Every year, each NFL club keeps a few undrafted free agent (UFA) rookies. It is inevitable.
And the league has had numerous great players that were once undrafted such as Tony Romo, James Harrison, Warren Moon, Arian Foster, Drew Pearson, Justin Tucker, Victor Cruz, Larry Little, Wes Welker, Adam Vinatieri, Nate Newton, Coy Bacon, Joe Jacoby, Emlen Tunnell, Antonio Gates and John Randle, to name a few.
Cleveland has kept their share over the years. These players have the same rights to start or make the roster as any other player. Hard work, the right coaching staff, an injury here or there, one key moment and perhaps the right scheme is all it takes.
Quarterback Kurt Warner went undrafted then was signed to training camp with the Green Bay Packers. He was cut then played in the Arena League for three seasons. The St. Louis Rams signed him to a futures deal to which he as allocated to Amsterdam of NFL Europe where he promptly led the league in passing yards plus touchdowns. After he spent one year as the Rams third string QB, he went unclaimed in the Browns 1999 expansion draft.
Warner then was elevated to second string and an injury to starter Trent Green placed him as the new starter. Not only did he direct the Rams to a Super Bowl, but Warner was a Two Time NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP, named to four Pro Bowls, Walter Payton Man of the Year (2008) and is now in the Arena Football Hall of Fame, Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor plus the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of rookie UFA’s.
Top of the heap
DT Glen Logan – LSU
(6’-3”, 339 pounds)
Logan has a good chance to make the final roster. GM Berry signed him to a $60,000 guaranteed contract so you know the club has high expectations on him. Very good quickness off the snap and tough to move off his mark. Bull rush is his best move and is also a hustler.
He was signed because he is an effective run stopper and that he is good at. Only average pass rusher and with his girth he can certainly plug the middle. Marginal arm length and must improve his read-and-react skills. One of the knocks on him is that he must consistently shed blocks much better. Played five college seasons with career stats as 109 total tackles, seven sacks, three batted passes and 10.5 tackles for loss.
If Logan can make it through camp and display that he can wreak havoc in the offensive backfield, the defensive tackle group is certainly looking for someone to step up into the defensive tackle rotation in a weak unit.
CBSSports.com scouting report:
“Shows chop and swim moves. Draws some double teams. Good speed and athleticism for his size. Significant playing experience dating back to 2017. Limited pass rush production and potential. Needs to improve on the timing with his punches. Has started 31 college games.”
S D’Anthony Bell – West Florida
(6’-0”, 211 pounds)
Bell is another player that is in the right place and with the right team. This kid can outright body slam offensive players and earned the nickname “Hitman” in college. Always plays all out and is a hard worker. Bell can get to the play quickly as he was clocked at 4.5 in the 40.
The Browns traditionally keep just four safeties on the roster. It is a certainty that John Johnson and Grant Delpit will start with the fierce tackler Ronnie Harrison coming in with relief or in the 4-2-5 defensive setup. Bell’s biggest competition in camp is last year’s fifth round pick Richard LeCounte who was mainly regulated to special teams in 2021. LeCounte had 105 snaps on ST whereas his defensive snaps were just 76 total.
Also in camp is Luther Kirk and four-year veteran Nate Meadors.
Bell plays the ball well and is not afraid of making a stop. His run support is outstanding. Came from a D-2 program so that may be a slight hindrance; but again that may not as West Florida won the National Championship in 2019. This guy is a hitter.
Sports Illustrated scouting report:
“Safety with good size, physicality and average speed. Bell delivers hard hits and uses his frame to take on bigger receivers and blockers. His short-area agility is below average and he has limited field vision. Bell projects as a strong safety who can contribute on special teams out of the gate if he can tackle reliably. His athletic limitations likely prevent him from being more than a special teamer.“
OT Ben Petrula – Boston College
(6’-5”, 315 pounds)
The Browns need backup depth at the tackle position as the main swing tackles currently are Chris Hubbard and last year’s fourth round pick James Hudson. Petrula played in 60 college games and is a finisher who doesn’t quit. Competitor with a positive attitude, durable and a leader.
Strong and low coming out of stance. Moves very well and squares off to finish. Not a natural knee bender and susceptible to speed rushers. Swim moves kill him. Has versatility in which he has played every position on the line. Has sub-par athletic ability but a solid run blocker.
Current tackles Jack Conklin, Jedrick Wills and Hubbard have had injury issues. A dependable backup is needed.
ExpandTheBoxScore.com scouting report:
“Petrula needs to clean up his game as a whole. He lacks power in his punches, lateral agility to stop speed rushes and shows poor technique all around. He will have to focus on one aspect of his game and get that part to an NFL-caliber level where teams might have interest in him as a developmental guy. This is without mentioning that he will have two new coaches, which means he will likely have a completely new system to work with. Petrula has a long road ahead but has the work rate to possibly make a difference.”
