agent

The specific rules of restricted free agency vary among the major professional sports, but in principle it means that a player is currently signed to one team but is free to solicit contract offers from other teams; however, this player cannot sign with the competing club if the current club matches (or in some leagues, comes within 10% of) the terms of the offered contract. For a restricted free agent, some leagues require the competing team to offer to the original team one or more draft picks, when an offer is not matched, as compensation for losing the player.

Undrafted free agent

Players who are not drafted in a league's annual draft of amateur players are considered to be unrestricted free agents and are free to sign contracts with any team. In most North American professional sports, players are drafted by sequencing each team from worst to best (according to the teams' immediately preceding season record, sometimes invoking a draft lottery factor to avoid having teams intentionally lose their last games to gain higher draft position) and allowing said teams to claim rights to the top players entering the league that year. Players that pass through an entire draft (usually several rounds) without being selected by any of the league's teams become unrestricted free agents, and these players are sometimes identified simply as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) or undrafted sportsperson and are free to sign with any team they choose. The term "undrafted free agent" is most common in the National Football League, where rookies enter directly into the NFL and do not play in a minor league system. It can also occasionally be seen in the National Hockey League, which increasingly uses college hockey as a source; the NHL Entry Draft usually drafts players during high school age (i.e., junior leagues), which allows overlooked players who excel at the college level or in European professional leagues to bypass the draft and sign directly with the NHL.

Legal provisions in Europe

In the European Union, the 1995 Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice established the right of free agency for association football players in all EU member nations. The Bosman ruling has since been extended to cover other professional sports and players from Eastern Europe. Players were still tied to their clubs unless their contract ran out until the Webster ruling allowed players the opportunity to move between nations, though it does not allow free players to move within the national league in which they currently play.

Other Languages
català: Agent lliure
eesti: Vabaagent
español: Agente libre
galego: Axente libre
Bahasa Indonesia: Agen bebas
italiano: Free agent
norsk: Free agent
polski: Wolny agent
Simple English: Free agent
svenska: Free agent
Türkçe: Serbest oyuncu
українська: Вільний агент
中文: 自由球員