A record 142 National Football League players became free agents yesterday, including a number of familiar names, but the employers of 105 of them retained first-refusal rights by making "qualifying offers."
Among the free agents were Ed (Too Tall) Jones of Kallas, John Dutton of Baltimore, Ahmad Rashad of Minnesota and Willie Buchanon of Green Bay.
Also in that category were Redskins Mike Thomas, Ken Houston, Danny Buggs, Ike Forte and Bob Heinz.
Twenty-eight players did not receive qualifying offers and thus became no-strings-attached free agents.
Among those were Ron McDole of the Redskins, Jackie Smith of Dallas, MacArthur Lane of Kansas City, David Lee of Baltimore, Jon Morris of Chicago, Rick Volk of Miami and Ernie (Fats) Holmes of Tampa Bay.
Nine other players whose clubs didn't exercise options on their services for 1979 also will be available to other clubs.
Among them are Bill Seibolt of the Redskins, Larry Csonka of the New York Giants, Jim Turner of Denver, Jerrel Wilson of New England, Rockne Freitas of Tampa Bay and Jim Yarbrough of Detroit.
The 28 who did not receive qualifying offers and the nine whose options were not picked up may be signed by new clubs without compensation having to be paid to thie former teams.
The 105 who received qualifying offers from their current employers may shop around, offering their services to the 27 other clubs.
If a player reports receiving from another club a written offer that he prefers over the qualifying offer, his current employer must match the preferred offer to keep the player.
If a player signs with a new club, the old club must be compensated with draft choices, according to a formula contained in the league's collective-bargaining agreement.
For instance, if a free agent signs with a new club for a salary between $50,000 and $65,000, his former club will receive a thire-round draft choice.
If the salary is for between $65,000 and $75,000, the old club gets a second-round choice; between $75,000 and $125,000, a first-round choice; between $125,000 and $200,000, one first-round and one second-round choice.
A salary above $200,00 calls for two first-round choices.