Seahawks make sales pitch aimed at undrafted free agents

RENTON — Pete Carroll and John Schneider were sitting on a stage at Seattle Seahawks headquarters on Tuesday to talk NFL draft. But over and over again, they kept bringing the conversation back to what happens after the draft. Most notably, the rush to sign the top undrafted players immediately after the seventh round ends Saturday night.

And if it felt like the Seahawks’ head coach and general manager were making a sales pitch for Seattle as a good destination for undrafted free agents, that’s because they were. They even had a script.

Not only did Carroll refer to the message they want to give to potential undrafted players as “the facts that we’re trying to hammer out in this press conference right here, the ones that we want to get out,” it turns out the Seahawks also sent agents a 12-page document outlining why their clients should sign with Seattle.

The Herald obtained a copy of the recruiting brochure, if you will, which:

  • Details how Seattle has cut more picks under Carroll and Schneider than any team other than Washington. “Seattle is willing to quickly move on from draft picks if needed, creating more opportunities for Undrafted Free Agents to compete for roster spots,”
  • Stresses that the Seahawks give undrafted players more preseason playing time than other teams. “If your client doesn’t get on the field in the preseason, he’ll have a tougher time making that team’s roster or any roster at all.”
  • Spells out that the eight Seahawks who contributed to last year’s Super Bowl championship season — Alvin Bailey, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Benson Mayowa, Mike Morgan and DeShawn Shead — began their careers in Seattle as undrafted free agents.

“History has shown that the Seahawks keep and develop the Undrafted Free Agents they sign, even at the expense of draft choices,” the document concludes. “The Seahawks are more likely than most teams to give your Undrafted Free Agent play time in the preseason, giving your client the best opportunity to make the Seahawks or other team’s roster.”

So yes, the Seahawks are very much focused on assembling the best draft class they can this week, but they also know there is important work to be done in the moments after the draft ends. It might be tempting to look at the depth and talent on Seattle’s roster and think that draft picks will have a hard enough time making the roster, and that undrafted rookies might as well not bother.

However, Schneider and Carroll insist their history sends the opposite message. Even as the Seahawks became the best team in the NFL, they still stayed true to Carroll’s philosophy of competition.

“Since we got here in 2010, we lead the league in rookie free agents in playing time,” Schneider said. “That’s a tribute to bringing guys in and having open competition where they are not looking at names on the back. It’s just like who are the best players and we’re going to accentuate their strengths and we’re going to play them.”

And that’s not just pre-draft propaganda by the Seahawks; their roster backs up the sales pitch. Two of Seattle’s most productive receivers last season, Baldwin and Kearse, joined the Seahawks as undrafted rookies. So too did Johnson, who just signed a new contract, and Lockette, who after bouncing around the league a bit, found a role with Seattle last year on special teams and at receiver. Alvin Bailey outperformed linemen drafted ahead of him, and has a chance to compete for a starting job this season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have not hesitated to cut draft picks, including fourth- and fifth-round picks who never made the 53-man roster.

“It’s an extraordinary part of the draft, because there are kids out there that are waiting on a chance to fulfill their dreams,” Carroll said. “They’re sitting there waiting on the end of the phone, and they’ve got to make a decision — this stuff happens within minutes sometimes, the whole process is only an hour and a half, two hours long. It’s a big gold rush, in a sense. It’s a really extraordinary time.”

Schneider has praised Carroll’s ability as a former college coach to win the recruiting battles for undrafted free agents, and Carroll apparently isn’t afraid to boast a bit about it, saying, “Well, you can tell a trapper by his furs.”

Thursday’s first round is the glamorous, made-for-TV part of the draft, and the next six rounds also feature plenty of important acquisitions, but as the Seahawks’ history has shown — and as their recruiting brochure details — the importance of this weekend includes who the Seahawks add after they turn in the final draft card.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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