It can be easy to lose track of where undrafted players are in the free agency track, especially if they have spent time on the practice squad for more than one season.
DeShawn Shead is one of those confusing guys — so befuddling that some people think he is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), some think he is a restricted free agent (RFA) and others think he is an exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA). The answer, determined after backtracking his roster time: He is an ERFA.
First, a quick review of the definitions:
**A player needs at least six regular-season games on the active/inactive roster, IR or PUP list to accrue a season toward free agency.
**A UFA is a player with at least four years of accrued NFL service.
**An RFA is a free agent with just three years; a team must tender him at one of three levels to keep him or get compensation if he signs an offer sheet elsewhere.
**An ERFA is a free agent with two years or less of service time; a team owns the player’s rights if it tenders a minimum-salary offer.
The confusion with Shead comes from the fact that he has been with the Seahawks since his rookie season in 2012. He spent the final four games of 2012 on the roster — inactive. He then was elevated to the active roster again on Nov. 27, 2013, and was on the roster for just five regular-season games (plus three postseason games).
It was probably a cleverly planned move by John Schneider, who knew Shead could get some NFL experience late in that 2013 season but still be tied to the Seahawks for three more years before he became a restricted free agent.
Shead played in all 16 games in 2014 and 2015, going from special-teams player in 2014 to part-time starter this season. He played under an ERFA tender in 2015 and will do so again in 2016, likely receiving the third-year minimum of $600,000.
In 2017, he will be a restricted free agent and Seattle will have to decide whether he is worth a second-round tender — around $2.5 million.