Pitt Free Agents

PantherDigest.com senior writer Dale Grdnic reports on the latest Pitt Panthers to sign free agent contracts with teams from the National Football League. Where did your favorite players sign? Read on for details.

PITTSBURGH -- Three more former University of Pittsburgh football players got a chance to continue their careers in the NFL even though they weren't drafted this past weekend.

Wide receiver Greg Lee and place-kicker Josh Cummings signed free-agent contracts with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, respectively, while safety Tez Morris will get a tryout with the Washington Redskins in the next few days. Morris does not yet have a contract, but can earn one.

Offensive guard Charles Spencer (third round, Houston Texans) and cornerback Josh Lay (sixth round, New Orleans Saints) were the only former Pitt players who were taken in the draft this year.

"Sure, I'm disappointed that I didn't get drafted, but it's still a great opportunity for me,'' Lee said, as he prepared to leave for Arizona Thursday. "They have two great receivers in (Anquan) Boldin and Larry (former Pitt star Fitzgerald), so I can learn a lot from them.''

If Lee is superstitious, it's probably not a good thing that he signed with Arizona. Lee was expected to follow Fitzgerald's success at Pitt after he left school early for the NFL and basically underachieved even though he was the Panthers' leading receiver the past two seasons and started 28 times in 31 games in three years.

Lee tallied 68 catches for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, but dropped to 49 for 962 and seven last fall. He had 127 career receptions and averaged 19.4 yards per catch, but no one connected with the Pitt program believed he should declare early for the draft.

"I knew for most of the season that it was time for me to move on, so I have no regrets about leaving early,'' Lee said. "I'm certainly at peace with my decision, no matter how it all turns out. But I just wanted a chance to show what I can do, and now I'll get that. I just have to take advantage of it.''

Cummings felt the same way. Few, if any, kickers -- place-kickers or punters -- are drafted anymore. Teams mostly recycle proven veterans like 12-year pro Jeff Wilkins. But Cummings will try to beat him out.

"All I can ask for is a fair shot, and I just have to take advantage of it,'' Cummings said. "I think I can be a successful kicker at the next level. I know it won't be easy, but I'm willing to work hard to reach my goals.''

Cummings was a junior-college transfer who kicked at Pitt the past two seasons. In 21 games, he made 32 of 46 field goals and 54 of 56 extra points with a long kick of 49 yards. He believed his leg strength, and ultimately his distance, improved after knee surgery last fall.

"Sure, I can be accurate from over 50 yards if I need to be, but we didn't always have the best conditions,'' Cummings said. "That could work in my favor, because I've had a lot of different experiences.''

Morris is even more of an underdog to make it in the NFL because he has not yet been signed. However, he has an intriguing opportunity in Washington. The Redskins signed eight undrafted free agents, but they also invited more than 70 prospects to the team's Rookie Camp May 5-7 at Redskins Park. These players, including Morris, will participate in the camp on a tryout basis only. It's possible that more undrafted rookies will be signed to the roster before and after the camp.

Former Pitt tight end Erik Gill and linebacker J.J. Horne have not signed free-agent contracts, either, but they are attempting to hook up with NFL teams this week.


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