FOXBORO -- OK so after three days, seven rounds and 254 picks, the draft is over. Now what?
"It's still grinding away," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Though all selections had been made by late Saturday night, there's still a great deal of work for every team to sift through in the moments immediately following the draft. That's when each of the NFL's 32 front offices aggressively pursue the best remaining rookie free agents. Though very few of those that go undrafted are big-name (or big-money) players, teams have to compete with one another to land the free agents they covet.
Even as Belichick met with the media late on Saturday night, members of the Patriots front office were working the phones, quickly scooping up their favorites.
"We’re battling away on the free agents -- a lot of those guys out there," Belichick said. "Of course it’s kind of fast and furious with the post-draft signings, with all 32 teams trying to go after a lot of the same guys. We’ll see how that plays out, but we’re slugging it out there. Hopefully by Monday we’ll be able to get back to normal, get them in here next weekend and start rolling in rookie minicamp and have a good month, month-and-a-half of catching everybody up and start putting the team together on the field."
Belichick made a point to note just how important it is to make good personnel decisions at this point in the year. Choose right and you could end up with a few legitimate contributors. Guys like running back Brandon Bolden and defensive linemen Justin Francis and Marcus Fortson were all undrafted free agents last year. Kyle Arrington, Kyle Love, Dane Fletcher and Ryan Wendell were all undrafted as well.
"I think that’s been an important part of our team through the years," Belichick said. "Once again, last year we had several players either make our team or make our practice squad or in a couple cases, some combination of both. Maybe they were on one or the other for part of the year, but other guys came in that weren’t drafted and contributed to our team, like Forston, like Bolden, Justin Francis and other guys like that in the past -- the Brian Hoyers and the Mike Wrights, you can go right on down the list. So that’s still an important time in the team building process. We’re grinding away at that."
For the next week or so, Belichick predicted, there will be all sorts of player movement. Then, in May, the process of turning these rookies -- drafted and undrafted -- into Patriots begins.
"Then it’s going into phase two of our offseason program with players that are here, which means we can start working with players on the field, which we haven’t been able to do," Belichick said. "That will be part of it. Rookie mini-camp at the end of the week, that will be indoctrination for those guys and then Monday, May 13, that’s when we’ll be able to bring the rookies in and let them get involved in everything. We’ll go into that and OTAs and get ready for training camp.
"It’s a day-by-day process. Hopefully we can take each one of the days going forward and make our team better, whether it’s on the field with our current players, whether it’s some kind of player movement, acquisition, transition, to get our team in a competitive situation for training camp. Once it’s integrating the whole team on the field during the OTAs, then it’s doing that. All those steps that lead up to that are important. The further along our team is now, the further along that rookies are when they come in, the better quality we’ll have in our OTA practices. The better quality we have in our OTA practices, the more ready we’ll be for training camp."
The Patriots had come to agreements with several rookie free agents by late Saturday night, according to NEPatriotsdraft.com.
- TE Zach Sudfeld, Nevada
- RB Quentin Hines, Akron
- CB Stephon Morris, Penn State
- C Matt Stakiewitch, Penn State
- WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Cincinnati
- DT Cory "Porkchop" Grissom, South Florida
- WE TJ Moe, Missouri
- OL Josh Kline, Kent State
- S Kanorris Davis, Troy
- CB Brandon Jones, Rutgers
- FB Ben Bartholomew, Tennessee
- OL Chris McDonald, Michigan State
- OL Elvis Fisher, Missouri
- TE Brandon Ford, Clemson
- P Ryan Allen, La Tech