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Undrafted players get screwed in the new deal

Kurt Warner of St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Undrafted players sign contracts for the minimum annual salaries.  The only thing that distinguishes one team’s offer from another team’s offer is the signing bonus.

The decision to cap each team’s signing bonuses for undrafted free agents to $75,000 hurts these players who have been waiting patiently for work in a way far more significant than the dollars and cents of the signing bonus.  As a league source explained it to me earlier today (and as I ranted a bit on PFT Live), it will now be harder for agents to know which teams are serious about the chances of an undrafted player to make the team.

Every team says it.  But then when the team offers a signing bonus of only $2,500, the agent knows that it’s just talk.  When $20,000 is offered, the agent knows that the team has real interest.

Per the source, one team was ready to offer $20,000 to six different undrafted players.  Another team budgeted $150,000 for undrafted rookie signing bonuses.

None of that will happen now, and it will be even harder for undrafted players to know which teams truly have high regard for them, especially in a year that will include 90 players going to training camp.  As a result, it’ll be even harder for the next Kurt Warner to separate from the scout team and become a Super Bowl hero.

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75 Responses to “Undrafted players get screwed in the new deal”
  1. phinheads says: Jul 25, 2011 3:50 PM

    I’m willing to bet that NOBODY cars one bit about this item. Undrafted players? Pu-lease!

  2. goawayeverybody says: Jul 25, 2011 3:50 PM

    “None of that will happen now, and it will be even harder for undrafted players to know which teams truly have high regard for them, especially in a year that will include 90 players going to training camp.”

    Given the fact that the league year is starting soon and the first regular season game is just a few weeks away, I think they’ll figure it out pretty soon.

  3. zaggs says: Jul 25, 2011 3:51 PM

    and somehow I dont think the owners put this clause in there.

  4. 8drinkminimum says: Jul 25, 2011 3:51 PM

    Given the circumstances it would be good for all clubs to add more bodies to the practice squad.

    I’m sure a few of these guys would have made rosters in a normal year.

  5. xstaticonradio says: Jul 25, 2011 3:52 PM

    The salary parity in the NFL is borderline criminal.

  6. berniemadoffsides says: Jul 25, 2011 3:53 PM

    Wow, that really makes being drafted so much more significant to those late 6th and 7th round picks now, too.

    If there’s one position it really hurts, it’s running back.

  7. dewalt2990 says: Jul 25, 2011 3:53 PM

    If 20,000 means a team is very interested, whats wrong with a 75,000 cap.

  8. broncobeta says: Jul 25, 2011 3:53 PM

    Mark Herzlich just can’t catch a break…

  9. dcsween says: Jul 25, 2011 3:54 PM

    Still, once they do make a roster, their salaries go from $50K to many times that.

  10. maximus50 says: Jul 25, 2011 3:55 PM

    Cry me a river…please tell me you are not trying to invoke sympathy for an undrafted 21 year-old that will only earn $375,000 this year.

  11. tonyinjax says: Jul 25, 2011 3:55 PM

    So Mr. Irrelevant just became Mr. Financially Relevant compared to the undrafted guys.

  12. bengalsown says: Jul 25, 2011 3:57 PM

    They should’ve tried harder, may they would’ve been drafted.

  13. nineroutsider says: Jul 25, 2011 3:57 PM

    Doesn’t seem like a big deal to me; if the guy can play, he will be found and will get paid (league minimum is better than most jobs in this country anyway)…eventually.

  14. semperfi24 says: Jul 25, 2011 3:58 PM

    You’re welcome!

    -De Smith

  15. buffalofaithful says: Jul 25, 2011 3:58 PM

    this is good for teams like my Bills, UDFA’s will pick teams based on the thinking that they could actually make the roster over how much $.

    every little bit helps..

  16. bdawk20 says: Jul 25, 2011 3:58 PM

    I think that this should read that $75,000 is the cumulative signing bonus pool per team for all of their undrafted free agents in a given year.

    While it does not say this directly, reading this first time through it sounds like it is $75,000 per player.

  17. tehowdruid says: Jul 25, 2011 3:59 PM

    They should of played better in college

  18. NoHomeTeam says: Jul 25, 2011 4:01 PM

    dewalt2990 says: “If 20,000 means a team is very interested, whats wrong with a 75,000 cap.”

