The 2014 NFL Draft will keep us plenty busy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but the real excitement comes along Saturday afternoon and into Sunday. That's when undrafted free agency is in full fury!
With the NFL Draft, although there is wheeling and dealing, things quiet down for each team for notable stretches. The 49ers will likely be fairly active, but there will still be chunks of time when we're just sort of waiting for something to happen. Deals will happen, but they just sort of pop up out of nowhere, with no real rumors to prep for it.
In undrafted free agency, it's like the start of regular free agency, only with significantly less known about the various players. You would think this would make it a little dull, but that is far from the case. Every player the 49ers sign is going to end up being John Randle, who went undrafted and turned into a Hall of Famer. And everybody has heard of at least a couple of the guys they'll sign, so we all think we can figure out why it will work out for both parties. Oh, the joy of it all!
But seriously, the 49ers will end up with at least a handful of UDFAs. The 49ers have 73 players on their roster. They hold 11 draft picks, which means even with other picks added, they'll be signing some UDFAs. According to Pro Football Talk, teams will have up to $80,362 in signing bonus money to offer UDFAs. Any UDFA will usually sign for the rookie minimum, and usually none of that is going to be guaranteed. However, any signing bonus is paid up front and is what will help get them through the offseason as they hope to land a roster spot.
A big issue in signing undrafted free agents is the recruiting pitch. Draft picks have no choice but to report to their team or hold out for the season. UDFAs get their choice of teams, which sometimes means there can be more value in being a UDFA as opposed to a seventh round pick. I'm sure most players would like the prestige of being drafted, but having your choice of teams at the start of the offseason instead of after a late August roster cut can be of considerable value.
That also means teams sometimes have to go into full-on recruitment mode. They can offer a higher signing bonus to a given player, but they also have to provide a chance for a player to get some playing time. A UDFA is competing for a roster spot on the team with whom he signs, but he is also looking to show other teams what he can do as a potential waiver claim. Preseason playing time is key for that.
The Seattle Seahawks have apparently been sending out a brochure proclaiming the kind of opportunity they can provide undrafted free agents. There are a lot of players that will be teetering on the edge of sixth or seventh round pick, and undrafted. It appears the Seahawks have begun their pitch, although I can't imagine they're the only team. You can read over their sales pitch in this PDF. The PDF includes everything from playing time to waiver claims to drafted players released for UDFAs. These are all past numbers, so I would imagine agents have done their homework on the state of various rosters heading into this year's post-draft phase.
I don't know what kind of pitch the 49ers have prepared, but it's safe to say they have not ignored potential free agents. One guy they appear to have some interest in is NAIA cornerback Jocquel Skinner. He worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I'm sure other teams have interest in him, but the 49ers are among those teams. Guys like that have spoken with teams, and will be prepared for a deluge of phone calls as soon as the draft ends.