An annual rite of passage in the NFL is the signing of undrafted free agents upon completion of the college draft.
Despite battling long odds of making the team they sign with, each franchise usually starts the season with one or two undrafted free agents of the twenty or so they sign to tryout contracts.
The Carolina Panthers may have found a diamond in the rough with their signing of Jeremy Cash from Duke. Cash was an All-American strong safety at Duke and also was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. He actually beat out three players for the conference honor selected in the first 20 picks of the first round of last month’s NFL draft.
What held Cash back from being drafted was a run of injuries starting late in the 2015 season (wrist, hamstring, groin) that continued through the workout season. He is recovering from the injuries. Cash was considered a mid-round NFL draft pick prior to getting hurt but he ended up not being picked at all in the seven-round NFL draft.
Cash was highly sought after by a number of teams. He chose the Panthers, who are attempting to make him a weakside linebacker.
Avid NFL fans know that there is story after story of undrafted free agents that make an impact during each season. Some of them end up being stars. John Randle was signed by the Minnesota Vikings and ended up being a Hall of Fame defensive lineman. More recently, names like Tony Romo and Arian Foster highlight the list of undrafted free agents who have worked their way to Pro Bowl status.
Randle was signed to a minimum salary contract with a $5,000 signing bonus in 1990. His final contract was a $32.5 million, five-year deal that included a then Vikings-record $10 million signing bonus.
Romo went undrafted in 2003 despite being an All-American at Eastern Illinois. Today, the Cowboys’ longtime starting quarterback is a four-time Pro Bowler who has a career passer rating of 97.1 with 247 touchdown passes. In 2013, Romo signed a six-year, $108 million deal.
Foster is Houston’s all-time rushing leader with 6,472 yards. He is a four-time Pro Bowl selection. He had rushed for 1,193 yards during his junior season at Tennessee but had a sub-par senior year and a poor pre-draft period in 2009 as he, like Cash, fought through a hamstring injury.
There are plenty of other undrafted players who have become Pro Bowlers. I like the Jason Peters story. He was a tight end at Arkansas who turned into an eight-time Pro Bowl tackle with Buffalo and Philadelphia.
Keep your eyes on Cash during the upcoming preseason. Perhaps he will add his name to the growing list of undrafted free agents who contribute to the team who gave them a chance to overcome their draft night disappointment.
The Atlanta Braves were the first major league baseball team to fire its manager this year. It was not all too surprising since the Braves have yet to win 10 games this season and have only won two home games thus far.
What is somewhat surprising is how Fredi Gonzalez learned he was fired. He found out he was fired by reading an airline email notifying him that his commercial flight had been changed for a Tuesday departure.
I wonder how long it took him to realize that his team would be staying in Pittsburgh through Thursday which means the franchise did not want him around the team beyond Monday. Obviously, Atlanta ownership and management knew they were going to let Gonzalez go. They just let the airlines notification email do the dirty work of telling him.
Classless act by what was once considered a model franchise. And I won’t even spend time in these pages on how those who fired Gonzalez gave him a roster void of talent after trading away their best players the past two years while making it clear that they were rebuilding.
They also made it clear that they could not show a manager who took the team to a playoff appearance a few short years ago any respect.
Remember Charlie Weis?
Do you remember how Charlie Weis parlayed being an assistant coach for the New England Patriots into the head football coach at Notre Dame? And do you remember Weis being fired by Notre Dame in 2009?
Well, I read this week that Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame and is, five years after being fired, making the most money of anyone in the school’s athletic department.
In addition to receiving $6.6 million in severance pay on top of his annual $2.05 million salary through 2015. Current football coach Brian Kelly is making $1.62 million and athletic director Jack Swarbrick is making $1.61 million.
Weis’ Notre Dame buyout finally ended in December 2015, but don’t fear for his bank account just yet! He’s still collecting checks from Kansas through the end of December 2016 as the Jayhawks owed him just over $5.6 million after firing him in 2014.
What a formula. Get fired. Get more money. Weis’ agent belongs in the agent hall of fame, if one exists, for his accomplishments in contract negotiations.