When Pete Carroll and John Schneider were given the keys to the organization, they made a commitment to make each transaction with a definitive purpose – to improve their roster with each roster change. They value each draft pick as well as each free agent signing they make. The same goes for undrafted free-agent signings. Many other teams will come to terms with random undrafted players, not putting the effort to bring the most talented players in; that isn’t the case with Carroll and Schneider.
In 2010, they brought in guys such as Jeff Byers and Josh Pinkard. In 2011, last season, they brought in the likes of Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette. Some of these players, particularly from the 2011 UDFA class, made an impact during their rookie campaigns. Its guys like Baldwin and Lockette that are often labeled “diamonds in the rough”, and they emerge every year throughout the league. Without further ado, which 2012 undrafted free agents should we keep tabs on as training camp unfolds? I give you three names:
Rishaw Johnson, G
Johnson is an offensive guard from a small school, California (Pa.) University. By June, he was seen taking snaps with the first-unit offense. Enough said, right? For an undrafted rookie, any rookie for that matter, being able to take snaps with the first-team after only one month is tremendous. During Pete Carroll’s webcast with the fans on May 25th, he was asked which player we should watch for during August’s training camp. Of the 90+ players on the roster, Carroll singled out Johnson as the player to watch. Realize this was back in May, prior to when Johnson began taking snaps with the first-team. “We liked him going through the later rounds of the draft,” Carroll said. “He’s just a long ways down the road of understanding how to play the game.” At 6’ 3”, 313 pounds, Johnson has a chance to make a huge impact in the future. The fact that he is already receiving high praise from the head coach gives him the biggest chance of any undrafted rookie on the team to make the cut in late August.
Cordarro Law, DE
Law is a defensive end from another small school, Southern Mississippi. His athleticism is incredible for a defensive end, so much so that he drew positive remarks from the skill-position players. The Virginia Mason Athletic Center, as you may know, has a small basketball court where the wide-receivers and defensive backs often play. One day Law came over “to play”, and roars of laughter came from the receivers. Little did they know Law brought his A-game and hooped them, making jump-shot after jump-shot and even dunking on them. “He’s a big-time athlete”, says Sidney Rice. Two weeks ago when the receivers and quarterbacks went to the University of Washington to run routes and catch passes, Law joined them and was able to keep up. It is clear that his athleticism is top-notch, and that’s something Carroll values in his defensive ends. Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin may be 1-2 on the roster, but Law is definitely in the running for the third spot behind them.
Phil Bates, WR
Bates comes from Ohio University (another small school, see the trend here?). What makes Bates such an intriguing prospect is his unique skillset. Make it known right now; Bates is no ordinary receiver off the street. Need a wide receiver that has good size/speed (6-1, 200, 4.48 40-yard dash), runs crisp routes, jukes like a runningback, and can throw the ball like a quarterback? Bates is your man. Over the course of his football career, he has been thrust into a variety of roles and has flourished in each of them. Sure, the Seattle Seahawks might already be stacked at wide receiver. But given Carroll’s creativity with play calling and trick plays, he might be willing to keep a spot open for a player with the versatility of Bates. Might the “Isaiah Stanback” experiment come back one more time, but with Bates this year? Time will tell, but it’s a definite possibility given Carroll’s past.