Few coaches have made better use of undrafted free agents than Washington's Joe Gibbs.
Four of last year's undrafted rookies, punter Andy Groom, defensive tackle Aki Jones, linebacker Zak Keasey and kick returner Rich Parson, got into games, while tackle Jon Alston, running back Jonathan Combs, receiver Steven Harris and tight end David Kashetta spent time on the practice squad. Alston, Combs and Harris remain on the roster, while Keasey is with San Francisco.
Last year's Redskins lineup included three starters who weren't drafted: receiver David Patten, linebacker Lemar Marshall and safety Ryan Clark. Sixteen other players who were never drafted also played for Washington last season, including kicker John Hall, punter Derrick Frost, tight end Mike Sellers and receiver James Thrash.
All of this success by players whose names weren't called by Mel Kiper on a draft weekend is par for the course for Gibbs, whose championship teams in the 1980s and 1990s were full of low-round draft choices and undrafted free agents.
"You're picking people," explained Gibbs, who gets his first look at this year's crop of unknowns during a three-day rookie mini-camp this weekend at Redskin Park. "It's not a science, for sure. I'll be willing to bet in our rookie camp there will be guys (about whom) I'll say, 'Good gosh, I don't believe this. This kid is really good. What's the deal here?' That excites me and always has. All of the guys we've had who've been (rookie) free agents and played here for a long time and had great careers."
The famed original Hogs included tackle Joe Jacoby, center Jeff Bostic and tight end Doc Walker, none of whom were drafted, and tackle George Starke, taken in the 11th round, meaning he would've been bypassed in today's shorter draft.
Tight end Ron Middleton, linebackers Mel Kaufman and Neal Olkewicz and safeties Todd Bowles and Mark Murphy started on Redskins Super Bowl winners without having been drafted. Running back Earnest Byner, guards Raleigh McKenzie and Mark Schlereth, defensive end Fred Stokes, linebacker Monte Coleman and Martin Mayhew were all chosen low enough that they would have been undrafted by 2006 standards.
"You draw up these pictures of what we want, a guy that's real fast and big, but I go all the way back to a guy like Mark Murphy and people like that," Gibbs said. "They don't come close to a profile you would draw up, and he played for years."
Gibbs is also well aware that, unlike the draftees, the rookie free agents often have a choice of employers.
"I talked to one agent (on Sunday after the draft) who said, 'I made four other teams mad, so you better take care of this guy,'" Gibbs said. "A guy works his entire life to get a chance to play pro ball, so I take it real seriously when I want to sign him. It's a dream for them. I dreamed about playing in the NFL, but I wasn't good enough. It's a dream that everybody chases."
Quotes and Notes
--Running back Mario Merrills and defensive backs Milton Harris and Dennard Wilson of Maryland, Virginia Tech running back Mike Imoh and Georgetown linebacker Mike Ononibiaku are among players added by the Redskins on a tryout basis.
--LB Rocky McIntosh, a second-round draft choice, wore No. 50 at Miami, but since veteran linebacker Khary Campbell has that number in Washington, the rookie took No. 52. That became available when center Cory Raymer was cut this winter.
"I'm used to the pressure," McIntosh said of possibly replacing three-time Pro Bowl pick Arrington. "People can label me whatever they want, but I know what I've got to do. I've got to go out there and work. I've got a job. I need to go out there and keep it."
--Both sides in S Sean Taylor's long-pending criminal trial have agreed to another continuance pending the concurrence from new Judge Leonard Glick. The oft-postponed trial is supposed to begin on Monday in Miami. Taylor faces up to 46 years in a Florida prison on three charges of brandishing a firearm and one count of simple battery stemming from an incident last June 1.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just don't take a bunch of guys to take a bunch of guys. Most of the people we go after we feel could have an opportunity (to at least make the practice squad). I feel like we have an obligation to tell them exactly what the situation is, this is where we think you fit in. We make sure their eyes are wide open." -- Coach Joe Gibbs on recruiting rookie free agents