Even though the signings have not yet been made official, the New England Patriots are expected to bring up to 10 undrafted rookies in via free agent deals. One of those players is Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb, whose limited athleticism contributed to him going undrafted but who is still coming off a productive college career and brings plenty of experience as both a ball-carrier and a pass-catcher.
The Patriots obviously like his traits and made bringing the 23-year old running back onto the team a priority heading into free agency. A look at his contract shows just how highly regarded a player Webb is: According to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, Webb received $70,000 in guaranteed money from the Patriots, split into a $20,000 bonus and a $50,000 base salary.
While most of the bonus money has contractual offset language tied to it so that a team will not be on the hook for the player in case he ends up playing elsewhere, it still is an indicator how a free agent is viewed. Webb, for example, is among the league-leaders in guarantees received as an undrafted signee: So far, only two players – Tarvarus McFadden ($90,000; 49ers) and Deon Yelder ($90,000; Saints) – were reported to have received more guarantees.
Of course, the $70,000 do not guarantee him a spot on New England's roster, but they are an indicator that the Patriots are willing to invest noticeable resources in players who they like. And – who knows? – maybe the 5'10, 200 lbs running back will find his way onto the team's roster or practice squad and becomes the next undrafted rookie to turn into a contributor.
By giving him significant guarantees, the Patriots at least put themselves in a position to nurture Webb's development and be the first to potentially reap the benefits one day.