Am I the only one who wonders how teams seem to have these huge lists of undrafted free agent players signed immediately after the NFL Draft ends? When the news broke today Philadelphia Eagles UFDA Russell Sheppard had "taken himself off the draft board" because he'd already signed a contract with the team, NFL front office alarm bells began to sound:
"I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft," Shepard said on LouisianaDaily.com and WNXX 104.5. "Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me, ‘Is it true that you've signed with a team already?' and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over, because that was the perfect fit for me."
Insert an image of Rodney Dangerfield pulling at his collar here for the Eagles, who scrambled to head off any league questions. There are rules about signing players - before or during the draft - who've declared themselves eligible for the Radio City Music hall big show. Here's their response via CBS Sports:
"Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, we did come to terms on a contract with he and his agent after the draft was completed. We anticipate he, like all of the rookie free agents we have agreed to terms with, will take a physical examination upon arriving in Philadelphia prior to next week's rookie minicamp and then sign a contract."
OK... (wink, wink) Yet I can't be the only one who's curious how all these UDFAs are signed in the first hour after the draft ends. While I don't doubt these players' agents have better Fax machines than Elvis Dummervil, the idea teams aren't - at the very least - bidding on players prior to or during the NFL Draft is near laughable. They talk to potential high overall picks about contracts, and the league allows this. I have little doubt the practice has spilled over into non-draft-able players, but I'm curious how they KNOW they aren't draft-able, or won't be picked?
It's quite possible a team let's a player know they're interested in him if he isn't picked in the draft. So they talk to the player's agent, and get things set up so the signings can happen quickly. I get it! Still, there's a fine line some teams could cross. It's not a stretch to think something like this could lead to a player's team preference seeping into the draft process. While I don't think players intentionally tank their efforts at places like the NFL Combine so they can land on a team they feel fits them best, comments like the one from Russell Shepard will feed the conspiracy theory beasts.