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The 5 O’Clock Club: Commanders undrafted college free agents and guaranteed money in contracts

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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NFL: Commanders hold their first Rookie Mini Camp Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


An article from CBS Sports describes the process of signing undrafted college free agents this way:

When it comes to signing undrafted free agents after the NFL Draft, there really are no rules. It is, as some agents explained, “the wild, wild West,” devoid of any real regulation by the league office or elsewhere.

It is an all-out free-for-all, with both teams and agents angling to complete these deals not only during the draft – technically they aren’t allowed to sign such players until after the draft – but, in many cases, actually agreeing to verbal terms before the draft even begins. Signing bonuses can range from $500 to $135,000 (essentially guaranteeing what a season of pay on the practice squad would be) in a manic craze as teams try to secure what they believe is the best undrafted talent. Meanwhile, players and agents try to find the best fit, somehow, despite at times having to juggle multiple calls from 10-20 teams – each with a dozen or so people making calls on players – all at the same time, and all demanding answers as soon as possible.

That articles wraps up with a couple of suggestions for cleaning up the process:

One agent has talked to several general managers and scouts about the merits of an “online eighth round” situation, where the draft continues in an electronic fashion after Round 7 with teams getting one minute to pick and the signing bonuses slotted from $35,000-$5,000 based on the order players are selected. It has received universally favorable approval thus far and, he thinks, could even be monetized with strategic advertising on the NFL website, with fans able to watch online like when doing an internet fantasy draft.

I believe the league could also use an encrypted app from the NFL Management Council, where right after the draft it becomes activated with the draft-eligible players remaining and teams could swipe to “like” a set number of players with a designated signing bonus attached, and the players/agent could swipe back after a certain window of time. Something where the information is digestible and immediate and there aren’t a slew of missed calls and head coaches and GMs browbeating or intimidating college kids and agents.

Commanders 2023 UDFAs and guaranteed money

The Washington Commanders signed 12 undrafted college free agents this month, and agreed to significant guarantees with four of them.

Mason Brooks - $185,000

During a media Q&A session earlier this month, Ron Rivera was asked a question about Mason Brooks. This is what coach Rivera had to say:

Well, he’s a guy that played a lot of football. He may not have started a lot, but he played a lot of football. He’s shown some position flexibility more so anything else, that’s always something that we always feel is an important thing. There was a general toughness that we liked and that we thought, this is a guy that could come in and help us out. If you can get a guy like that as a undrafted free agent, you gotta see and take a shot.

One thing I immediately noticed about the head coach’s answer is that you can’t tell much about the player from what Ron said. I mean, this answer doesn’t even say whether Brooks plays offense or defense. I guess the ‘position flexibility’ comments tells you he’s not a quarterback, but other than that, this is a pretty generic answer.

If you didn’t already know, Mason Brooks is a 6’6”, 315 pound offensive tackle. He started out his college career at Western Kentucky, where he played right tackle, but later transferred to Ole Miss, where he played guard.

The Commanders coaching staff sees him as a tackle, and according to some reporters who should know, the team valued him very highly as a priority free agent. John Keim said that Brooks was near the top of the Commanders priority list, and per Over the Cap, the undrafted offensive lineman got a $35,000 signing bonus and $150,000 guarantee on his 2023 base salary, which was among the most aggressive contracts handed out to NFL UDFAs this offseason.

Mitchell Tinsley - $140,000

For comparison, Bleacher Report listed WR Mitchell Tinsley as the UDFA most likely to make the Commanders roster. Per Over the Cap, Tinsley got a $20K bonus and a $120,000 salary guarantee, meaning that he has $140,000 in guarantees compared to the $185,000 for Brooks.

The 6’1”, 205 pound Tinsley is the only Commanders UDFA on this list to make Brugler’s final 300 prospect rankings (No. 286). A lack of high-end speed played a role in Tinsley going undrafted, and his route-running might not be good enough against NFL corners.

