Every year there's a last-chance story worth following. This year, it's A.J. Edds, a former Miami Dolphins draft pick who spent last season in pro football purgatory, waiting by the phone every Monday morning for a linebacker-needy team to call. His overnight bag was always packed, stuffed with two days of clothes and his football cleats, just in case he had to race to the airport to audition for a team.
"It was frustrating," Edds said during a break at the New York Jets' OTA practices. "The unknown is always frustrating, not knowing when that call is going to come."
There were a couple of tryouts, but no contract offers. Edds (pronounced: EEDs) sat out the entire season.
A football career can change course in a heartbeat. There was a time, not long ago, when Edds was part of somebody's future. The Dolphins liked him so much in the 2010 draft that they traded up seven spots, selecting him with the first pick in the fourth round. They praised his coverage skills, projecting him as an immediate contributor as a nickel linebacker.
Then he blew out his knee in training camp, and that was that. The Dolphins cut him a year later, starting his journeyman's life. He was claimed on waivers by the New England Patriots and ended up on their practice squad for a brief time. His hometown Indianapolis Colts came calling, offering a spot on the 53-man roster. He spent the remainder of the 2011 season with the Colts, playing in nine game and making 12 tackles.
The following training camp, Edds wrecked his knee again. He missed the 2012 season. He went to training camp with the Patriots last summer, but he was released and sat out again. Instead of giving up, he reinvented himself by going back to college -- sort of. He moved back to Iowa last January, and trained with the school's draft-eligible players. He participated in the Iowa pro day, hoping to catch a team's attention.
"I think that kind of put me back in the conversation with some clubs because I think there were questions in people's minds about my health," he said.
Edds was happy with his pro day performance, but only one team made an offer -- the Jets, who extended a non-contract invite to their rookie camp. For a veteran player, that's the lowest rung on the ladder, having to audition with rookies for a contract. His agent offered some advice: "Make it count. Seize the day."
There were 37 non-contract players at the camp; only two received offers, Edds and tackle Markus Zusevics. Edds impressed Rex Ryan with his smarts, which wasn't a surprise. He was a three-time selection to the Big Ten's all-academic team and he reportedly scored a 31 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test, the highest among the Dolphins' 2010 draft picks.
At 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, Edds is built like an outside linebacker, but he's trying to learn all the spots in the Jets' scheme. There might be two or three spots open at linebacker, so you never know. Edds is hoping for the best. He'd like to unpack.