WR Isaiah Weston - Northern Iowa
(6’-4”, 210 pounds)
Great combination of height plus 4.42 speed. In his junior season he was named Second Team All-MVFC Conference with 37 receptions for 883 yards and five TD’s. Sophomore year had 1,053 yards. Missed all of 2018 with an injury.
Tough kid with soft hands and is a deep threat. Willing to lower his pads in order to gain extra yardage. Smooth route runner with pure speed. Physical player when fighting for a ball. Tendency to catch with his pads and chest to secure catches instead of his hands. Not sudden and definitely not elusive. Has a vertical leap of 40 inches and a 113-inch broad jump.
Weston will need to show that his size is an attribute down close to the goal line. He is fighting for that elusive sixth receiver spot against Ja’Marcus Bradley, sixth round draft pick Michael Woods, and UFA’s Mike Harley and Travell Harris.
NFL.com scouting report:
“One-speed route runner with the height, weight and speed to beat up on FCS opponents down the field. His primary function was to stretch and challenge defenses vertically, but he appears to have the physical tools to become a more nuanced route runner with more coaching. Weston will find that getting a clean release and outracing an NFL cornerback will be a much greater challenge. The downfield ball skills can be spectacular at times and his productivity would have skyrocketed with a more accurate quarterback.”
TE Zaire Mitchell-Paden - Florida Atlantic
(6’-5”, 267 pounds)
With David Njoku now the undisputed starter with Harrison Bryant the backup, the third tight end position is wide open.
Mitchell-Paden runs a 4.89 40 among his strong, athletic frame. Berry signed him to $25,000 basic pay guarantee with a $10,000 signing bonus so the coaches must like him.
This is a highly-competitive player with soft hands who quickly gets to the perimeter. Inconsistent off the line and isn’t very agile. A bit stiff as a route runner and seems to only have straight line speed. Shows good power, but only average flexibility coming out of his breaks. His blocking skills are decent and will need to be worked on but will engage.
This kid has a very good catch radius who originally committed to Notre Dame with physicality. He is faster than he looks with a limited route tree.
His competition in training camp is former Alabama star Miller Foristall, journeyman Nakia Griffin-Stewart and former basketball player Marcus Santos-Silva.
DT Roderick Perry, II – Illinois
(6’-2”, 315 pounds)
Played at South Carolina State for four years before transferring to Illinois where he played in just 16 games with 42 total tackles, four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Excellent pass rusher with good upper body strength. Plays with great leverage with strong hands. Combines strength and footwork to fill holes inside. Lacks closing speed and is inconsistent off the snap which prevents him from being an elite pass rusher.
Probable practice squad
WR Mike Harley – Miami
(5’-11”, 182 pounds)
Hartley led all Hurricane receivers with 57 receptions for 543 yards with a 9.5 yards per catch average and five touchdowns. He played five seasons with Miami and ended his career with 182 receptions for 2,158 yards with 15 TD’s and an 11.9 average. He also fielded 12 kickoff returns and three punt returns.
C/OG Brock Hoffman - Virginia Tech
(6’-3”, 310 pounds)
Great foot speed. Needs to get stronger in lower half to anchor point of attack. Possesses limited range and will have issues keeping his balance at times. Solid run blocker that is fluid getting to the next level. Started 46 college games including 32 at the center position. He does have versatility so that is a huge plus. Center is currently a logjam but both guard positions need depth.
CB Shaun Jolly - Appalachian State
(5’-9”, 177 pounds)
Runs a 4.48 in the 40 with very good change of direction speed. Good instincts. Lacks ideal size with a limited frame. Not a great tackler but has savvy coverage skills. Not sure-handed with catching interceptions and not a good kick returner.
LB Silas Kelly – Coastal Carolina
(6’-4”, 230 pounds)
Natural tackler who ran the 40 in 4.62. Had 109 total tackles last season with 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. First Team All-Sun Belt Conference. Best at run defense. Great open field tackler who wastes no motion getting to the ball. Good pursuit effort. Aggressive run defender who plays with violence. Can get caught in traffic on his angles and doesn’t have enough speed and power to fit anything but the WILL position. Lacks the fluidity to be consistent dropping against the pass with unpolished coverage skills.
There is a logjam at linebacker and the need is lessened when DC Joe Woods goes into the 4-2-5, so Kelly will really have to show out in training camp if he wants a roster spot.
WR Travel Harris - Washington State
(5’-9”, 185 pounds)
Had 76 receptions for 814 yards and nine TD’s his senior season. Played in 43 college games and finished his career with 179 receptions for 1,999 yards, 17 touchdowns plus another three rushing TD’s for an 11.2 yards per catch average. An experienced kickoff returner with 86 returns for 2,063 yards, one touchdown and a 24.0 average.