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Undrafted Rookie Free Agents in Trouble

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The Saints' roster is currently comprised of several key players that were never drafted. To name them: Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Chris Ivory, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Junior Galette, Lynell Hamilton, and Chase Daniel. Some of those guys are valuable reserves while others are core players the team would struggle without. Can you imagine if these guys had never gotten the opportunity to play in the NFL?

Well, given the lockout and the current state of affairs, players like the guys I just mentioned may not get their shot. As things currently stand, the NFL Draft will take place but teams are not free to sign their draft picks nor are they free to sign any undrafted rookie free agents. Unlike the NFL players that are currently out of jobs, these rookies coming out of college have never seen money (at least not from the NFL!) and they probably don't have much to stash away while they wait for their shot. While drafted rookies won't get money right away either, they at least know they have a signing bonus and a contract slated to come their way once things get worked out. Any rookie that goes undrafted, though, has to deal with the uncertainty of the NFL's labor disputes.

How long do they wait for their chance before they commit to something else? At the end of the day, if they weren't drafted, there's no guarantees they'll even get an opportunity once they are free to sign with a team. Unlike the past, when they would find out immediately as teams came banging down their door the second the draft ended, they could have to wait weeks if not months this time around before they get a chance (if they ever indeed even get one). The term "Mr. Irrelevant", coined for the last player taken in any draft, will take on new significance this year because he'll be the last player a team has exclusive negotiating rights on. After that, undrafted players may not even be free to sign with a team and get a chance to compete in training camp for a roster spot.

The real injustice here is the possibility of missing out on all the unsung heroes that have been born from this fraternity and who make for the best stories in football. Can you imagine a Saints backfield without Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory next year? If this had happened to these guys when they were rookies, what would have happened? Ivory had a pending criminal charge, so he may have not been able to find a job at all. He could have been living at home with family instead of being one of the top three rookie running backs in the entire NFL last year.

While some of these undrafted free agents may eventually get their chance, their path to the league may resemble "Beerman" Michael Lewis' more so than the Pierre Thomas' of the world. Lewis was a beer truck driver and delivery man for years before he got a shot as a return man for the Saints. While Marques Colston was drafted, he's another guy that easily could have slipped out of the draft (getting picked in the 7th and final round). Can you imagine if one of the top superstar receivers in the league never got his shot?

The point is a lot of players have the talent to play at the highest level, but because the draft is an inexact science, they fly under the radar for whatever reason. The fact that undrafted players will face even longer odds than they normally would is a rough blow to the incoming class. It's not that the undrafted players before them had anymore security, but at least they had their shot. That's not even certain anymore.

Lots of promising young athletes will be struggling to find odd jobs come May. How do you think this will play out for them?