There’s a lot to look forward to at the start of the NFL draft, but don’t forget about the end. That sets off something like a lightning round. Once the last pick is made (which we can’t really call Mr. Irrelevant after how Brock Purdy performed last year) teams have to fill out their 90-man roster by signing undrafted free agents. Since the UDFAs can sign with any team, it is a competition to land those that might be useful. You don’t want players that are just going to be camp bodies. Sometimes these players go on to have successful NFL careers. The Dallas Cowboys have a pretty good history with those, including one of the most successful ever, former quarterback Tony Romo.
Currently the Cowboys have 71 players already under contract and seven draft picks, which means that should none of that change, they will be signing up to twelve UDFAs.
This is actually a small number, thanks to the effective work done so far this offseason. In 2022, they signed 20 to fill the slots as resources to eventually fill the practice squad as well as the 53-man roster.
But it was a pretty good group. There are a dozen former Dallas UDFAs on the roster, including eight of the 2022 group. And a couple of the UDFAs are pretty significant, Terence Steele and Peyton Hendershot are both locks to make the roster again this year. Cooper Rush is another former UDFA, from way back in 2017. So this is not an insignificant way to find talent.
Each year, the draft board for the Cowboys extends beyond the seven rounds, but what they really look for are players they had graded as draftable that didn’t get their names called. These are the priority free agents. Dallas has a certain advantage in the scramble to sign these guys in the hours right after the last pick. They are perennially one of the most desired landing spots in the league. There are some players who wind up in a better situation by getting passed over in the draft and landing with a competitive team.
And for those who follow things closely, the UDFA signing period can be as entertaining than the draft itself, which sometimes seems to drag interminably over the whole seven rounds. The signings come rapidly, because as the seventh round nears its end, the Cowboys are on the phone reaching out to likely targets. That makes the process of getting the free agents on board go quickly. It is complicated by the way the Cowboys have them prioritized, having to sign the most coveted ones first. This is going to be an important evaluation this year with so few available openings.
While many UDFAs never make it to even a practice squad, getting signed to the 90-man roster is an opportunity to at least experience a piece of their NFL dreams, and with the new cutdown rules, they will make it all the way through the preseason.
We will have a live discussion during the UDFA signing period. Come and join us as the Cowboys finish up their initial 90-man roster.