He was a walk on at Hutchinson Community College (Kansas) before transferring to Western Kentucky in 2020 (where he was a teammate of Mason Brooks). That’s where he grabbed 87 receptions for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Interestingly, he transferred to Penn State for his final season as the replacement for Jahan Dotson; he led the Nittany Lions in receptions (55) and receiving touchdowns (5).

Kazmeir Allen - $90,000

Another undrafted college player that has gotten a lot of attention from media and fans is Kazmeir Allen, who seems to be starting out in the poll position in the competition for punt & kick returner at this point in the offseason. In the same interview in which Ron Rivera talked about offensive tackle Mason Brooks, he spoke in greater detail about Kazmeir Allen:

[Kazmeir Allen is] a young man we got out of UCLA. He’ll wear number 10 out there.... He played some slot for them, some wide receiver for them, some running back for them and then he returned both kickoffs and punts for them [ed note: Allen did not return punts in college], and he did ‘em in the bowl game in the All-Star games as well. So he’s a young man that most certainly has gotten our attention and he’s a young guy that we went out and tried to make sure we were able to recruit and bring him in as a free agent.

Per OTC, Allen got a total of $90,000 in guaranteed money (including $15k signing bonus).

Brycen Tremayne - $100,000

There is one more UDFA that got guaranteed money from the Commanders, according to Over the Cap. That player is WR Brycen Temayne, out of Stanford, who suffered a gruesome leg injury against Oregon in his junior year. Though it was an injury that some thought would end his career, Tremayne overcame the odds and returned to the field as a senior. Tremayne finished his career at Stanford with 74 catches for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns; his final season was his best — 38 receptions for 490 yards in 12 games.

Kavita Pritchard, Washington’s new QB coach, was Stanford’s offensive coordinator, giving him ties to the Commanders coaching staff.

Tremayne is a big receiver (6’4”, 210 pounds) with 4.57 speed who likely would have to contribute on special teams and beat out Marcus Kemp to earn a spot on the 5-man roster.


Listening to media reports and comments from coaches and fans, I get the sense that the UDFA most likely to make the final roster is Kazmeir Allen, and I haven’t seen or heard much about the two receivers (Tremayne & Tinsley). What little I have heard would lead me to believe that the 6’4” Tremayne would have the advantage over the 6’1” Tinsley. Aside from the one answer given to a reporter’s question, I don’t recall reading or hearing anything at all about the Offensive Tackle, Mason Brooks.

As a matter of common sense, I would expect guaranteed money in UDFA contracts to be a strong indication of the team’s interest in the players who receive those guarantees. On that basis, the level of interest from the Commanders would be, in descending order:

  1. OT Mason Brooks, $185K
  2. WR Mitchell Tinsley, $140K
  3. WR Brycen Tremayne, $100K
  4. WR/returner Kazmeir Allen, $90K

But maybe I’m reading this wrong; maybe you can get away with less guaranteed money if a player thinks he has a better shot at making your team’s roster, and you guarantee more money to convince a guy to take on more competition. Or maybe the only competition that counts is competition from other NFL teams who want to sign the same player. Perhaps guaranteed money is just a matter of using salary cap instead of draft picks to get a player that another team also wants to sign.

Maybe I just need to pay attention to the quote that I used to start this article and understand that signing UDFAs is a process that relies on a “Wild West” mentality, and that trying to apply too much logic to the outcome is a mistake.

History tells us that most UDFAs will never fully realize their dreams of playing in the NFL, but it also tells us that at least one or two of the dozen that Washington signed this offseason will probably end up making a career in pro football. We’ve had lots of successful undrafted players in Washington over the years.

Poll

Of the 4 UDFAs who got more than $10k in guaranteed money from the Commanders, which one do you think is most likely to have a multi-year NFL career that includes playing in dozens of regular season games?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    OT Mason Brooks
    (207 votes)
  • 6%
    WR Mitchell Tinsley
    (48 votes)
  • 11%
    WR Brycen Tremayne
    (82 votes)
  • 54%
    WR/Returner Kazmeir Allen
    (406 votes)
743 votes total Vote Now