Even before the 2010 NFL Draft was over, the Baltimore Ravens were hard at work contracting potential undrafted free agents to see if they'd be interested in joining the Ravens for a chance to make the team. Some of the prospects they were contacting hung up the phone and then found out they'd been drafted another team as the Draft wound down in its final minutes.
Teams that do their homework prior to the Draft getting underway have a pretty good idea of which players were more likely to be drafted and which ones might be skipped over and therefore become free agents, eligible to sign with the team they feel gives them the best chance to make the roster. The Ravens are among the best at this in the league, seeming to always able to find that "diamond in the rough" such as LB Bart Scott and more recently, LB Dannell Ellerbe.
So what does the team do to find these guys and contact them before another team gets to them first?
At the Ravens Post-Draft PPress Conference, I asked Director of Player Personnel that exact question:
Beatdown: "Eric, Can you talk about what's going to happen after 'Mr. Irrelevant' is taken and all the undrafted free agent are out there, what goes on behind the scenes here at the complex?"
DeCosta: "Well, I think our guys have been starting for a long time. [Southeast area scout] Joe Douglas and [Pro Scout] Mark Azevedo are the two guys that coordinate the undrafted free agency, along with the coaches. We’ve been calling players for the last month or so. We’ve been recruiting guys, sending out some letters, different technological things with Twitter and different things like that. We have our list of guys that we really want to go after. Some of that is dependent on if they get drafted or not, obviously. At this time right now, since we’re done picking, our guys are actually talking to players, calling players. We’re allowed to do that to tell them that we’re very interested in them as free agents. We’ve had some preliminary conversations with agents about guys. Sometimes, a guy you’re talking to actually gets picked, which happened today and it happened last year. It’s kind of a funny thing, but we’re ahead of the game. That’s one of the nice things about not having a seventh-round pick is you can start early in this process. [Vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty and [executive assistant/football administration manager] Jessica Markison kind of coordinate the contracts for us. It’s a lot of paperwork involved with that. The coaches are making phone calls getting back to Joe and Mark trying to get commitments from players after the Draft. We can’t actually get a solid commitment until they’re not picked. In that case, we get these guys signed up, get the contracts out to them and come back on Monday and see how many of those guys actually sent back the contracts and move forward."
The efforts detailed above by DeCosta and followed by his team has resulted in guys mentioned above (Scott, Ellerbe). This season, the question will be which guy will be the next "Bart Scott" or the next "Dannell Ellerbe?" As mentioned in a previous posting, the Ravens have already signed a group of undrafted players to contracts. Click here to go to that story and see names (note: additional names are also listed in the comments section).
Click here to see the story on BaltimoreRavens.com titled "Free Agent Bonanza Begins" by Mike Duffy.