Photo: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bills retain all four of their Exclusive Rights Free Agents

A list and breakdown of what that means

Sal Capaccio
March 13, 2018 - 1:48 pm

The Buffalo Bills have retained all four of their Exclusive Rights Free Agents.

According to ESPN, the team has made the required qualifying offers to retain tight ends Nick O’Leary and Logan Thomas, defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, and cornerback Lafayette Pitts.

What, exactly does this 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. They had no risk of losing any of them unless they chose to and allowed the player to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Here’s how it works: The Bills simply needed 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. According to the report, that's exactly what they’ve done for all four players. 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 extremely unlikely. If the player doesn't sign the tender, the Bills can withdraw the offer at any time, making him an unrestricted free agent.

The salary cap implications are minimal for any of these players since their salaries will all be so low and only the top-51 salaries for each team counts towards the cap during the offseason.

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 was no reason for the Bills not to submit qualifying tenders to any of the players on their Exclusive Rights list, unless they absolutely had 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 decided 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 were required to submit as an offer. (Figures are unofficial estimates):

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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