Does the UDFA system need tweaking?
Judging by the fact that an offseason NFL event gets far more publicity and viewers than nearly any other sporting event in the United States, it is hard to argue that any part of the NFL draft needs overhauling.
However, there is one small part of the draft process that needs to be changed, one that is very near and dear to my heart—the undrafted free-agent signing blitz.
The annual crush of free-agent signings after the announcement of the last pick in the NFL draft, which my site has become synonymous in covering, doesn't tell all of the story. Here is why things need to be changed.
Many teams employ the "hard sell" technique, starting in the seventh, sixth or even fifth round of the draft. They tell players that they need to commit to signing with their team if they aren't drafted. If they don't, they say they'll move on to the next prospect.
A team was "caught" this year doing that exact thing, with Chandler Harnish being picked by the Indianapolis Colts with the final pick in the draft because the San Diego Chargers were pressuring him to sign.
“They wanted the decision 10 minutes after they could put the deal on the table, and this was still at pick 240,” Harnish says. “So there were still 13 picks to go. And they put the deal on the table that they wanted me to be a free agent and I had to say ‘yes’ to it...We tell San Diego we want that deal. Well, my agent tells the Colts, ‘Hey, he’s going to San Diego if you guys don’t draft him with your last pick.’ So, because of that, the Colts were like, ‘We want him. We want to take him before he goes to free agency, and then he goes to San Diego.’”
NFL player agent Mark Slough made a wonderful suggestion that finally makes sense in the current Thursday, Friday, Saturday setup.
"If UDFA signing period kicked off at noon Sunday, everyone on both sides would have time to assess, discuss and make more informed decision."
Even though many of the deals might already be done in principle before that Sunday start time, it at least gives players, agents and teams a fair shake on paper.
Giving undrafted free agents the opportunity to assess various offers from different NFL teams, as well as giving all 32 NFL teams an equal chance with each player, seems like a win-win situation.