Lost amidst the past month of GM and coaching chatter, the San Francisco 49ers made a few moves earlier this month to build out the 90-man roster. On January 19, we learned that wide receiver Rashad Ross and punter/kicker Nick Rose had signed reserve/future contracts with the team. It turns out two other players signed such contracts as well. Matt Maiocco reported that punter Brock Miller signed a deal, and the NFLPA salary database shows that offensive lineman Norman Price inked a deal.
Reserve/future contracts are simply place-holder contracts to get players into the offseason workout program and usually training camp as well. They are for players who were not on a 53-man roster at the end of the regular season, and I believe are not vested veterans. They generally go to practice squad players and players that were released the previous training camp and never signed with a new team.
A player might get some guaranteed money in this kind of deal, but it is not much if any. Some players will build from it and eventually earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Someone like Michael Wilhoite is a good example. But for the most part, they are usually going to be no more than training camp bodies.