The Un-Drafted Free Agent Frenzy

The end of the draft brings one of the most hectic times in the NFL. Check out the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that goes into signing undrafted free agents, plus a theory regarding LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins.

Gerald Christian was this year's Mr. Irrelevant, or the last pick of the NFL draft.

Once this Louisville tight end’s name was called, a frenzy began across the NFL – the fight by each franchise to sign undrafted free agents. This pool of players makes up over one third of the NFL Rosters at 35%.

Here’s a closer look at how the undrafted free agency process works.

• Immediately following the draft and lasting roughly 30 minutes to an hour, there is a period where agents and teams are working the phones. Teams try to secure undrafted free agents to add to their current roster while agents are trying secure roster spots for their clients where they have the best chance of making that team. It’s an agent’s primary job to get his client in a training camp, make a team and get a contract. As one agent told me this morning, “It’s a frenzy for about 30 minutes.”

• Going into the draft, both agents and GMs have a good idea which prospects will go undrafted. The agent will identify a handful of franchises that he believes his client will have the best shot of making. The GM and his personal department will have already identified potential undrafted prospects. Once the draft ends, the craziness begins, as the GMs put their recruiting hat on and hit the agent/players with the hard sell of why they should sign with that NFL franchise. In turn, the agent/player wants the best shot of making a team.

• There’s one hitch: It’s a free-for-all, but with parameters. NFL clubs can’t throw around the big dollars, as there is a collective $80,000 cap a team can spend on the bonus of all their undrafted free agents.

• For instance, Tampa Bay signed Townson defensive end Ryan Delaire. That included a high signing bonus of $15,000. This is all the money Delaire will get unless he makes the team. Why did he sign with the Bucs? That’s a big bonus and Delaire has a wonderful shot of making the team. Tampa Bay is in dire need of edge rushers and they didn’t address that whatsoever in the draft. Now Tampa Bay will have $65,000 left in their undrafted free agent pool. Of course, the Bucs, along with the rest of the league, can’t exceed 90 players on their roster, so teams have to manage the 80K along with the numbers of players they want to sign.

• There are, of course, a handful of players who don’t sign with anyone. These undrafted free agents just hope to either get an invite to a rookie tryout that each team will soon have or go north of the border to play in the CFL. In not, these players face the hard reality that football just may be over for them.

• It varies team by team on the number of undrafted free-agents they bring in. It typically is somewhere in the 12-15 range. Since Saturday evening, the Texans have signed 21 while New England has signed an unusually low number of five.

• Could the Super Bowl champs be targeting former projected first round pick La’el Collins from LSU? He went undrafted in one of the biggest story lines of draft weekend. Collins' former girlfriend was murdered. As soon as the NFL learned he was wanted for questioning by the authorities, his stock dropped like a rock.

• Perhaps the Patriots are trying to leave as much of that $80,000 in their pool as possible in an attempt to lure Collins to New England if and when his name is cleared? Hard to imagine after Aaron Hernandez, but if his name is cleared, then why not?

• Undrafted free agents who make the cut sign two-year deals at the league minimum. This year it's $435,000 per year. In theory, since Collins didn’t sign the big rookie contract after free-falling out of the first round and then the draft all together, he could get to the bigger contract going this route. Collins even turned down a one year, $100,000 offer from a CFL team. This would have allowed him to play one season in Canada and then re-enter the 2016 NFL draft. Think about how much money Collins has spent (with his agent fronting) on a car, flights, training, spending money, etc. during this calendar year. It's believed to be more than $250,000. If cleared, Collins will want the quickest way to a big contract.

Related stories: NFL Rosters Breakdown Series
Part 1 - Daddy, where are NFL players from?
Part 2- Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?
Part 3 - Drafted vs Undrafted Players
Part 4 – Positional Breakdowns of the NFL: Where are they from?
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools


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