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Free Agency Rundown

The NFL's free agency period, which usually kicks off with a flurry of activity over the initial few days, begins at 12:01AM EST on February 29.

That means a late night this evening for general managers, personnel directors, head coaches and contract negotiators who want to get a jump on their competition.

General Manager Scot McCloughan will hold a conference call at noon to discuss the opening of free agency. will have updates on that later in the day.

At this point, the 49ers have already kept a handful of their potential free agents off the market. The team made a tender offer to restricted free agent Billy Bajema, and re-signed QB Shaun Hill and DT Isaac Sopoaga. put this up a few weeks ago, but again, here's some of the different types of free agents, and the current 49ers players who fall into those categories.

EXCLUSIVE: Players with two or fewer years of experience who have no outside negotiating power. Their rights belong to their previous club provided they are made a minimum qualifying offer.

CB B.J. Tucker fell into this category, but was not made an offer.

RESTRICTED: Players become restricted free agents when they complete three accrued seasons and their contract expires. A restricted free agent receives a "qualifying" offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through April 18. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because it has the "right of first refusal." If the old club does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation, depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player's rights revert to his old club after April 18.

TE Billy Bajema has been made a tender offer. Thus, he can negotiate with any club until April 18 and if he chooses to accept an offer sheet from another team, the 49ers will have a chance to match that offer.

Last year, punter Andy Lee fell into this category. The Steelers did make him an offer, the 49ers matched and Lee went on to the Pro Bowl in San Francisco.

UNRESTRICTED: A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no compensation owed to his old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). On July 23, his rights revert to his old club if it made a "tender" offer (110 percent of last year's salary) to him by June 1. His old club then has until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season (Nov. 11) to sign him. If he does not sign by Nov. 11, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

G Larry Allen DE Marques Douglas WR Bryan Gilmore T Kwame Harris RB/KR Maurice Hicks PR/KR Michael Lewis G Justin Smiley CB Donald Strickland QB Chris Weinke DT Bryant Young

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