The Bills have four Exclusive Rights Free Agents; Who are they and what does that mean?

Tight end O'Leary and defensive end Eddie Yarbrough highlight the list of four

Sal Capaccio
February 20, 2018 - 8:47 pm

Photo: Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have four players who are “Exclusive Rights Free Agents.” They are:

  • TE Nick O’Leary
  • TE Logan Thomas
  • DE Eddie Yarbrough
  • CB Lafayette Pitts

What, exactly does that mean?

An Exclusive Rights Free Agent (or ERFA) is any player who has less than three accrued seasons in the league, but whose contract is expiring. The team controls the situation with all of these players. If the Bills want to keep any or all of them, it’s easy and cheap and they have no risk of losing him. If they don’t want to, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 14 at 4 p.m..

Here’s how it works: The Bills simply need to submit a contract offer, also known as a “tender,” to that player for the minimum one-year salary for how many accrued years he will have in the league in 2018. The player doesn’t even have to sign that offer. It simply has to be formally submitted to him for the Bills to retain his rights through next season. Then no other team has any available avenues to sign that player to a contract or even an offer sheet. 

If the player signs the offer, he will play 2018 on a one-year contract for that salary. He can, however, choose not to sign the tender and sit out the entire season. But in that case the Bills would retain his rights for the whole year, so that’s extemely unlikley. If the player doesn't sign the tender, the Bills can withdraw the offer at any time, making him an unrestricted free agent.

The Bills and the player can also sign a new contract with different terms (longer, more money, etc.) at any time after the team submits the one-year tender.

All that said, there’s no reason for the Bills not to submit qualifying tenders to any of the players on their Exclusive Rights list, unless they absolutely have no use for him to even compete for a depth spot at training camp. Or, of course, there is an injury concern. They bring 90 players to training camp, aren’t bound to keep the player on the 53-man roster after camp, and if they decide not to sign him to the tender, any player they sign instead is going to cost as much and probably more than one of these four.

Based upon the accrued years for each of these players, here are the amounts the Bills must submit as an offer. (Figures are unofficial as of today. The league will set the official numbers within the next couple of weeks. These are estimates from Spotrac.com based upon previous years and yearly increases):

  • TE Nick O’Leary - $630,000
  • TE Logan Thomas - $555,000
  • DE Eddie Yarbrough - $555,000
  • CB Lafayette Pitts - $630,000


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