Ravens open wallet for undrafted rookies

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked to explain the craziness that ensues to lure the top undrafted rookies over the phone in the hours following the end of the NFL draft.

"It’s a year of college recruiting without the home visits and the campus visits and the meals and all that. It’s a lot cheaper -- it doesn’t cost as much," Harbaugh said with a smile. "College football should think about that."

The Ravens, though, are far from frugal when it comes to closing the deal with the undrafted rookies.

In total, the Ravens spent $73,500 in signing bonuses on 15 undrafted rookies, according to numbers obtained through ESPN Stats & Information. That's $10,000 more than what the rest of the AFC North teams spent combined.

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins received the biggest signing bonus at $10,000. The next six most expensive undrafted rookies were either offensive tackles or cornerbacks, two of the biggest areas of need on the team. Two offensive tackles, Oklahoma State's Parker Graham and North Carolina's James Hurst, received $9,000 signing bonuses each. Middle Tennessee State's Sammy Seamster was the highest paid cornerback at $8,000.

Harbaugh believes there is a more overriding factor than money.

"What it really came down to for most of these guys is where was their best opportunity to make the team?" Harbaugh said. "Some of them, they worry about $1,000 here or there, but most of them are concerned with their opportunity.”

There is a major opportunity at right tackle. After not signing or drafting an offensive tackle, the Ravens have penciled in Rick Wagner, a fifth-round pick from last year, as the starter.

Among the undrafted rookies, the front-runner at tackle is Hurst. He was a four-year starter at North Carolina before breaking his leg in last season's bowl game.

"Of course, Hurst at the left tackle draws my attention a lot," Harbaugh said. "He has very good feet. He seems like he’s picking it up quickly. He likes to practice. He has a heavy punch. So, he has a chance.”

At cornerback, the Ravens return four players with experience. That leaves at least one open spot for the likes of Seamster, North Carolina A&T's Deji Olatoye and Texas A&M's Tramain Jacobs.

"We have three big, long guys that we signed, and those guys have looked good," Harbaugh said. "They’re fast; they’re all low 4.4s [40-yard dash speed]. They have long arms, they have pretty good hips, good feet, all of them have good ball skills. So, I think our scouts did a really good job of finding those guys. And then [cornerback Avery] Patterson from Oregon, he’s not as big, but he has really good feet."

While the signing bonus money is guaranteed, a spot on the final roster is not. Last year's highest-paid undrafted rookie was defensive end Will Pericak, who received a $13,500 signing bonus and didn't even make it to the final preseason game.

The two undrafted rookies who made the team two years ago were kicker Justin Tucker (no signing bonus) and wide receiver Deonte Thompson ($4,000 signing bonus). Last year, it was wide receiver Marlon Brown ($5,000) and Brynden Trawick (no signing bonus).

So, which undrafted rookies will make this year's team?

"I told the guys this in the meeting, that there’s not a guy in any of those seats that couldn’t play in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "Will they be able to? Will they have what it takes mentally and be able to make it happen under the lights and those kinds of things? But physically, they all would have a chance."