If Seattle wants long-term success, it'll have to continue to find bargains in (and after) the draft. (Chris O'Meara/AP)
RENTON, Wash. -- "We wholeheartedly believe in competition in all aspects of our program, and the only way to compete is to show it on the field. We’re dedicated to giving all of our players a look to find out who they are and what they’re all about so we can field the best team possible."
That's the quote from Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll that leads off the brochure sent out to the agents of potential undrafted free agents in the 2014 draft class -- those players who will find themselves off the grid in this week's draft, and will seek to contribute to an NFL team nonetheless. The reigning Super Bowl champions had eight such players contribute to their 2013 season -- OL Alvin Bailey, WR Doug Baldwin, DB Jeron Johnson, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Ricardo Lockette, DE Benson Mayowa, LB Mike Morgan and DB DeShawn Shead -- and they very much want the new class of undrafted players to think Seattle is the kind of place where you can make a difference if you win battles in the team's ultra-competitive environment.
The brochure points out that Baldwin and Kearse combined for 12 touchdown receptions last season, including two in the team's Super Bowl XLVIII win over the Broncos, and six former Seattle UFAs made it on the rosters with other NFL teams as rookies in 2013 -- the sixth-highest figure in the NFL.
It's believed the Seahawks are the first NFL team to take this particular step, and it's a sensible one. Seattle selects 32nd in this year's draft (unless they trade out of the first round, which is entirely possible), and has no third-round pick in 2014 because of the 2013 trade that brought receiver Percy Harvin. Likewise, the combination of Carroll and general manager John Schneider has an impressive track record of picks later in the draft -- third-round quarterback Russell Wilson, fifth-round defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and seventh-round Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith present a few examples.
During the team's pre-draft press conference Tuesday, Carroll explained what he says to undrafted players when he's making the sales pitch.
“We’re telling them that this program is built on competition and we’re committed to giving guys the chance to show it. So, if they come to us, they’re going to get to play. We’ve proven that our guys play more than anybody else in the NFL in preseason, so that’s one fact for us. The commitment that we’ve had is real, and that we have had more rookie free agents playing for us than any other team... we tell them just really the facts that we’re trying to hammer out in this press conference right here... we really do believe that young guys can make it, and also that we do have an approach.
"We believe that we can find the special qualities that guys have based on the way that we go about it. We’re not trying to just throw a guy into the wolves and see if [he] can make it, but we’re going to give a chance to do what they do well, show us where they fit, and then we’ll build on their strengths. That’s been a long commitment that we’ve had -- we know that that works and we know how that helps a young guy fit in. It also helps us win, and it helps us as we continue down the schedule to be stronger near the end of the season. I think one of the big factors is because of that commitment. We’re totally committed to this and everybody understands as we get the word out, and hopefully the kids will understand that as they come to make their decisions.”
Or, as Carroll put it at another point in the press conference, "You can tell a trapper by his furs." There's just as much recruiting going on now as there was when Carroll was doing it at USC...without the occasional lapses in NCAA code.