After the NFL draft ends, one of the lesser-known parts of the process is the battle to sign undrafted free agents. For most teams, coaches and front office members begin making calls to players in the seventh round, making it known they have an interest in signing them as a free agent if they do not get selected.
Free-agent calls begin in full force right after the draft ends as deals start to get announced a few hours after the seventh round. When can undrafted free agents sign their contracts? Players are free to begin negotiating deals with teams as soon as the draft ends. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that the NFL has two days to notify the NFLPA after they receive the notice of signing from teams. Deals are typically solidified in the hours following the draft.
Initial salaries for undrafted free agents can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000. All NFL teams have a total budget set by the league that they cannot exceed.
Multiple Teams Often End Up in a Bidding War Over an Undrafted Player
There can even be bidding wars between teams over highly coveted players who were not drafted. Players can negotiate for a high amount of their salary to be guaranteed along with a larger signing bonus. Boston Globe’s Ben Volin reported that tight end Andrew Beck was the highest-paid undrafted Patriots player in 2019 with a $115,000 salary, a higher number than the majority of UDFAs. Cornerback D’Angelo Ross was the lowest-paid Patriots undrafted free agent with a $17,500 salary.
An undrafted player essentially receives an invite to compete in training camp with no guarantees of making the final roster. This is the same even for players selected in the draft who can also be released during the preseason.
Undrafted free agents who make the final roster stand to make even more money. Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss was a great example of this in 2019 as he landed a $495,000 base salary along with a $300,000 signing bonus, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair. Doss was also allowed to keep the initial $22,500 salary he received as an undrafted free agent.
NFL Teams’ Negotiations With Undrafted Free Agents Is Expected to Be the Most Complicated Part of the Virtual Draft
Heading into the NFL draft, there was concern about the technical aspect of how things would work virtually. The draft came and went without any real problems in the unique virtual draft. One thing expected to be much more complicated is team’s negotiations with undrafted free agents.
This is usually a job split up among multiple people inside each team’s war room. With everyone working remotely at different places, communication will be key to make sure what players each team is reaching out to during the process. Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy spent 18 years as an NFL scout, and expects this year’s process to be extremely complicated given the logistics.
“One thing we haven’t seen addressed on here are the challenges of conducting undrafted free agency “virtually”. Every team’s process is slightly different but here is a general example of what happens behind-the-scenes of the chaotic hour immediately following the draft…The draft room is the control center. GM, head coach, salary cap manager, and director level guys are located here. Scouts are dispatched to various assistant coaches offices to make recruiting calls and then report back to the draft room once they get a player committed,” Nagy explained on Twitter.