As expected, LSU tackle La’el Collins went undrafted on Saturday. And it appears that’s exactly what he wanted.
Collins intends to meet with police on Monday for questioning in connection with a murder case that now involves two deaths — a 29-year-old woman and her infant child. Collins is not a suspect in the case, but because he has not been cleared, no one could touch him in the draft.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Collins plans to sign with a team after he is cleared.
Making Collins less attractive in the draft was a vow to sit out the year and re-enter the draft in 2016, if he were drafted this year. Ultimately, that may have been a ploy aimed at ensuring he wasn’t drafted at all.
Ultimately, Collins can salvage the early portion of his career by signing the standard three-year deal as an undrafted rookie. While he’d be eligible for restricted free agency after three years, the numbers suggest that he’ll do fairly well, given the current amount and the historic growth of the restricted free agency tenders.
If the tenders continue to increase at a rate of five percent annually, Collins could make more than all drafted players except the top 41 picks, based on three years of minimum salaries and the first-round tender for 2018. With the second-round tender, he’ll make more than all but 52 of the picks. With the original-round tender, he’ll make more than all but 65 of the picks.
It’s a formula that demonstrates how little draft picks make beyond round one, relative to undrafted playera. That said, the balloon payment in year four requires the undrafted player to earn one of the three RFA tenders. But Collins already has a leg up on the guys who typically slide through seven rounds; he has skills that would have potentially made him a first-round pick but for the unusual circumstances that unfolded in the past few days.
The analysis has one important caveat. Players taken in rounds three through seven are eligible for the proven performance escalators, which bumps their salary for the fourth year of their rookie deal into the range of $1.5 million. Still, Collins can end up getting a decent four-year rate of pay even as an undrafted player — and he’ll be eligible for a new contract after only two seasons. Drafted players have to wait for three.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, Collins gets to pick his NFL team. No drafted player gets to do that.
For now, none of this matters until he’s cleared. That process begins Monday.