The post-season bowl games for outgoing seniors have started, with the East-West Shrine (practices are currently under way and the game will be played Saturday), and the Senior Bowl (practices Jan. 23-26 and the Jan. 28). This is the first time coaches get to see this year’s college talent up close and in person.

The first step to the post-season talent evaluation process begins as soon as the teams are eliminated from post-season contention. The priority of the evaluation process is as follows: 1. NFL team evaluations by position (final grade 2011 season offense, defense and special teams). 2. Free agent player listing (by position). 3. College player listing (bowl games, combine, draft meetings).

I will write a blog soon on the list of available top free agents that I have ranked based off a player’s DNA (film), production, playing history and injury history. As listed in the 2011 CBA, there are two types of free agents:

Unrestricted (UFA): Any player with four or more accrued seasons shall, at the expiration of his player contract, become an UFA. Players that fall under this classification are free to negotiate and sign a contract with a team, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to draft-choice compensation between NFL teams or first refusal rights of any kind, subject to a signing period.

Restricted (RFA): Any player with three accrued seasons shall, at the expiration of his last player contract, be a RFA. These players can negotiate a contract with a team and any team is free to negotiate and sign a player, but there are rules in place for RFAs regarding the right of first refusal.

While free agency is the first step to procuring players to improve a team’s roster, there are several rules, and they get complicated with signing dates, right of first refusal and much, much more. For the coaches, it is all about evaluating talent, finding players that fit the scheme and philosophy of the head coach.

Upon season’s end, to the NFL draft, the window of opportunity to evaluate by coaches and scouts closes extremely fast, and preparation is the key to success.