Teams hold upside with undrafted rookies

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
8:31
PM ET
Brandon from St. Paul, Minn., wants to know how contracts work for undrafted free agents.

"I could be mistaken," he writes, "but I can't imagine many receive multi-year deals. What happens when someone like Doug Baldwin proves to be a huge asset?"

Mike Sando: Baldwin became the first undrafted rookie free agent since Bill Groman in 1960 to lead his ream in receptions and receiving yardage.

That was great for Baldwin, but arguably even better for the Seattle Seahawks.

The collective bargaining agreement requires undrafted rookies to sign three-year deals. Baldwin received a $17,500 signing bonus on a deal averaging about $470,000 per year. That's great money in the real world, but not for an NFL player leading his team in key statistical categories.

Baldwin is pretty much stuck. The Seahawks hold his rights for the next two seasons. At that point, they can tender him as a restricted free agent, discouraging other teams from making offers. The team could seek an extension at any time, but I see little reason for the Seahawks to do that at this point.

Brandon's question is a good one as teams hold camps for drafted and undrafted free agents. All four NFC West teams have rookie camps beginning Friday. The undrafted free agents will sign three-year deals. Quite a few others will participate in camps on a tryout basis, with three-year deals potentially awaiting them.

Securing mandatory three-year deals for undrafted free agents stood as a small victory for NFL owners in labor negotiations. Teams can terminate those contracts at any time without paying future salaries, but players have no realistic recourse if they perform well enough to stick around. Holding out wouldn't make any sense.

Baldwin wasn't the only undrafted rookie to make an impact in the NFC West last season. The 49ers were happy with defensive linemen Demarcus Dobbs and Ian Williams. They'll have left guard Mike Iupati's younger brother, Andrew, in camp on a tryout basis this weekend, Matt Barrows reports.

Seattle's Brandon Browner was undrafted and new to the NFL last season, but he had played professionally in Canada.

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