After each seven-round draft ends, the rest of the incoming players may be pursued as free agents. It’s a competitive process, with players trying to find a roster situation that gives them the best chance of ultimately winning a job — and coaches trying to find players that will help win games, and also possibly to play a little bit of “keep away” with a rival that has an even greater need.
Every year, whispers emerge that some teams are crossing the line. “Teams can express an interest to a player before the Draft concludes, but cannot negotiate until the Draft concludes,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello previously told PFT.
The expressions of interest are now occurring even before the draft begins, with at least one coach already sending text messages to players who may not be drafted. According to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, Ravens coach John Harbaugh has sent text messages to players, explaining that “the players’ names have come up in draft meetings, how the Ravens would like to find a way to bring him in, and telling the players to feel free to call him with any questions or feedback.”
La Canfora points out that the Eagles previously have sent letters to potential undrafted free agents, something that former Eagles employee and new Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson plans to do. (Or maybe owner Jim Irsay will contact the players via Direct Message on Twitter.)
It’s unlikely that anyone would create a paper (or electronic) trail of evidence reflecting actual negotiation of a contract with a potential undrafted free agent. But it would be naive to think negotiation doesn’t at least occur prematurely by phone, especially since the undrafted player contract is a simple combination of minimum base salaries and a signing bonus.
And especially since each team can justify it by saying everyone else does it, too.