Being unemployed has its benefits ... if you're Michael Sam ... 'cause the outta-work football player has some new friends in high places ... hanging with the cast of the hit Fox show "Empire."
Sam posted a set pic to Instagram with stars Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett moments ago ... along with a message thanking the two for allowing him to visit and watch the magic happen.
Sam and Smollett have been really chummy lately ... in fact, this is the THIRD picture Michael has posted of the two guys hanging out within the last five days.
We know what you're thinking ... but we made some calls and it doesn't seem there's anything more then a friendship between the two guys ... for now.
"Focusing on football" never looked so fun.