    I’m pretty sure that means a total cap of $75 per team

  19. vdogg says: Jul 25, 2011 4:01 PM

    Let’s not forget the fact they were undrafted for a reason…for every Kurt Warner how many undrafted guys make a roster and maintain in the league? I’m purely guessing but the percentages can’t be that great. There are more drafted success stories than undrafted…

  20. museluver says: Jul 25, 2011 4:01 PM

    If they work hard and make the grade in camp, surely a new contract is up for grabs? You say screwed, I say “more incentive when you get to the league”.

  21. sonvar says: Jul 25, 2011 4:03 PM

    Is the $75,000 signing bonus cap for all undrafted free agents or just for an individual. If it’s per individual than it makes no sense to gripe about it. If it’s for all of the undrafted free agents each team signs then I can understand the gripe some. No matter the outcome of the CBA this year undrafted FAs were screwed.

  22. homelanddefense says: Jul 25, 2011 4:03 PM

    I guess the agent and player will have to seriously look at the teams roster and make their own decision about how likely they are to make the team…as opposed to figuring that out using the signing bonus.

  23. lionfan419 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:04 PM

    Hope teh Lions sign Mark Herzlich. would be a great fit and good for locker room.

  24. capslockkey says: Jul 25, 2011 4:04 PM

    Not sure Warner’s picture is the best example. The guy never even made a roster after being undrafted. Took him a few years of playing in the Arena league and NFL Europe before he actually hooked on anywhere.

  25. robf2010 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:06 PM

    They’ll go to teams that have a history of giving rookie free agents a real chance. Agents know who those teams are.

  26. dcbassguy says: Jul 25, 2011 4:06 PM

    This is an interesting twist on the NFL draft……

    Now all the kids that were glad to not get drafted so they could pick the landing spot, are kicking themselves for not standing out just a little bit more over the other guys.

  27. steelbydesign says: Jul 25, 2011 4:07 PM

    I understand your point, but don’t you think that common that a little bit of research and common sense could do just as well to figure out if you have a real chance at making a team?

    For example, if I’m an UDFA QB and I get an offer from Cincinnati who has Andy Dalton and Jordan Palmer on their roster… and also get an offer from Pittsburgh who has Big Ben, Byron Lefwich, Dennis Dixon, and Charlie Batch… common sense says I’ve got a better shot at making the Bengals roster.

    As far as whether the team has faith in the guy to make the team… does it matter? Shouldn’t every one of these guys go in assuming nothing, and have the attitude that they need to really shine to get noticed?

  28. realitypolice says: Jul 25, 2011 4:08 PM

    phinheads says:
    Jul 25, 2011 3:50 PM
    I’m willing to bet that NOBODY cars one bit about this item. Undrafted players? Pu-lease!
    ====================

    There were 23 undrafted players in the Pro Bowl last year.

    dewalt2990 says:
    Jul 25, 2011 3:53 PM
    If 20,000 means a team is very interested, whats wrong with a 75,000 cap.
    =====================

    That 75k has to be split between 20+ UDFA’s per team.

    Math not your strong suit?

  29. kwsbrother says: Jul 25, 2011 4:09 PM

    I tend to think that if you make the team and get the minimum salary and a few thousand in a signing bonus that it sure as h*ll beats saying, “Would you like fries with that?” A large percentage of these men would not find jobs outside of football that pays as well. Let’s keep it in perspective. If you turn out to be that diamond in the rough, you will likely get a bigger piece of the pie in a future contract.

  30. flair1239 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM

    Actually, it will be much easier for agents to distinguish which teams are serious.

    If a team comes out with a $15,000 bonus (20%) of their available cap, then the agent will know that a team is serious about the player.

    Also there is nothing that says these players need to sign for the league minimum. Perhaps in lieu of a higher bonus, a team would put the difference into the salary portion of the contract.

  31. truvikingfan says: Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM

    I guess that means they will ctually have to play and EARN there spot. Funny…thought that wqas what they were supposed to do.

  32. realitypolice says: Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM

    bdawk20 says:
    Jul 25, 2011 3:58 PM
    I think that this should read that $75,000 is the cumulative signing bonus pool per team for all of their undrafted free agents in a given year.

    While it does not say this directly, reading this first time through it sounds like it is $75,000 per player.
    ========================

    Not true. You just didn’t read it closely enough.

    The second to last paragraph said that one team was going to offer 6 players 20k each and then the last paragraph said that “won’t happen now”.

    Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.

  33. dbellina says: Jul 25, 2011 4:11 PM

    Priest Holmes and John Randall wouldn’t like this.

