Saints receiver Willie Snead currently is no more an employee of the team than anyone who is reading this (with the exception of any Saints employees who may be reading this). Snead nevertheless is showing up for the start of the team’s offseason program.
Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Snead is an exclusive-rights free agent (i.e., not a free agent at all), and he has not yet signed his ERFA tender. He’s nevertheless participating in the voluntary offseason program.
As a practical matter, he’s no different than a draft pick who hasn’t signed his rookie deal. Every year, players in that posture sign a letter of protection and report for workouts that aren’t mandatory even for players who have signed.
If Snead suffers a serious injury during the offseason program, he’ll get what he would have gotten under the unsigned tender ($615,000). He’s hoping that the Saints will opt instead to give him a bigger reward, even though they have no obligation to do so.
Exclusive rights free agents can’t talk to or be signed by other teams. Their choices are to re-sign with their current teams or to not play.
Snead obviously has a bigger play in mind here; he wants to parlay his undrafted status into a contract that pays much more than the minimum, allowing him and Michael Thomas to become the starting wideouts for a team that has seen plenty of change in the wideouts corps in recent years.