There's been some recent news about NFL teams contacting the agents of undrafted free agent rookies. This type of tampering is forbidden under the rules of the lockout. Yet Pro Football Weekly quoted a number of agents who said they have received numerous phone calls from team representatives inquiring about their players.
The issue arose last week when Tim Barnes, former Misssouri center who was not selected in the draft, told the Columbia Tribune he'd heard from the Bengals, Ravens and Dolphins in the days following the draft.
"It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less (phone contact) than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end," one of the agents was quoted as saying.
Like the old saying goes: if you're not cheating, you're not trying. Just ask Bill Belichick.
The reason teams are willing to risk the penalties that come from tampering, which include fines and the loss of future draft picks, is because undrafted free agents can have significant value.
Last season, there were 59 undrafted free agents active on opening-day rosters. Some notables include Tampa Bay RB LaGarrette Blount, whose 1,007 rushing yards were the most by any rookie back; RB Chris Ivory, who started for New Orleans in the playoffs; QB Max Hall, who led the Cardinals to a win over the Saints in his first start; and CB Sam Shields, who intercepted two passes against the Bears in the NFC Championship game. Chicago has its own crop of productive UFAs, including Caleb Hanie, signed by the team after the 2008 draft.
So it's not surprising teams are bending the rules to get a jump on some of the talented players still left in the pool. UFAs are cheaper than veteran free agents and can have just as big of an impact. Teams can load up on these untested players coming into training camp without breaking the bank, with the hope that one or two can perform well enough to make the roster.
The Bears left a few glaring needs unfilled in the draft. One of those positions is wide receiver, where the team still needs a big-bodied pass catcher. Chicago will also be in the market for a backup running back that can be a better complement to Matt Forte than Chester Taylor was last season. At the very least, the team should bring in a ball carrier who can compete with Harvey Unga for the third tailback spot.
Here are a few undrafted free agents from both positions the Bears should be targeting come the start of free agency:
WR Ricardo Lockette
Brian Spurlock/US Presswire
WR Ricardo Lockette, Fort Valley State (6-2, 211)
Lockette is a burner, clocking the fourth-fastest 40 time (4.37) at the combine. He's raw and has inconsistent hands but his athletic ability is top tier.
WR Tori Gurley, South Carolina (6-4, 216)
Gurley left school a year too early, even though he'll be 24 when the season starts. He is not a burner but has outstanding size. His basketball background makes him deadly in jump ball situations.
WR Terrence Toliver, LSU (6-4, 212)
Toliver has had some run-ins with the law, which had a lot do with him being undrafted. He's a project who must work on his hands but he would definitely be worth the gamble.
WR Andre Holmes, Hillsdale (6-4, 210)
The hometown product -- he grew up in Elk Grove -- is a solid player and should have been drafted. He has good speed (4.51) to go with his big frame. The former track star is a high-character kid with a huge wingspan and a 35-inch vertical jump. He could be just the target Jay Cutler needs in the end zone.
RB Noel Devine, West Virginia (5-7, 179)
Devin is also very small for his position. He does have sprinter's speed (4.40) and is very shifty. If his pass catching develops, he could be a third-down contributor.
RB Armando Allen, Notre Dame (5-8, 199)
Allen's collegiate career was cut short by injury. Teams were scared off due concerns about his durability. He can't handle a full rushing load at the NFL level but he has great hands and is a good kick returner.
Tomorrow: Offensive Linemen
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider