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NFL needs to change its rules regarding undrafted free agents

AP

As the draft wraps up each year, one of the most underreported stories arises from the rampant negotiations conducted and wink-nod agreements reached between players who may not be drafted and teams that want to sign them as free agents. It’s a blatant violation of the rules that goes unenforced and essentially ignored by the league, with every team rushing to strike deals with undrafted free agents while they still may be drafted by another team.

One league source estimated that 90 percent of all UDFA deals were unofficially finalized before the 2017  draft ended. The frenzy puts extra pressure on players and agents to accept the terms or risk having teams move on to other candidates.

It’s similar to the process that unfolds during the early hours of the free-agency negotiation period, when teams insist on knowing whether a given player will agree to terms with a threat/promise that they’ll move on to the next guy on the list. It prevents players from making the best decisions possible, forcing them to either accept a job that may not be ideal at the risk of losing the chance completely.

The problem could easily be fixed, if the league office cares enough to make the process more orderly. By simply preventing any undrafted players from being signed for 48 or 72 hours after the draft, agents and players would have a chance to weigh options. Likewise, teams would have less incentive to launch an unseemly land rush while picks are still being made.

It remains to be seen whether the NFL will ever change the rule. Based on past circumstances involving different rules that were widely broken without consequence, maybe the league will wait to catch one team doing that while every team is doing, make an example out of that team with suspensions and forfeited draft picks, and then finally change the rule.

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33 Responses to “NFL needs to change its rules regarding undrafted free agents”
  1. walker615 says: Apr 30, 2017 10:21 PM

    I don’t usually agree with your random crusades on certain issues, but this.. actually makes some sense. Well done.

  2. dragonfly99 says: Apr 30, 2017 10:24 PM

    I don’t think anyone is forcing these players to sign. If they don’t feel comfortable signing then they shouldn’t.

  3. mongo3401 says: Apr 30, 2017 10:25 PM

    Strange thing. I was at the market today and when I passed by the cake section, a lemon cake and strawberry cake just jumped into my cart. I could not fend them off

  4. thompsonway says: Apr 30, 2017 10:29 PM

    To be fair, they should let all the teams to keep picking in the same draft order until the teams want to pass, and then it can keep going until all the teams pass.

  5. evrybdyhas1 says: Apr 30, 2017 10:30 PM

    Sorry, can’t get behind the idea that a chance to get paid to play football is such an unfair process. Boo hoo

  6. darthvincent says: Apr 30, 2017 10:34 PM

    next you tell us that maybe the UDFA’s should pass through a waiver-like system or because there are so many of them that the draft should have a few extra rounds… 1st world problem

  7. Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: Apr 30, 2017 10:34 PM

    Based on your last sentence, the Patriots better watch out.

  8. BIGGSHAUN says: Apr 30, 2017 10:39 PM

    If you didn’t get drafted, I don’t think you’re in a position to be negotiating your terms and conditions.

    If you don’t like it, you can always decline, risk getting your dream job, and go get a regular job.

  9. folkcrusader says: Apr 30, 2017 10:47 PM

    Many feel players are in a stronger position as a UDFA then being drafted in the late 6th or 7th round. You are still quite expendable but you have the ability to select the team or teams that give you the best chance to make the team based on current players. If you are a strong candidate no one is going to just “pass” on you. Teams are fighting for you.

  10. tdshouldbeinthehall says: Apr 30, 2017 10:53 PM

    This is not a problem or a big deal. Move on to the next thing your going to tell the NFL to do. The NFL makes about 12 billion a year, what’s PFT bringing in? Now you see where your opinion stands.

  11. justanotherfan101 says: Apr 30, 2017 10:57 PM

    It sounds like you are trying to find a problem where one doesn’t exist. I’m not sure what kind of agreement you think these undrafted free agents are getting, but basically all they are getting is a chance to make the team through training camp and preseason. If they make the team, they are entitled to the rookie minimum salary which starts at $450,000 annually. They all get paid the same.

