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RENTON, Wash. – Once the final picks of the NFL draft are made, Pete Carroll starts grabbing phones.
For this brief time — some years not more than 90 minutes — Carroll reverts to being a recruiter, the way he was while building powerhouse college programs at Southern California. Carroll wants to make his pitch to select players who were not taken in the draft.
He wants to sell them on the fact that even though they were bypassed, Seattle could be a place where their talents are valued. That the Seahawks and their coaches will find a way to accentuate their skills. That this place has a track record of giving guys with the right attributes — a determination to prove others wrong being chief among them — a spot on the roster should they prove themselves worthy.
That is Carroll's pitch and one that has proven fruitful for the Seahawks in building a Super Bowl-winning roster.
"We believe that we can find the special qualities that guys have based on the way that we go about it," Carroll said. "We're not trying to just throw a guy into the wolves and see if they can make it, but we're going to give a chance to do what they do well, show us where they fit, and then we'll build on their strengths. That's been a long commitment that we've had that we know that that works."
Whether it was wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, offensive lineman Alvin Bailey or linebacker Mike Morgan, the Seahawks have been able to add depth to their roster by finding undrafted free agents after the final picks are made.
For all the attention the Seahawks have received for discovering key parts of their roster in the middle and late rounds of the draft, the undrafted free agent market has been important as well.
Eight undrafted free agents were part of the Seahawks roster for last February's Super Bowl victory over Denver. Since Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in 2010, the Seahawks have seen 15 undrafted free agents make their way onto the final 53-man roster at the end of training camp — although some of those players were later released.
The importance Schneider has put on the later rounds of the draft has proven critical in having a strong base of knowledge about those rookies who go undrafted and which ones could fit in Seattle. Then it's a matter of quickly getting on the phone and convincing them that Seattle will give them the best shot.
"That's a huge emphasis for us to know those guys all the way through the depths, not just being concerned on the top three or four rounds," Carroll said. "That's one. And we are committed to playing them as we find out on whether they can play or not, and we've proven that by playing more guys."
The Seahawks went so far as to release an informational brochure to agents ahead of this week's draft that highlight their willingness to give undrafted rookies a chance. The information highlighted included a section where the Seahawks show their willingness to move on from draft picks that haven't met expectations and instead opted to keep undrafted rookies. Seattle also highlighted the interest players released from its roster get on the waiver wire.
"It's important. There's a specific budget we have to work within and then to have a coach like Pete who goes from phone to phone which he totally loves. ... It's great because he gets on the phone and competes like crazy," Schneider said.
Mining a couple of gems out of the undrafted class is beneficial in many ways. Usually those players carry resentment for being overlooked and a desire to prove others wrong. No one has embodied that more than Baldwin, who led the Seahawks in receiving as a rookie and had a career-high five regular-season touchdown catches last season.
Undrafted free agents are also cheap relative to the salary cap. That's especially important for Seattle with the big contracts on the horizon.
"We're totally committed to this and everybody understands as we get the word out," Carroll said. "Hopefully the kids will understand that as they come to make their decisions."
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