  34. conseannery says: Jul 25, 2011 4:12 PM

    phinheads says:
    Jul 25, 2011 3:50 PM
    I’m willing to bet that NOBODY cars one bit about this item. Undrafted players? Pu-lease!

    Phinheads, I assume you’re a Dolphins fan. If so, you do realize that Davone Bess, clearly Miami’s most productive receiver the past two years, went undrafted out of Hawaii, don’t you?

    Undrafted players are critical to any team’s success, particularly those that outperform their comparatively meager contracts.

  35. kevliggidy says: Jul 25, 2011 4:14 PM

    One way around this for agents/players is to negotiate a higher base salary. Say for the first year $20K (or whatever amount) over the minimum should differentiate one team from another’s interest level.

  36. freedomispopular says: Jul 25, 2011 4:15 PM

    If these guys are that desperate for work, then they can go get a regular job like the rest of us.

  37. tomservo24 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:18 PM

    It may be bad for the undrafted players, but I don’t think this is all that bad for football though. It prevents a single team from getting greedy and trying to gobble up all the best players right away by offering big bonuses to everyone. Now a team has to be more selective as to who they sign and everyone has a level playing field.

    Plus, those 6th and 7th round picks that get thrown around like nothing now are suddenly a little more valuable to a team that has needs more youth and depth.

  38. WingT says: Jul 25, 2011 4:18 PM

    All NFL football players are still way way overpaid.

    What kind of bonus does the average college graduate get when they land their first job?

    I am sick of hearing how these football players are under paid….please, stop it.

    How much does the average fireman in NY make? You know, those guys that went up into the burning world trade center.

    I am sick of all of this S%@t …

    The NFL owners and players can go f$%k themselves and their $9B while the rest of us are genuinely thankful to have a job

  39. thephantomstranger says: Jul 25, 2011 4:18 PM

    realitypolice says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM
    Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.
    _________

    Who’s your accountant? Carl Gerbschmidt?

  40. homelanddefense says: Jul 25, 2011 4:23 PM

    Reality police said

    “Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.”

    Um, wowzer…..

  41. peytonwantsaflag says: Jul 25, 2011 4:24 PM

    the writer’s logic makes no sense per usual (I refuse to name him because every time I do my comment gets scrubbed)

    Is the writer seriously stating Warner wouldn’t have been the cream rising to the top because his bonus was a few K smaller?

    And is he also seriously saying that agents and players are too stupid to figure out – if multiple teams are offering similar contracts- which team would offer them the best opportunity to play?

  42. jaxjoe says: Jul 25, 2011 4:24 PM

    I completely disagree. There are now 90 pre-season spots to show what you’ve got. Thus, an increase in UDFA opportunities. Plus, if one makes the team, his base salary goes up. I understand that there is less time to impress. But let’s be honest. No where in history has any coach or general manager ‘expected’ an UDFA to make the team. Otherwise, they would have drafted that player.

  43. ilovefoolsball says: Jul 25, 2011 4:24 PM

    If a guy is a baller, a team will sign him.——–> .

    (period)

  44. mikei2 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:26 PM

    This is HUGE for AJ Smith and the Chargers. AJ doesn’t always draft well, but he’s a wizard with undrafted free agents.

  45. jpiro says: Jul 25, 2011 4:27 PM

    How many entry-level jobs out there pay $300K a year as a minimum salary?

    Short careers or not, even a 2-year stint including no signing bonus at all is likely to net them more than many people will make in the first 10 years of their job.

    I don’t begrudge the players their money, but let’s not make it out to be more tragic than it is.

  46. bozosforall says: Jul 25, 2011 4:27 PM

    tehowdruid says:
    Jul 25, 2011 3:59 PM
    They should of played better in college

    ___

    You should’ve (should have) studied more in college.

  47. bozosforall says: Jul 25, 2011 4:29 PM

    dbellina says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:11 PM
    Priest Holmes and John Randall wouldn’t like this.

    ___
    It’s Randle, Vikes fan boi.

  48. bdawk20 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:30 PM

    realitypolice says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM
    Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.

    Haha:

    1) Nice math (better comment from Phantomstranger)
    2) I was saying that the way it was written is that it SOUNDS like it is $75K per player but that it SHOULD read that it is $75K per team (because it actually is $75K per team)

    No apology necessary.

  49. benh999 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:32 PM

    This just doesn’t make any sense.

    #1. An undrafted signing bonus cap hardly means one team can not one-up the other. They are all operating under the same terms and can prioritize how they spend from that cap.
    #2. Base salaries can still be above minimum. A team can easily offer a higher base to demonstrate how serious it is about a player.

