Undrafted free agents qualify for the rookie minimum salary of $705,000. 
However, teams are not under an obligation to guarantee that salary and may negotiate with the player on a lesser guaranteed amount. Teams were also given a pool of bonus money that they can offer undrafted free agents. Teams could divvy up $167,944 in bonuses to as many undrafted free agents as they wanted. 
My name is David, and the thought of a minimum salary of over $700,000 sounds fascinating to me. But after decades of watching and analyzing football, the machinations of the salary cap and roster construction are not just as fascinating to me as what takes place on the field. Undrafted free agents are rarely the stars, but they can fill valuable roles at a (relatively) tiny salary, and searching for these diamonds in the rough can make a huge impact.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the strategies teams may use when negotiating with undrafted free agents, how they choose to spend their bonus money, and why some players may prefer to go undrafted and have the freedom to choose their own team.
- Undrafted free agents can make a minimum of $705,000, though this may not be guaranteed.
- Bonus money and the freedom to select their own team make going undrafted more appealing to some rookies than being drafted in the later rounds.
- While rarely superstars, several undrafted players have turned into stars including defensive end Shaq Barrett and wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Bonus Money and Base Salaries
NFL salaries can be confusing and hard to comprehend. Many players’ contracts are reworked using bonuses, deferred money, and non-guaranteed contracts to manipulate the salary cap.
Read more: HOW DOES THE NFL DRAFT WORK?
It’s no different with undrafted free agents, who are usually offered bonuses to go along with their base salary. The minimum for a rookie in 2022/2023 was $705,000. 
Along with the minimum, teams were given a pool of $167,944 in bonus money that they could offer to undrafted free agents.
If a team wanted to, it could offer all of its bonus money to one player, or divide it up amongst several. The later rounds of the NFL draft can sometimes turn into a negotiation between teams and players.
A player may prefer to go undrafted if he already has an agreement in place with a specific team for a substantial amount of that bonus money. If that team is offering a bigger opportunity to showcase their ability, it may be preferable to be drafted and have no choice in where you go.
The drawback to this strategy is NFL teams are not obligated to guarantee an undrafted player’s base salary. If drafted, the player is guaranteed a base salary of $705,000. Teams can negotiate a larger, unguaranteed salary based on performance and whether or not the player is on the active roster for a certain number of games. 
A lot depends on how talented the team believes the player is, and a bidding war can break out between multiple teams for the most sought-after undrafted free agents. It may be riskier to go undrafted than being a sixth or seventh-round pick, but there are potential payoffs.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents
It’s still too early to crown any of the 2022 class of undrafted free agents as anything more than bit players. And while some may turn into regular contributors, the odds of a team finding a superstar among the undrafted free agents is slim. But there have been a few that have turned in excellent careers including a few halls of famers.
The most notable active player who went undrafted is defensive end Shaq Barrett of the Tampa Buccaneers. Barrett had some bad luck in college when the University of Nebraska – Omaha chose to drop its football program. 
Barrett transferred to Colorado State, and while he had a successful career there, went undrafted in 2014. 
Barrett was signed by the Denver Broncos and spent much of the next four years as a reserve along with time on the practice squad. 
It wasn’t until he signed with the Buccaneers in 2019 that his career took off, recording 19.5 sacks and finishing fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. 
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen has also carved out a nice career after going undrafted out of Minnesota State. He caught on with his hometown Vikings, first as a practice squad player, before cracking the active roster in 2014. Since earning the full-time starting role halfway through 2016, Thielen has made two pro bowls along with a second-team All-Pro selection. 
Do Undrafted Free Agents get Paid During Training Camp?
Just because an undrafted free agent is invited to camp, doesn’t guarantee him a spot on either the active roster or the practice squad. The same goes for his rookie minimum salary. The player is guaranteed any signing bonus that was offered to him from the team’s pool of $167,944. 
But the bigger and more lucrative contract is not included unless the player performs well and makes the roster.
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With the expansion of practice squads in recent years, and the rich talent pool available, stockpiling undrafted free agents on cheap deals has become a key part of roster building. It also gives more players a chance at a big paycheck and the opportunity to stick at the NFL level.
For every Shaq Barrett, there are plenty of players that won’t ever see the field. But I think giving more of them a chance is great and provides some excellent storylines in training camp.
Has your team developed one of these undrafted free agents into a key contributor in recent years? Let us know in the comments below.