The media hype surrounding Jarryd Hayne and his attempt at converting to a career in the NFL continues to grow as the NFL’s pre-season winds to a close.
With a pair of stellar on-field performances under his belt, Hayne’s attentions are now squarely on this weekend’s third pre-season game where his San Francisco 49ers will take on the Denver Broncos, and legendary quarterback Peyton Manning.
The game looms as a pivotal point for Hayne, as roster deadlines begin rolling in from next week. The process for all NFL teams is simple. On September 1st, they must cut their extended off-season roster down to 75 players. Following that weekend’s final pre-season game, they must make a further cut down to a final playing list of 53 on September 5th.
Speculation is building that Hayne will secure a spot on the 53-man San Francisco list for season 2015, where he will fill the role of third or fourth string running back, with a larger role on special teams as a kick and punt returner.
But he still faces competition to secure a spot – the 49ers have remarkable depth in the running back position, and his opposition is much more experienced.
Come September 5th there are a number of scenarios that will play out for Hayne – all of which will affect not only his career as an NFL player, but his monetary future for the next few months.
Hayne signed a Futures Contract with the 49ers back in March. It’s essentially the “dibs” of contracts – a team gets to lock up a player for their 90-man pre-season roster well before the pre-season actually begins, securing them and preventing other teams from swooping in and poaching.
The contract he’s currently on is a smidge above the minimum. The NFL’s minimum contracts are based on years of experience, of which Hayne has zero. The minimum contract for a player with that experience is US$435,000. Hayne signed a three year deal that would see him earn that minimum amount in his first year, but would see salaries slightly above the minimum in his second and third years.
There are, as it stands, four possible scenarios for Hayne’s playing and earning capacity this year.
SCENARIO ONE: HE GETS A SPOT ON THE SAN FRANCISCO ROSTER
This one is seemingly the most likely outcome. Barring utter disaster in the remaining games of the pre-season, Hayne manages to beat out fellow RB Kendall Hunter – who hasn’t taken a snap this pre-season due to ongoing recovery from knee surgery last year – and snare the final spot on the 49ers RB depth chart. The first year of his contract is fulfilled, and he earns US$435,000 for the season.
SCENARIO TWO: ANOTHER TEAM SIGNS HIM
If San Francisco decide to stick with experience and take Hunter through the season instead of Hayne, then Hayne and his contract get placed on the waivers – basically, he gets put up for grabs, free for any of the other 31 NFL sides to grab. If scenario one somehow doesn’t come to fruition, this seems like a likely alternative. Hayne’s ability on special teams, combined with his age, professional sporting experience, elite athletic capacity, AND his minimum contract make him an easy pick up. If the 49ers don’t pick him up, someone else will.
SCENARIO THREE: PRACTICE SQUADS/FREE AGENCY
If by some utter miracle September 6th rolls around and the name “J. Hayne” isn’t on one of the 32 NFL regular season playing rosters, then the next step is securing a practice squad spot. Prior to his explosion onto the scene during the first two pre-season games, this was widely thought to be the most likely outcome. But the smart word is that that ship has sailed. Nevertheless, if all 32 NFL teams pass on securing Hayne’s services, then the option of joining a practice squad will be explored.
All NFL teams maintain practice squads of up to 10 men. They train with the team, but do not play. Practice squad players remain on week-to-week contracts, and can be let go at any point. They are also considered Free Agents, and can be signed to a 53 man playing roster at any time by any team – provided that team isn’t the practice squad side’s immediate next opponent.
Practice squads can also incorporate one “international player” whose citizenship and principal residence is outside of the US. That player does not count towards the 10 man limit. Enter: Jarryd Hayne.
Practice squad players are paid far less than regular season players, but are still reasonably well off. The minimum payment for a practice squad player is US$6,300 per week. Although some teams – the New England Patriots are a notable example – make a habit of paying practice squad members far above that benchmark.
SCENARIO FOUR: HE DOESN’T GET PICKED UP BY A TEAM, AND GETS PASSED OVER FOR ALL PRACTICE SQUADS
Not bloody likely.
Where Hayne’s real earning capacity starts getting interesting is when you consider athletic and commercial endorsements in the US, which some have suggested could net him as much as US$10million this year, which would put him up among the NFL’s highest earning (from endorsements) players.
The more conservative figure suggests that, at least in his first year – and should he choose to take them, he’ll be earning somewhere around the US$3million mark from outside deals.
All this seems like a lot of money, but when you consider the fact that prior to signing with the 49ers, Hayne was in negotiations to sign a deal with the Parramatta Eels that would’ve been worth AU$1.35million per year – coupled with endorsement deals here in Australia – it’s highly likely he’ll be taking home less this year in the NFL.
Still, that kind of cash? It’s certainly nothing to be sneezed at.
Photos: Michael Zagaris, Lachlan Cunningham, & Brian Bahr via Getty Images.