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What Does It Mean When the Jets Sign a Player to a Reserve/Future Contract?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Since the season ended, you might have seen some news that the Jets have signed players to reserve/future contracts.

What does this mean?

I think the easiest way to conceptualize it is to think about two stages of the NFL calendar. The first stage begins with the new league year in March. It continues through the spring and the summer. It goes into training camp and the preseason. It finally ends on cutdown day. For this stretch, teams are allowed to have 90 players on their roster. (Of course depending on the rules of a given year, there might be preliminary cutdown days through the preseason.)

The second stage lasts from cutdown day through the end of the league year. In this stage players are only allowed to have 53 players on their roster.

Teams like the Jets don’t want to wait until March to begin stocking their roster for training camp. That’s where the reserve/future contract comes into place.

Reserve/future contracts allow teams like the Jets to begin signing players for training camp the next year before the league year begins. These players are essentially signed effective the beginning of the new league year. Until then, the players do not count against the roster limit or the salary cap. This is good since the roster limit is still 53 players.

This is the “future” part of the reserve/future contract. These players are essentially being signed for a future year.

Teams are able to sign anybody who is not part of a team. Practice squads dissolve at the end of each team’s season, making all practice squaders free agents. Frequently you see teams sign their practice squad players to these reserve/future deals, ensuring they will be coming to training camp the next year. Teams can sign any player who doesn’t have a contract. That includes practice squaders off other teams whose season has ended and players who did not have a team at the end of the season.

Expectations should not be high for these players. After all, they were not employed on the roster of any team at the end of the season. These are mostly developmental players and back end of the roster types. Of course, occasionally a reserve/future contract gets you somebody who develops into a player.

So does this mean the Jets can sign Devante Adams to a reserve/future contract as soon as Green Bay’s season ends? In a word, no. Adams might become a free agent after the season, but his current contract technically does not expire until the end of this league year in March. Reserve/future contracts can only be signed by players who do not have a team.

Which players have the Jets signed to reserve/future contracts?