  12. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Apr 30, 2017 11:01 PM

    I generally consider myself to be pro-player on most issues, but you seem to be determined to stretch the boundaries of credulity in your crusade to protect current and future NFL players from the “unfairness” of life in the real world.

    “The frenzy puts extra pressure on players and agents to accept the terms or risk having teams move on to other candidates”. Yes, let’s eliminate that, because no employer in the real world would ever pressure a candidate to make a decision by threatening to offer someone else the job.

    What about the flip side of that coin? Isn’t it an advantage for a player to get offers before the official period even starts? Wouldn’t that be what is typically called in business “leverage”? I would think a player sitting on a couple offers would be in a much better position than one still waiting for the phone to ring when the draft ends.

  13. b412 says: Apr 30, 2017 11:19 PM

    It’s the NFL.certain teams will flout the rules to try and get an advantage. When you have teams like the Cowboys, Ravens, Falcons, Broncos, Dolphins, Rams and Chargers signing a dozen UDFAs the instant the draft is over they are not complying with the rules, period. Guess what, these are the same teams that shave corners on everything else.

  14. Damidwesterner says: Apr 30, 2017 11:41 PM

    I think it’s a non-issue. It’s Round 7, maybe 40 some odd picks left. How many players are still out there? Hundreds? The odds of getting drafted now are pretty slim. I saw the list of UDFAs on NFL.com, and there are a lot of names there. While they may still hope to hear their name called, they may be realistic and jump on somebody who’s done drafting who has shown an interest. And that might be the tipping point to sign now, rather than sit through another hour just to not hear their name called.

  15. nflviewer says: May 1, 2017 12:41 AM

    Who cares? This is a solution in search of a problem. There is no problem. No one is getting cheated out of money. No one is forced to sign with a team he doesn’t want to sign with.

  16. briang123 says: May 1, 2017 1:18 AM

    The problem with your proposal is that Roger Goodell would never go on a random crusade against one team. He’s too ethical for that.

  17. silentcount says: May 1, 2017 1:43 AM

    So now, teams contact players and say, “If you don’t get drafted, we’d like to sign you.” The proposal is to allow them 2 days to see if other teams contact them, and to choose the best offer. Well, with over 90 percent being cut before the season begins, it seems like extra rules that don’t really matter in the end.

  18. rjwill says: May 1, 2017 1:44 AM

    if any ruie needs changing i think they should allow undrafted kids with eligibility left to return to college. makes no sense to take that away from them.

  19. jshawaii22 says: May 1, 2017 1:46 AM

    evrybdyhas1 says:
    Sorry, can’t get behind the idea that a chance to get paid to play football is such an unfair process. Boo hoo”…

    Yes, but that’s all they do get, for at least 4-5 months. The signing ‘bonus’ is very low and they don’t get a contract right now. It only becomes a ‘contract’ if they make the team and that includes getting nothing if they get hurt. All this flurry of excitement gets for the players is a CHANCE to go to a team’s facility and try to make the team.

    It really is unfair, and what they should do is have a 15 round draft, like they used to. If teams didn’t want to draft that many players, they can opt out.

  20. 3wordanswers says: May 1, 2017 5:09 AM

    Easy answer here……

    Just abolish UDFA selections completely, and have a 36 round draft. All players would then enter the league through the draft.

    Keep rounds 1-7 as they are now, but just introduce rounds 8-36 as ‘electronic’ choices made on-line from teams front offices. 2 minute clock sections up to round 15, and one-minute slots thereafter. If a team has its team set, then they can either pass on a pick, or trade it.

    I’d consider another new rule too; if a team takes a guy off another teams practice squad, they should automatically forfeit a 6th round pick or better. If a team thinks a guy off a practice squad is worth a 53-man roster spot, a team surrendering that guy ought to get compensated reasonably.

