RFA overview: An explanation of the process

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

With the free agency period starting on Friday, it's the right time to freshen up on what happens to players not quite ready for prime time: restricted free agents.

By definition, RFAs have three years of NFL experience. They become unrestricted free agents Friday only if their teams decline to offer one-year contracts at prescribed amounts. We will see that happen quite a bit this year as the minimum qualifying offer exceeds $1 million.

The four-tiered pay scale for restricted free agents carries 2009 salaries of $1.01 million, $1.545 million, $2.198 million and $2.792 million. The more teams offer by the Thursday deadline, the more they would receive in return if they decided against matching an offer from another team.

The lowest offer would return a draft choice in the round the player was drafted. If the player was not drafted, the original team would receive nothing in return. Teams have until Thursday to make qualifying offers. I'll make projections for each team as the day continues.