We’re starting to learn the contract details of the New England Patriots undrafted free agent signings- you can see all known reports here- and there’s one thing that’s very different from previous years:
The Patriots are paying these undrafted players a lot of money.
Last season I wrote an article about the money guaranteed to certain players like RB D.J. Foster ($30,000) and CB Jonathan Jones ($35,000), noting “this sort of money does not guarantee a roster spot, but does imply far more than just a passing camp interest.” The amount of money guaranteed stands to show how interested the Patriots and other teams around the league are in signing the player.
I looked into the previous five years of Patriots undrafted contracts and found that prior to Foster and Jones only two undrafted Patriots players had received $30,000 or more guaranteed: LB Cameron Gordon ($35,000 in 2014) and WR T.J. Moe ($30,000 in 2013). Both players were injured in camp and placed on the injured reserve.
My general point is that just one year ago I was talking about how $30,000 guaranteed money was a lot for an undrafted player. This year, a pair of players have smashed that price tag and more contracts are still trickling in.
The Patriots dished out $115,000 to LB Harvey Langi, per USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, and $90,000 to TE Jacob Hollister, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. The Patriots also gave $31,000 to CB D.J. Killings, per the Globe’s Ben Volin, which would be a lot in any other year, but pales in comparison to Langi and Hollister.
To put the Langi and Hollister contracts in context, we can refer to the guaranteed money given to drafted players in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Patriots drafted a trio of compensatory sixth round players in LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (#208), LB Elandon Roberts (#214), and OG Ted Karras (#221) and gave them matching deals with $100,356 guaranteed. Langi’s $115,000 falls between the $116,068 in guaranteed money for Rams WR Mike Thomas at #206 and the $112,540 guaranteed to 49ers QB Jeff Driskel at #207.
Langi is getting money as if he were a sixth round pick.
Hollister’s $90,000 is more than any player selected in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, including the $85,412 guaranteed to Patriots WR Devin Lucien at #225, the 4th pick of the round. Hollister is being priced like another late sixth, early seventh round pick.
The Patriots only made four selections in the 2017 after packaging their late draft picks to move up and select UCLA OT Conor McDermott- and that trade up was made with players like Langi and Hollister in mind.
“You try to take the information that you have on the players that you’re looking at and just try to make an estimation,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft. “We can draft the player, or there’s a realistic chance we could maybe sign him after the draft, so you kind of weigh the risk-reward of drafting the player, or if it’s the same player that you might be able to get after the draft who’s going to have a similar potential role, or you’re kind of vision for him on the team, then you go ahead and don’t use the pick.”
“We’re looking up at the board and saying how many of those players would we actually pick?,” Caserio added. “Well, if we’re not going to pick them or we think we can get them after the draft, well let’s just make sure we get a player that we actually like. I would say it’s more a product of just getting the player, trying to secure his services and getting him here than anything else.”
Caserio and the Patriots made an educated guess that both Langi and Hollister would be available after the draft- or at least a comparable player would be around after the draft- and decided that trading up to obtain McDermott was worth risking Langi and Hollister.
And once Langi and Hollister went undrafted, the Patriots opened up their wallets to make sure they could secure their services and bring them to camp.