  21. whatevnfl says: May 1, 2017 5:17 AM

    “If the league office cares enough to make the process more orderly…” Ha ha ha ha.

  22. jimmysee says: May 1, 2017 7:23 AM

    So take the draft to 15 rounds.

  23. firethorn1001 says: May 1, 2017 7:30 AM

    48 hours, 72 hours, 48 days. You really think teams are going to adhere to any rule like this?

    Extra pressure on agents? You mean those guys sucking off the work of others? Well Boo Hoo. Do your homework and make sure that you know which situations are best for your client if they aren’t drafted. I’m pretty sure they have phones and numbers of GMs/scouts to help market their clients.

  24. sml1210 says: May 1, 2017 7:44 AM

    Vegas has the Patriots as 1:5 favorites for the team to be made example of

  25. popover7 says: May 1, 2017 7:56 AM

    Commish office is praying that the Patriots were among the 32 teams who broke the rule so that they can punish them again and use the farce, er phrase, integrity of the shield.

  26. conormacleod says: May 1, 2017 9:21 AM

    The frenzy puts extra pressure on players and agents to accept the terms or risk having teams move on to other candidates.
    —————-
    21 years ago I was offered a job. It required relocation into another part of the country. I was told I had until the end of the day to accept the offer, or they would be moving on to another candidate. I accepted the job.

    But somehow you think the rules should be different because, why? Football? This is a complete non-issue. If you want a job, accept a job offer. Otherwise, competition requires teams to move on to the next candidate.

  27. maust1013 says: May 1, 2017 9:23 AM

    The fly in the ointment for that suggestion is the league would have to get the union and it’s membership to agree and that would entail also forbidding the signing of all FA’s not just the undrafted ones. Otherwise you can bet there would be a successful restraint of trade suit filed by a UDFA when a veteran signed during the same time period they couldn’t.

  28. tylawspick6 says: May 1, 2017 10:03 AM

    The Steelers have already cheated.

  29. fndraiser says: May 1, 2017 11:04 AM

    Since the Patriots excel in this area of creating their roster I can only guess what team Roger Goodidiot will come down on.

  30. mcnabbster says: May 1, 2017 12:37 PM

    Or they could just add more rounds to the draft. Often times the simplest solution is the best solution.

  31. petedutcherjr says: May 1, 2017 12:51 PM

    I love this idea. Honestly, I don’t see why the NFL hasn’t already done it.

  32. seanumich says: May 1, 2017 2:50 PM

    Actually, I think the answer is simple. END THE DRAFT. There is no draft in the real world. You play where YOU want for the terms YOU agree to. The salary cap needs to be eliminated as well. If the teams can not control their spending that is on them
    If you think the draft and salary cap gives parity you would be mistaken
    What sport has no salary cap?
    Baseball
    How many different teams have won over the last 10 years? Answer SEVEN
    NFL with a salary cap SEVEN in that time and 10 in the last 17 years. Prior to the cap the number oof diffrent winners was the SAME
    NBA with a salary cap 7 in 10 years

  33. ski says: May 2, 2017 12:05 PM

    To those saying “they should be lucky they even get contracts,” you don’t understand how UDFA works in the slightest.

    The theory that UDFA’s are worse than drafted players is a myth. You would think teams just draft straight down their board and select the best players that meet their needs in the same order they value them, but that isn’t true. As the article states, teams have “contracts” in place with dozens of prospects. And if they feel like no other team is interested, they won’t draft them because they already have an agreement to sign them.

    Obviously there are some exceptions. But, I remember hearing about this back when former Steeler Willie Parker re-counted his draft experience. He went undrafted, but knew Pittsburgh would sign him the whole time. They were very high on him as a prospect, but since no other teams were interested they didn’t spend a draft pick on him. Part of this is a gamble, as some teams don’t always meet and communicate with guys they want to pick. But, it does deflate the value of prospects that teams actually are valued by the organization they end up with.

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