An undrafted free agent in the NFL refers to a football player who has not been selected in the annual NFL draft. After the draft, teams can sign undrafted players to contracts to join their teams as free agents. These players may have gone undrafted due to various reasons such as being overlooked, not meeting certain criteria, or being considered too risky by teams. Despite not being drafted, undrafted free agents still have a chance to make an NFL roster and can often go on to have successful careers in the league.
How Often Do NFL Undrafted Free Agents Make a 53 Man Roster in the NFL?
The percentage of NFL undrafted free agents who make a 53-man roster varies from year to year, but on average, it is estimated to be around 20-25%. This means that roughly 1 in 4 undrafted players who sign with an NFL team will make the final roster. However, the actual percentage can vary depending on factors such as the team’s needs, the position of the player, the player’s performance in training camp and preseason, and injuries to other players on the team. It’s also worth noting that while some undrafted free agents may not make the final roster, they may still be signed to the team’s practice squad, which provides them with an opportunity to continue developing their skills and potentially earn a roster spot in the future.
Some Undrafted Free Agents Who Have Gone on to Star in the NFL
There have been many undrafted NFL free agents who have gone on to have successful careers in the league. Here are a few notable examples:
- Kurt Warner – Warner went undrafted in 1994, but he eventually signed with the St. Louis Rams and went on to become a two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion.
- Wes Welker – Welker was not selected in the 2004 NFL Draft, but he signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, making five Pro Bowl appearances and leading the league in receptions three times.
- Tony Romo – Romo went undrafted in 2003, but he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. He became the team’s starting quarterback in 2006 and went on to lead them to four Pro Bowl appearances and the playoffs four times.
- Adam Vinatieri – Vinatieri was not selected in the 1996 NFL Draft, but he signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. He went on to become one of the most successful kickers in NFL history, winning four Super Bowls and making three Pro Bowl appearances.
- Antonio Gates – Gates played college basketball at Kent State and was not selected in the 2003 NFL Draft. However, he signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent and went on to become one of the best tight ends in NFL history, making eight Pro Bowl appearances and being named a first-team All-Pro three times.
These are just a few examples of undrafted NFL free agents who have gone on to have successful careers in the league. There are many more players who have achieved similar success despite not being drafted.
What Does an Undrafted Free Agent Typically Make His First Year in the NFL?
The pay for an undrafted free agent in the NFL varies depending on several factors, such as the team they sign with, their position, and the length of their contract. The NFL has a minimum salary for all players, regardless of whether they were drafted or not. As of the 2021 NFL season, the minimum salary for a rookie player is $660,000.
However, some undrafted free agents may receive signing bonuses or have guaranteed portions of their contract that can increase their overall pay. In addition, some players may negotiate higher salaries based on their performance or potential.
It’s also worth noting that not all undrafted free agents will make an NFL team’s active roster, and those who do not make the roster may be signed to the team’s practice squad, which pays a lower salary than the minimum NFL salary.
Overall, the pay for an undrafted free agent in the NFL can vary widely, but the minimum salary for rookies provides a baseline for what they can expect to earn in their first year.
Are There Certain Teams That Do a Good Job of Developing Undrafted Free Agents?
There are some NFL teams that are known for doing a better job of developing undrafted free agents than others. These teams may have a track record of giving undrafted players a chance to prove themselves and providing them with the resources and coaching they need to succeed.
One example of a team that has been successful in developing undrafted free agents is the New England Patriots. Over the years, the Patriots have signed and developed several undrafted players who have gone on to become key contributors. They include Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Butler.
Another team that has had success with undrafted free agents is the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have a reputation for finding talent in unconventional places and have signed several undrafted players who have gone on to have successful careers. For example, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Thomas Rawls all went on to have an NFL career.
The Baltimore Ravens are another team that has been successful in developing undrafted free agents. The Ravens have a history of giving undrafted players a chance to earn a roster spot and have signed several players who have gone on to have productive careers, including Bart Scott, Justin Tucker, and Mike Flynn.
As a point of reference for the number of undrafted free agents a team might sign, in 2022 the Green Bay Packers drafted 11 players but came to terms with 14 undrafted free agents. Although that number seems large, all teams are limited to 53 active players so the likelihood of many of the undrafted players making the roster is small.
Overall, while there is no guarantee that an undrafted free agent will succeed in the NFL, some teams have a better track record of developing these players and providing them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
The Reasons Most Often Given for an Undrafted Free Agent Not Getting Drafted
The main reason why some players go undrafted in the NFL is that they may not have the physical attributes or skills that teams are looking for in the draft. This can include factors such as size, speed, strength, or specific technical abilities that are valued for a particular position.
In some cases, players who are considered “undersized” or who lack experience at a high level of competition may also be overlooked by NFL teams during the draft. Other factors that can contribute to a player going undrafted include off-field issues or concerns about their character or work ethic.
Certainly the NFL draft is a highly competitive process, and there are only a limited number of roster spots available for each team. This means that even players who are highly skilled and talented may not get drafted due to the intense competition for spots.
However, just because a player goes undrafted does not mean they cannot have a successful NFL career. Many undrafted free agents have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL by working hard, continuing to develop their skills, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.