When Joe Dahl's name was called in the 5th Round of the NFL Draft, it was the culmination of several years' worth of hard work toward a goal that every college football player harbors. For the precious few among those players who are drafted or signed as free agents, it is also the beginning of a professional life that will pay them handsomely as NFL players, as long as they work even harder than they ever have, and are healthy and talented enough to maintain a roster spot.
Today, we'll take a look at the financial aspect of this (hopefully long) NFL career for the five Cougar alumni. Before we do that, though, here's a look at the moment Joe Dahl's life changed forever. It was pretty great that Cougar legend, and fellow Spokane native Jason Hanson announced the pick, though Mr. Hanson was quite laconic while doing so.
The Detroit Lions selected Joe Dahl with the 151st overall pick Saturday (Link to NFL Network's breakdown of the pick here). This was a bit lower than many of us had projected, but that doesn't really matter now. One thing that is important, to Mr. Dahl anyway, is the compensation he will receive. As a result of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, rookie salaries are slotted from the first pick to the last, so we have a pretty good idea how much rookies can expect to be paid. All figures courtesy of OverTheCap.
With the 151st pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Stanford defensive tackle David Parry. The total length and value of Parry's contract was four years, $2,500,008 (those eight bucks are essential apparently). As anyone who pays attention to the NFL knows, the guarantee is what really matters. Parry's fully guaranteed amount (his signing bonus, essentially) was $200,008.
So we can probably expect Dahl to garner a figure slightly north of that when he signs his name in the coming weeks. I have little doubt that Dahl will make the team, and set himself up for a handsome second contract, which is when the real money is made for NFL players.
Regarding the four Cougars who signed as undrafted free agents, they have a slightly higher mountain to climb, and did not get nearly as much money for a chance to make a professional team. I looked for comparable undrafted free agents who made NFL rosters last season, to see what compensation WSU's undrafted players would get should they make the opening day roster. In 2015, the rookie minimum salary was $435,000, so it is probably the same or a tick higher for 2016.
Three UDFAs in 2015 who faced similar circumstances to the Cougar players are wide receiver DeAndrew White (49ers), linebacker Zach Vigil (Dolphins) and defensive lineman Bobby Richadrson (Saints). All three players went undrafted. All three made NFL rosters. The only difference in compensation was the bonus. In 2015, each team was allotted roughly $87,000 in bonus money to use as they pleased. However, the competition to sign coveted UDFAs is pretty fierce, so teams find ways to work around that number.
Take White, for example. He got a $7000 signing bonus, but the 49ers also guaranteed $25,000 of his first year salary. They did this in order to lure him away from other teams. So essentially, he only accounted for $7,000 of that $87,000 pool, yet received a total of $32,000 up front. Vigil and Richardson got the more conventional bonus, collecting $10,000 and $5,000 up front, respectively. However, all three ended up earning the rookie minimum of $435,000 once they made the roster.
Should the WSU rookies not make a team's opening day roster, there is also the chance they'll be signed to a practice squad. Our friends at the mother ship have a good breakdown of that here. Best of luck to these five Cougs in their new profession.
WSU’s Joe Dahl drafted by Detroit Lions | The Spokesman-Review
"The whole last couple days has been really anxious for me, and I’ve been pretty stressed out," Dahl said. "But I could care less when I heard my name. I’m just really excited it ended up being Detroit and that I got to hear my name called at all."
Several Cougars sign free agent deals with NFL teams | The Spokesman-Review
While Destiny Vaeao, Dom Williams and Ivan McLennan would sure have preferred to have heard their names called during the draft, by going undrafted they were free to sign with the team whose situation gives them the best chances to make the final rosters. All three Cougars ended up in pretty favorable situations in that regard.
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There is so much truth to this article.