With March in full effect, free agency now creeps upon the land like the first warmth of spring (whenever it's not being crushed to death by winter's last pranks). Although we've yet to hit the wild and lawless open market period, teams must negotiate with their exclusive-rights free agents and sign them before the deadline. On Thursday the Lions went and tendered six players to new contracts; including running back George Winn, wide receiver Corey Fuller and linebacker Brandon Copeland.
The Lions have tendered ERFAs Brandon Copeland, Braxston Cave, Corey Fuller, Isaiah Johnson, Khyri Thornton & George Winn— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) March 3, 2016
The move comes as a low-risk play for the Lions; most of the players tendered contracts are on the roster for depth or special teams play (particularly the case of Copeland and Winn). Khyri Thornton was considered a project when he was drafted by Green Bay, but injury saw him bounce around the waiver wire in 2015. Braxston Cave has been a backup center for the Lions for a couple seasons now and Isaiah Johnson was an undrafted free agent picked up last season.
Exclusive-rights free agents, or ERFAs, must be tendered contracts by their teams before the given deadline. To be a ERFA, a player must three or fewer accrued seasons of experience in the NFL. Failure to tender a contract to a ERFA makes that player an unrestricted free agent, but the team is not awarded compensation for losing the player, unlike with restricted free agents.
Once a contract has been offered, an exclusive-rights free agent must sign the contract offered by his team or sit out the next NFL season; he may not negotiate with any other team. All contracts offered to ERFAs are non-guaranteed.