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NFL free agency facts and figures

With the start of the new NFL year arriving at 3 p.m. (CT) Thursday, here are some frequently-asked questions and answers regarding the free agency process:

Q. When could teams start talking to free agents?

A: Beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday, clubs have been permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2016 player contracts. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 3 p.m. Thursday.

Q. Can teams re-sign their own free agents before the start of the new league year?

A: Yes. Teams can re-sign their players before 3 p.m. Thursday.

Q. What are the categories of free agency?

A: Unrestricted free agents have completed four or more accrued NFL seasons and are free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to their previous team. Restricted free agents have completed three accrued seasons and can sign an offer sheet with another NFL club, but their original team has the right to match it or receive draft pick compensation. Exclusive free agents have completed fewer than three accrued seasons and can only negotiate with their current team. If they do not receive a contract tender by 3 p.m. Thursday, they become unrestricted free agents.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?

A. For restricted free agents, from March 9 to April 21. For unrestricted free agents who have received the May 9 tender from their original club, from March 9 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later).

Q. What constitutes an "accrued season?"

A. Six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Q. When can trades be made?

A: Trades can be completed when the new league year begins at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Q. What is the salary cap for 2016?

A. The salary cap is $167 million per team.

Q. When must teams be in compliance with the salary cap?

A. At the start of the 2017 league year, which begins at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team "carry over" room to the next season?

A. Yes. A team may carry over room from one league year to the following league year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 3 p.m. on the day following the team's final regular-season game, indicating the amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?

A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

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