Ravens Already Recruiting Undrafted Free Agents

Even Owner Steve Bisciotti sometimes gets involved in the final push to sign prospects.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

When it comes to recruiting and ultimately signing undrafted free agents, the Ravens resemble a college program more than NFL.

And they are one of the best in the league at the game.

As soon as the seventh round ends, undrafted players can sign with whomever they like. So it can often be a bidding war for their services.

Ravens scouts, coaches, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and even Owner Steve Bisciotti get involved. That’s how seriously the Ravens take it.

The process has already begun in Baltimore, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta said last week at the pre-draft press conference.

“We do a great job – [scouts] Joe Douglas, Mark Azevedo and Ian Cunningham – those guys do a great job of organizing our recruiting efforts,” DeCosta said. “Certain guys are really, really good recruiters for us.”

It’s a process that has yielded excellent results.

The Ravens have found undrafted free agents throughout the years that ended up being key contributors: center Mike Flynn (1997), running back Priest Holmes (1997), safety Will Demps (2002), linebacker Bart Scott (2002), defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (2002), linebacker Jameel McClain (2008), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (2009) and long snapper Morgan Cox (2010).

Last year, wide receiver LaQuan Williams and guard Justin Boren spent time on the active roster. Williams, a special teams standout who was injured throughout college at Maryland, was particularly an unearthed gem.

“That’s what we live for,” DeCosta said.

“To see a guy like Jameel McClain – who we liked, who we had pretty high on our rankings – not get drafted by any team, and be able to get him as an undrafted free agent and see him start. He was in our top 100 that year and he didn’t get drafted, so that’s a cool thing and that speaks to what our scouts do.”

The Ravens first identify players who they believe may not be selected.

They then send letters and other mailings to those prospects they want to sign most. Coaches and scouts also talk to players – including during the Senior Bowl, combine and pro days – to introduce themselves and let them know of the Ravens’ interest.

That communication goes on during the draft as well, particularly during the sixth and seventh rounds.

“We talk to these guys at night to basically tell them they’re in our plans and we’re excited about them,” DeCosta said.

Once the draft ends, the Ravens have prioritized lists based on who is still available. They split it up based on position and hit the phones hard.

It’s a process that they couldn’t do last year during the lockout. After the draft ended, teams were no longer able to contact players and could not sign them either. DeCosta called it “difficult.”

He’s glad to be back to the feverish final recruiting effort. It mostly involves scouts, coaches and other front-office members, but sometimes to seal the deal, the Ravens go up the ladder.

“When we have to bring in the big guns, we bring in Ozzie and Steve – if we can get Ozzie off the treadmill – and they’ll close it out for us,” DeCosta said. “It’s a pretty frenetic pace – guys hitting the phones – and we do the best we can.”

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