UDFAs provide bang for the back

It's easy to view undrafted free agents as little more than camp fodder, but 35 percent of last year's group earned a paycheck in Week 1, including seven in Green Bay.

It's easy to dismiss Tyrell Sutton. And not just because he stands 5-foot-8 in a game played by some of the biggest people on the planet.

Sutton is one of the 14 undrafted rookies on the Packers' roster. It's a group that's not hard to overlook. After all, 256 players were selected in the draft, and those 14 players were deemed not good enough to be among them. Most of the undrafteds are nothing more than camp bodies, right?

Yes and no.

According to Scout.com's Ed Thompson, 12 percent of the league's undrafted rookies from a year ago opened the season on NFL teams' rosters, either on the 53-man roster or on injured reserve. In Green Bay, undrafted Kregg Lumpkin made the active roster as the No. 3 halfback out of training camp, and tight end Evan Moore and long snapper J.J. Jansen were placed on injured reserve to start the season. Jansen had the job won until injuring a knee in the preseason finale against Tennessee.

On top of that, 23 percent of the undrafted rookies found their way onto NFL practice squads to start the year. The Packers wound up with four: wide receiver Jake Allen, tight end Joey Haynos, linebacker Danny Lansanah and center Brennen Carvalho. Among that group, Lansanah was promoted to the active roster for the final 10 games and Haynos was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a reserve tight end.

Between active rosters, injured reserve and practice squads, more than one-third of last year's undrafted rookies — 35 percent — earned an NFL paycheck when the regular season kicked off.

Undrafted free agents are an inexpensive way to round out a roster because they get small signing bonuses and minimum-salary contracts — not to mention, generally speaking, a chip on their shoulder and a hunger to beat the odds. And the more players you are paying on the cheap, the more money that's available to sign budget-busters such as Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings.

Last year's group, in information provided to Packer Report, had signing bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, with a group average of $2,679. Tight end Mike Peterson, who didn't make it to the final cut, had the highest bonus.

The Packers take great pride in the fact that an undrafted player or two makes it to the active roster every season. Nonetheless, they aren't big spenders. Last year, the NFL's average signing bonus for an undrafted free agent was more than the Packers gave to Peterson — $6,200 — with the Vikings handing a league-high $23,000 bonus to offensive tackle Drew Radovich. The Vikings have the highest-paid undrafted rookie this year, too, in Wyoming safety Colt Anderson, who received a $20,000 bonus.

This year, the Packers handed out signing bonuses totaling $39,000 to their undrafted free agents, topped by $6,500 to outside linebacker Cyril Obiozor, $6,000 to tight end Carson Butler and $5,000 to defensive end Ronald Talley.

The Packers have several key players who weren't drafted, though all but one wasn't immediately signed by Green Bay. Cullen Jenkins was signed by the Packers after the 2003 draft, but Ruvell Martin (San Diego, 2004), Atari Bigby (Miami and the Jets in 2005), Tory Humphrey (Indianapolis, 2005), Tramon Williams (Houston, 2006) and Brett Goode (Jacksonville, 2007) all got their starts elsewhere.

Several elite NFL players started as undrafted free agents, including Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Steelers running back Willie Parker, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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