Ravens also perusing the undrafted pool

OWINGS MILLS – It starts modestly enough for the Baltimore Ravens in their pursuit of quality undrafted rookies.<br><br> The personnel department mails out roughly 100 letters to prospects whose names may or may not be called during the NFL draft.

Once the draft ends, the Ravens' position coaches and scouts are each given a small amount of money, usually $1,000, to sign multiple players to fill out the depth chart. Some franchises spend as much as $10,000 to $15,000 for highly regarded rookies, and Baltimore traditionally signs 20 to 25 undrafted rookies.

Every dollar counts against the salary cap.

The Ravens take this process very seriously because occasionally they discover unheralded talent that emerges as future starters.

The Ravens have to convince players that they will have a legitimate chance to make the roster, a harder sell this year because of the presence of so many established starters that includes five returning Pro Bowl selection.

"Next week, we will match a coach with a scout and give them a position and they will start talking to players, starting with Thursday through the draft that may or may not get drafted," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The biggest part of it is at the end of the draft we have some great recruiters on our coaching staff.

"We have some great recruiters that are scouts. They out-recruit people that put a lot more money on the table."

The Ravens' most notable undrafted free agent is Priest Holmes, who was starting before Jamal Lewis arrived. Undrafted out of Texas, Holmes is now a Pro Bowl running back for the Kansas City Chiefs and a multi-millionaire.

On the Ravens' current roster, they have five starters who were acquired as undrafted free agents: center Mike Flynn, offensive tackle Orlando Brown, fullback Alan Ricard, safety Will Demps and defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu.

Flynn is entering his eighth season since going undrafted out of Maine, and has started 68 games and seven playoffs, including Super Bowl XXXV.

Brown has started 110 games and is entering his 10th season since going undrafted in 1993 out of South Carolina State and signed by the original Cleveland Browns/Ravens.

Ricard has started 29 games since going undrafted out of Northeast Louisiana and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2003.

Demps started all 16 games last season and recorded 86 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

The 6-foot-5, 340-pound Kemoeatu started three games last season and is projected as a starter this fall, although he's likely to rotate with Dwan Edwards, last year's second-round draft.

Both Kemoeatu and Demps are restricted free agents who have signed their $1.4 million middle tenders. If a team had wanted to sign either player, they would have been required to compensate the Ravens with a first-round draft pick if Baltimore opted not to match an offer sheet.

Whether the Ravens will find another gem in the draft discard pile is unclear, but it's a definite that they'll be looking for bargains.

"What players and agents get a chance to realize that a lot of these guys going back to Priest Holmes have made our football team," Newsome said. "So, they know they get a very good chance here."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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