  50. realitypolice says: Jul 25, 2011 4:33 PM

    homelanddefense says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:23 PM
    Reality police said

    “Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.”
    =====================

    Wow is right. I don’t even know how the h** I typed that. Everyone knows 20k x 6 is 140k.

    OK, that time I was kidding.

    My point is still good- it is clear in the article that the 75k was a total cap for all UDFA’s.

    Although I admit that was a really stupid mistake.

  51. tehowdruid says: Jul 25, 2011 4:36 PM

    You should’ve (should have) studied more in college.
    ——–
    It’s a comment section, didn’t know I had to be perfect ;)

    Regardless, my point remains. If you’re undrafted it’s either because you didn’t show up enough on tape or your were injured.

    If you’re not good enough to get drafted, you should be paid accordingly. If you were injured and went undrafted because of it, you shouldn’t get paid good until you prove you’re healthy.

  52. solidmarine says: Jul 25, 2011 4:36 PM

    Explain to me how they are getting screwed by missing out on a $25k signing bonus, when the league minimum salary just went up by $50k. I understand they don’t get the minimum salary if they don’t make the team, but what does it matter then since they aren’t even in the league. By my calculations, an undrafted rookie who makes a team this year and just gets a $3k signing bonus is still making $33k more than a undrafted rookie from last year who got a $20k signing bonus.

  53. nygdefenserules says: Jul 25, 2011 4:38 PM

    Wow – some of the USC kids are gonna take a pay cut!!

  54. mrfrostyj says: Jul 25, 2011 4:44 PM

    That’s when you hold out hope that the Patriots sign you or that Eric Mangini gets another head coaching stint. Both guys have weekly tryouts for their practice squad to make the team throughout the season. Even the Browns got high profile wins out of their benchwarmers using that method.

  55. igor1984 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:48 PM

    Until your son has worked his butt-off for years to realize his dream of playing college football, then worked his butt-off to be considered in the NFL draft, then, due to no fault of his own, has been locked-out from the coaching and opportunities he needs to make a team, you probably don’t have any meaningful comments to make here.

    Yes, it will be amazing and exciting to “get a shot to play” and sure, “not everyone” has this chance – but it sure stinks that “the shot” has been reduced to a window of 20-30 days, with the deck totally stacked against the him. And now, he probably won’t get enough money to pay for the work-out bills he’s accumulated staying in shape for 3 months he should have been at a team facility getting prepared to give his best in camp.

    Of course, after he makes the 53-man roster, this will all just be a slightly unpleasant memory … :)

  56. deconjonesbitchslap says: Jul 25, 2011 4:49 PM

    oh the humanity! the kids that AREN’T good enough to make the team, but will still get to be a tackling dummy and make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    somebody start a charity for these guys before the end up in the poor house!

  57. saints25 says: Jul 25, 2011 4:51 PM

    I pick me out 1 or 2 UDFA every year in camp…but going up 90 players,it makes since to cut them down some,an These players may help get he UFL up an running now? hopefully

  58. judsonjr says: Jul 25, 2011 4:56 PM

    It would be nice if the article included information on what UDFA’s typically get….I have no idea what a top flight UDFA contract is.

    For the Packers: Sam Shields got $7500 last year, and ended up the starting nickle back. Frank Zombo got $3500 and started 8 games at LB last year.

    I looked through last year’s UDFA and the only other one I recognized was L. Blount. He signed with TEN, and then was cut…but I can’t find his signing bonus.

    My feeling is that a few of the top flight guys may lose a little on the front end, but if they do make the team they’ll end up better off than they would have in the past.

  59. encinitasraider says: Jul 25, 2011 4:57 PM

    This is what happens when you get Owners and Lawyers together. They screw everything up….
    i dont want to hear how great Kraft was in this meeting……
    if this was one of his great ideas then he stinks. How does the NFL get to tell a franchise what to pay out to players. The Teams should pay what a player is worth to that team. AL DAVIS was right not to vote for this crap!!!!!

  60. peytonwantsaflag says: Jul 25, 2011 5:00 PM

    “…And now, he probably won’t get enough money to pay for the work-out bills he’s accumulated staying in shape for 3 months he should have been at a team facility getting prepared to give his best in camp.”

    That’s why it’s called taking a chance igor- and what are you talking about anyway? Running, at least where I live, is still free, and I can join Urban active right now for 3 months for about 50 bucks.

  61. tfbuckfutter says: Jul 25, 2011 5:06 PM

    If the teams were serious about them, they would have drafted them.

    Boo hoo, you get paid pretty much the same as some drafted players whose rights are held by a team, but you actually get to pick your employer. Oh, and you also have the opportunity on your own to analyze which team gives you the best chance of making it, as opposed to, again, being tied to one single franchise.

    Sounds pretty good to me.

    I’d rather have a choice of teams to play for than an extra few thousand bucks.

  62. cmich2006 says: Jul 25, 2011 5:10 PM

    just get drafted…that is what I would do

  63. carlgerbschmidt says: Jul 25, 2011 5:19 PM

    thephantomstranger says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:18 PM
    realitypolice says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:10 PM
    Because, you see, 20k x 6 = 80k.
    _________

    Who’s your accountant? Carl Gerbschmidt?

    ___________

    Funny stuff. I can think of one thing I can count. The number of Super Bowls we have won. How many Super Bowls have you won? Oh that’s right, ZERO. And, you’re never gonna.

  64. sportsguygerald says: Jul 25, 2011 5:20 PM

    A big reason most of these guys didn’t get drafted is they don’t do well in the Underwear Olympics. If they don’t have the measureables they’re outta luck. Doesn’t matter if they could play in college or not

  65. thephantomstranger says: Jul 25, 2011 5:38 PM

    saints25 says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:51 PM
    I pick me out 1 or 2 UDFA every year in camp…but going up 90 players,it makes since to cut them down some,an These players may help get he UFL up an running now? hopefully
    ____________

    Even Gerbschmidt is easier to follow than that one.

  66. Exiled1 says: Jul 25, 2011 5:55 PM

    Two-Words: Dane Sazenbacher-WR

  67. weneedlinemen42 says: Jul 25, 2011 5:56 PM

    it will be even harder for undrafted players to know which teams truly have high regard for them

    Well, they could just look at the depth chart and do an honest self-appraisal of whether they have a chance of making the roster.

    I would have thought this was what any sensible undrafted rookie has always done. Anyone who has just followed the signing bonus has always risked getting cut before they ever picked up a game cheque.

    I really don’t see this as a huge blow to anything but the rookie’s wallet. If anything it has removed any temptation to sign for a team because it has offered $10,000 more than another. A neglible sum compared to the money they would make by actually making the roster by joining a team that actually needs them.

  68. CKL says: Jul 25, 2011 6:23 PM

    A bigger blow to the Kurt Warners of the world is this commish’s reign is the one that oversaw the deletion of NFLE.
    /stillmadaboutthat

  69. philly2boston says: Jul 25, 2011 6:23 PM

    arian foster doesn’t make this insignificant or should you look at your team’s roster there is an undrafted rookie that made a contribution too.

  70. thegonz13 says: Jul 25, 2011 6:39 PM

    These guys must be REAL thrilled that the NFLPA* went to war for them too!

  71. tatum064 says: Jul 25, 2011 7:08 PM

    One of those “guarantees” that mean the next JaMarcus Russell (Cam Newton) is drafted…and the next Tedy Bruschi (Mark Herzlich) gets passed on.

  72. bucwild05 says: Jul 25, 2011 7:08 PM

    If you play good, you’ll get paid, period! Recent example: Lagarett Blount, undrafted free agent, picked up by the Titans last year, the Titans then let him go as their last cut (thank you for that), and after he showed a great pre-season on another team, the Buccaneers picked him up… #1 running back on the Bucs roster now after only 1 year. Thank you again Titans!

  73. tfbuckfutter says: Jul 25, 2011 7:37 PM

    CKL says: Jul 25, 2011 6:23 PM

    A bigger blow to the Kurt Warners of the world is this commish’s reign is the one that oversaw the deletion of NFLE.
    /stillmadaboutthat

    —————————–

    So….you’re saying that you’re done being mad about that?

  74. dbellina says: Jul 26, 2011 10:02 AM

    bozosforall says: Jul 25, 2011 4:29 PM

    dbellina says:
    Jul 25, 2011 4:11 PM
    Priest Holmes and John Randall wouldn’t like this.

    ___
    It’s Randle, Vikes fan boi.

    ___

    It’s auto correct, circus fan boi.

  75. arcuesta730 says: May 17, 2014 8:16 PM

    FASCINATING article. It’s boring to constantly hear of the Manziel’s and Clowney’s of the football world. It’s refreshing articles like these that the REAL football fans can learn from and appreciate!

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