By Rodney S. Yap
Seattle Seahawks linebacker John Lotulelei, a graduate of Baldwin High School, was awarded a $25,000 signing bonus Tuesday, the largest payout to an undrafted rookie free-agent in the NFL this year.
The financial commitment by the Seahawks is well documented when it comes to undrafted free agents. In the 7th round of the NFL draft, the front office felt it had a better chance to fulfill its needs through UDFA recruitment rather than the “draftable” players it still had on its board.
SB Nation Field Gulls writer Danny Kelly posted Wednesday, May 22: “The organization went after a couple of highly-rated linebackers and defensive ends it identified in rookie free-agency instead.
“The UDFA free-for-all is in many ways a recruiting bonanza, where coaches and GMs try and convince players to come join their team and players must decide which place is the best fit for them. To sweeten deals though, each team is allotted $78,000 to divvy up as signing bonuses to their most highly sought-after targets.”
“The Seahawks spent $50,000 of their $78,000 UDFA allotment on linebackers Lotulelei ($25,000) and Craig Wilkins ($12,500) and defensive end Kenneth Boatright ($12,500). Not surprisingly, those three players have been making noise in mini-camps and OTAs.”
“Lotulelei has been singled out by Dan Quinn (defensive coordinator) and Pete Carroll (head coach) the most, though, and at this point, in my mind, has a possibly the best shot of making the final roster of all the UDFAs. It’s not necessarily an indicator of who does and doesn’t make final rosters, but as Brian McIntyre pointed out on Twitter: “The largest signing bonus issued to an undrafted rookie [in the entire NFL] this year belongs to UNLV linebacker John Lotulelei, who received $25,000 to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.”
About Lotulelei, Kelly added: “He’s an instinctive playmaker that racked up 120 tackles his senior season and was All-Conference Mountain West at UNLV.
“While Lotulelei’s 40 time isn’t on par with some of the current Seahawks linebackers’ 4.4/4.5 standards (he ran it in 4.78 at the Combine and 4.65 at his Pro Day), his lateral agility is damn near elite: his 6.91 seconds in the three-cone drill was the second-best among linebackers at the Combine, and his 4.30 short shuttle was good for seventh. His 35.5″ vertical jump ranked fourth among linebackers and his 25 reps on bench press tied him for sixth. The dude is an athlete, even if he lacks in straight-line long-speed, a little bit.”
“With Seattle’s roster already fairly stacked, it’s going to be tough for any UDFA type to catch on.”
“That said, special teams is the place where Lotulelei might carve out a role early, and he seems perfectly suited for it. Special teams ace Heath Farwell is entering the final year of his deal and has a cap hit of $1.67M — a fairly large number for that role — so Seattle is undoubtedly looking for a player that could either take Farwell’s spot this year or succeed him once his contract is up.”
Kelly concluded: “Lotulelei will be competing for a spot with Korey Toomer, Allen Bradford, Mike Morgan, Kyle Knox, and of course, Farwell, so it’s obviously no easy path, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on, particularly because Seattle had a 5th-round grade on him and then gave him the biggest signing bonus of any UDFA in the NFL this year.”