Been having some good Twitter conversations on this topic so I thought it would be good to just put the points here. For those unaware of the situation, Collins is a first round prospect whose draft hopes are being de-railed by a murder investigation where he is not a suspect but also has not been completely cleared by the police. Because of the NFL slotting system there is a major financial loss with each round he drops. He has no apparently informed teams that if they dont draft him by the third round he will re-enter next years draft. Im not sure he can do that though, unless he is actually drafted.
If Collins is drafted over the next two days he can force the issue to return to the draft next season. The way he does that is by holding out for the year. At that point the NFL will put his name back in the 2016 draft. But that requires him to be selected. There is another stipulation to consider there as well- any team that drafts him in 2015 would be ineligible to draft him in 2016. So he would need a team to be willing to take a chance on him late in this draft knowing they cant have him next year. But yes he can re-enter if this happens as stated in the CBA.
(b) If a Drafted Rookie has not signed a Player Contract during the period from the date of such Draft to the thirtieth day prior to the first game of the regular season: (i) the Club that drafted the player may not thereafter trade to another Club either its exclusive negotiating rights to such player or any Player Contract that it signs with such player for the player’s initial League Year; and (ii) the Club that drafted the player is the only Club with which the player may sign a Player Contract until the day of the Draft in the subsequent League Year, at which time such player is eligible to be drafted in the subsequent League Year’s Draft by any Club except the Club that drafted him in the initial Draft.
The bigger question is what happens if he is not drafted? Based on my reading of the CBA he immediately becomes an undrafted free agent. Such players do not seem to be allowed to re-enter the draft. If they were then a number of CFL or Arena players who never signed to play in the NFL would have been draft eligible. Instead they usually sign in January, taking low cost futures contracts with little or no signing bonus.
The CBA simply refers to a “rookie” as follows:
“Rookie” means a person who has never before signed a Player Contract with an NFL Club. The first Player Contract signed by such person is a “Rookie Contract.”
That should include any draft eligible player who went undrafted. As a rookie a player is locked into the UDFA equation which limits a team to a small bonus (the team cant spend more than approx. $90,000 on all UDFAs) and minimum yearly salaries. He would however be eligible to sign an extension after two years. I believe this limit applies to any player regardless of when he signs such that the player can not sit out a season and then “break the system” by signing a large contract.
(Edit: I was able to confirm that in the past there have been players who went undrafted and unsigned but are treated as UDFA’s per the CBA when they sign. In 2011 the Vikings signed Emmanuel Arceneaux to a futures contract in January that contained a signing bonus. That signing bonus was accounted for against the teams 2011 UDFA pool.)
We’ll see how things go down over the next few days, but I feel like Collins is going to have a hard time earning what he hoped.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.