What is the difference between drafted vs. signed NFL players? All you need to know about protocols and salaries

NFL: Chicago Bears Press Conference
What is the difference between drafted vs signed NFL players?

The NFL draft is a yearly occasion that is the primary means of player acquisition in the league. Each team in the league is assigned a spot in the selection sequence for the draft. The sequence of selection in the draft will be flipped based on the team's record from the previous year; that is, the team with the worst record will select first in the draft, and the Super Bowl champion will select last.

Every player selected throughout the seven rounds of the draft are always referred to as a "drafted player." Now, there's quite a disparity between a player that was drafted and other players that were signed after the draft.

Let's examine the distinctions between a player selected in the draft and a player signed after the selection.

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The difference between an undrafted free agent and a drafted player

If a player is not selected in the annual NFL Draft, they automatically become undrafted free agents (UDFAs) and can sign with a team after the draft process.

Undrafted free agents can begin signing as soon as the NFL Draft concludes. Undrafted free agents sign normal NFL contracts, just like drafted players do. However, the lengths and incomes of these UDFAs' contracts vary frequently, which is not the case for drafted players. Additionally, UDFAs typically earn less on their contracts than players selected in the draft.

How much do undrafted free agents earn in the NFL?

An undrafted free agent's compensation varies based on the amount of cap space a team has available before signing the player. The minimum salary for a rookie undrafted free agent is $750,000.

By contrast, the rookie contracts of the top five overall draft picks are projected to pay over $30 million. Salaries will decrease marginally with each subsequent first-round selection, with the last pick in the first round being eligible to sign a contract worth more than $12 million.

Players chosen in the draft's second round make between $9.9 million and $6.3 million on their four-year contracts. The third-round selection standards range from $6 million to $5.5 million, and the fourth-round selection standards are just above $4.5 million.

This pay scale for drafted players keeps getting smaller up until the end of the seventh round when the last selected player will still be eligible to sign a contract that costs $4.09 million for four years.

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