When the NFL draft officially wraps up, it leads to an entirely different type of hectic stretch in the form of undrafted free agent signings. The structure for teams to sign players who were not selected over the seven-round span leads to phone calls being made immediately after the draft officially ends.
While it’s surely disappointing for players to not be selected in the draft, for many, their chance to play in the NFL doesn’t end there. Teams are able to reach out and talk to any player about a potential undrafted free agent contract while putting various types of deals on the table.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe previously called it “the fastest five minutes in football.” He points out that the top free agents can receive up to 10 or 15 offers from teams and have to make a decision quickly.
We’re going to take a look at the structure for signing undrafted free agents, along with the rules and size of contracts which players can receive.
When NFL Undrafted Free Agents Can Sign
The structure of signing undrafted free agents is a bit wild, considering teams are able to add as many players as they want. With that said, Volin and the Boston Globe points out that teams will all have the same limit on the amount of money they can spend for signing bonuses – in 2018, that number was set at $98,340.
Players can sign immediately after the draft wraps up, which is what makes things even more hectic. Often times, a large number of offers will be put on the table for players by one team, and the expiration on them could potentially come very shortly after. Many undrafted free agents agree to terms with a team quickly after the draft wraps up.
With that said, undrafted free agents can be signed at any point, assuming they are still in search of a new home.
How Much Money Do Undrafted Free Agents Make?
It was pointed out above that teams have a set amount they can give to undrafted free agents as signing bonuses, but offers can be made to players in a number of ways. Specifically, a team can opt to offer a higher guaranteed base salary while making the signing bonus smaller and will essentially have the chance to add more players
Over the years we’ve seen undrafted free agents receive offers with guarantees from $5,000 up to $25,000. As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero revealed in 2017, a few players received over $30,000 while KD Cannon was given $45,000 in guaranteed money by the San Francisco 49ers.
As you can see, the guarantees vary based on each offer, and some can feature larger bonuses and smaller base salaries while others feature much smaller signing bonuses.
Going beyond that, if a player makes the 53-man roster, they’ll receive a contract with the team, but another possible outcome is to land on the practice squad. Each team is allowed to sign up to 10 players to their practice squad.
As Todd Haislop of Sporting News details, the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement has set it up so that the minimum salary for practice squad players increases each season. From 2012 on, the minimum weekly pay for players has increased by $300-$400 each year.
Practice squad players are paid on a weekly basis, and after the pay was set at $7,600 per week in 2018, that number is up to $8,000 this year and $8,400 in 2020.