Undrafted Free Agent
San Diego Chargers
Given Pat Massey’s experience and size, the Chargers picked up the 6’8 Ohio native as a project for their 3-4 base defense. While there aren't a whole lot of bodies at defensive end for the Chargers, things still won‘t be easy for Massey. The starters, Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky are two young products from previous drafts and the staff likes them a lot. There are two backup defensive ends, Jacques Cesaire, and Derreck Robinson with seventh round pick Chase Page in the fold as well.
The team will likely keep four, or at the most, five defensive ends on the roster. Jacques Cesaire is entering his fourth year with the team and saw a few starts and increased playing time last year. His spot is considered a lock. Derreck Robinson, came in last year as an undrafted defensive tackle out of Iowa, but made the roster. He didn’t play much at all last year and was inactive for a good portion of the season. Robinson isn’t a great talent, but his year of experience in the organization will give him a leg up on Massey.
Chase Page, the Chargers seventh round pick from North Carolina, will have to fight for a roster spot along with Massey. The 6’4, 285 pound Page is a player with some upside and is a former defensive tackle that will try his hand at defensive end. Much like Massey, Page was inconsistent and wasn’t as productive as he could have been in college. One thing to Massey's advantage is his experience in the 3-4 system. The former Wolverine had arguably his best playing days at defensive end in the 3-4 at Michigan.
Overall, I expect Massey to be with the Chargers in some fashion. Marty Schottenheimer's club has shown patience and trust in undrafted players at the end position in the past. Derreck Robinson and Jacques Cesaire both were undrafted free agents and are the backup defensive ends currently. I certainly think Massey can beat out Chase Page if he plays like he is capable, but there still may not be a spot available. The former Michigan captain has been working very hard this off season and training for his shot in the NFL. Expect Massey to develop on the practice squad and possibly find his way on the roster if injuries call for his promotion.
Grant Mason is entering an interesting situation with New Orleans. The team went into the draft with only four cornerbacks on the roster and only added one in the draft (Josh Lay in the sixth round). The top four top four corner spots are locked up for the Saints with Mike McKenzie and Fred Thomas as the starters, and Joey Thomas and Jason Craft as the two backups. Josh Lay, Grant Mason, and two other Big Ten cornerbacks, Anwar Phillips (Penn State) and Ray Williams (Purdue), will compete for the final spot assuming the team only carries five cornerbacks.
Lay, being the drafted player will likely begin with upper hand, but don’t count anyone out yet. All four corners have considerable skills. Lay is more of a cover corner with fluid movement, good speed, and ideal size. He needs to be more aggressive against the run, physical in coverage and needs a lot of polish in his footwork. Anwar Phillips is much in the Josh Lay mold. Good size, speed, and awareness, but he has his drawbacks as well. Phillips needs to improve his discipline. He gambles too often and doesn’t anticipate routes well. Ray Williams made the switch from receiver to cornerback and started the better half of the season there. He is very raw at the position but showed promise and potential.
Mason himself is an intriguing prospect. He doesn’t have great deep speed or recovery skills, but he has good short area quickness, work ethic, and toughness. After moving over from wide receiver and playing two years of corner at Michigan, Mason's experience is limited, but his potential is still there. Mason is the kind of player who could really benefit from a year on the practice squad. The key for him will be edging out the other cornerbacks and impressing the coaching staff. That staff includes former Michigan offensive coordinator Terry Malone. Malone was hired to coach the tight ends for the Saints and it should be beneficial to Mason to have a familiar face around.