Former Miami safety Ray Ray Armstrong is one of 22 undrafted free agents coming to the Rams. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
At the conclusion of last month’s NFL Draft, the Rams had just 59 players committed to their roster.
With roster limits set at 90, that meant the Rams had plenty of open spots to go out into the pool of undrafted free agents and add talent.
According to coach Jeff Fisher, there was some method to the madness as he cited that some of their top targets might be more inclined to sign with the Rams given the availability of potential roster spots as opposed to other places.
“Fortunately for us when this is all said and done today, if you’re choosing between club A and club B and club A has three linebackers and club B has six, you’re going to choose the Rams because you’re going to get an opportunity to come to camp and compete,” Fisher said on the draft’s final day. “We’re banking that we’ll have some success later on this afternoon in that area.”
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the Rams have had plenty of success in that regard; adding 22 undrafted rookie free agents from all over the country to the mix. Those 22 undrafted rookies will join the seven drafted players as well as a whopping total of 27 undrafted free agents here on a tryout basis for this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
The 22 undrafted free agents signed by the Rams at some point in the time since the draft ended are receivers CJ Akins (Angelo State) and Emory Blake (Auburn), safeties Cody Davis (Texas Tech) and Cannon Smith (Memphis), linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong (Miami), Darren Bates (Auburn), Phillip Steward (Houston) and Jonathan Stewart (Texas A&M), kicker Brett Baer (Louisiana-Lafayette), offensive linemen Braden Brown (BYU) and Kevin Saia (Louisiana Tech), running back Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee State), fullback Eric Stevens (California), defensive tackles Garrett Goebel (Ohio State) and Al Lupuaho (Utah State), long snapper Jorgen Hus (Regina (Canada)), tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn), defensive ends Gerald Rivers (Mississippi) and Ruben Washington (Oklahoma) and cornerbacks Robert Steeples (Memphis), Drew Thomas (UTEP) and Darren Woodard (UTEP).
Each of those players will get an opportunity to make a first impression this weekend and their addition to the roster brings the total in place to 81. That leaves nine spots, some of which could be filled with players from the tryout group.
In the past, the undrafted free agent class used to be viewed as nothing more than camp bodies but the Rams have put more of an emphasis on getting better talent through that avenue in recent seasons.
Last year, the Rams had six undrafted free agents that made the roster out of training camp in quarterback
While the hope is that those players can develop into valuable contributors in some way or another, on a young roster such as the Rams, they often tend to show up on special teams right away as noted by general manager Les Snead when discussing the importance of supplementing the roster via undrafted free agency.
“Just like every year, I’ve told this story a couple times this week – Coach Fisher calls a fake punt out of our end zone from a college free agent punter (Hekker) to a college free agent gunner (McLeod) and we get a big play – those guys are college free agents and there’s going to be a guy out there that’s going to surprise you,” Snead said. “They usually have the makeup, the intangibles, or something to come in.”