By HCR Staff | April 28, 2020
Once the draft ends, another process begins that is just as important, and that’s the recruitment of undrafted free agents. More undrafted free agents have made the NFL Hall of Fame than first rounders, so it’s not an insignificant process.
For the players that weren’t drafted, the 30 minutes or so right after the draft literally is the only real window of opportunity for NFL employment until the regular season starts. That’s the next material open window for an opportunity because that’s when most teams will hold tryouts.
So if you’re undrafted, and you miss getting employed right after the draft, you’ll have to wait a minimum of 4 months just to get another look, and that’s under the best of circumstances.
Every team goes into every draft with a process for signing undrafted free agents, although this year was slightly complicated by COVID. The recruiting of projected undrafted players and their agents can start as early as Round 5, and it really begins getting heated in Round 7.
During this time period, information is flowing fast and heavy. An undrafted player and his agent have to process all of it – what’s the depth chart look like, who is the position coach, what’s the scheme, how many players did they draft at the position, etc.
For a player who is undrafted, getting over the disappointment of not being selected is tough enough; now he has to sort out offers and choosing the wrong one can mean the difference between having a career or not.
Irrespective of when the recruiting begins and the commitments are made, mutual trust between the undrafted player, agent and team is critical to the process. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Why is trust important?
First, since paperwork isn’t consummated until well after the draft, everything plays out verbally.
Second, and most importantly, the undrafted player and the team are making plans for the immediate future. If each gives their word to each other – the team makes an offer that the player commits to – then the player can tell other potential suitors he’s made a choice, and the team can stop recruiting other players at the same position.
This is why trust is critical to the process, particularly to the undrafted player. He doesn’t want to go into the entire spring and summer being unattached – otherwise known as a “street free agent.”
But trust has been eroding in this process, and that hurts a lot of players.
Every draft year there are stories of deceit by a team or a player involving the undrafted free agent process. This year, however, we’ve heard that teams were particularly underhanded about it, so much so that agent Mike McCartney tweeted about it.
Teams apparently were much bolder with their deceit, and were pulling offers they had committed to, leaving players stranded, since they already had spurned other offers. In our view, fairly despicable behavior. We’re sure NFL GMs and head coaches wouldn’t want potential employers treating their sons or daughters in the same fashion.
To the general public, a spurned aspiring NFL player generally isn’t a sympathetic figure. But in the industry, they’re young men who’ve worked a long time to achieve a dream. They’ve just dealt with the disappointment of not being selected, and then to have endure further disappointment by a lack of honor by an NFL GM or scout or coach is just piling on.
There are better ways to conduct this process for NFL teams and their personnel. One fundamental starting point is to get into the habit of having actual behavior match the words coming out of your mouth.