In a typical year, the scene around Winter Park (and the other 31 team facilities) is a buzz of complimentary schmoozing of players the team didn't think enough of to take during the course of the draft. Once Mr. Irrelevant is announced, teams have always been open to negotiate with undrafted players to sign them to free-agent contracts. Like most everything else in the NFL the last two months, that has changed.
Under league rules, teams aren't going to be able to sign players without a new collective bargaining agreement. In the past, being undrafted would sometimes offer advantages over the seventh-round picks. With all 32 teams able to get into a potential bidding war, players could inexplicably make more money by not being draft than being selected in the seventh round. As things currently stand, those undrafted players may find themselves on the outside looking in until there is a resolution to the labor issues plaguing the league.
There won't be members of the Vikings organization working the phones with players and agents following the draft because, like veteran free agents, teams won't be able to have any contact with those players in the hours after the draft – or for the foreseeable future until a new CBA is reached.
For those players who are already in the league, there is little doubt that, once an abbreviated free-agent period begins, they will get their contracts signed. However, for those hoping to take advantage of the competition for undrafted free agents to get better contracts than seventh-rounders, their football careers will be left in limbo for weeks, if not months, after the final draft pick is made on Saturday.
Those players have made rosters over the years thanks in large part to making an impression on their coaching staff during the summer months when they are working out every day at team facilities. If not for that process, Hall of Famer John Randle may have never gotten the chance to win a roster spot. With the likelihood that, if there is a preseason, it will get shortened, the chances of those players making NFL rosters could be greatly reduced – making them an unintended casualty of the NFL CBA war.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.