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UFL aggressively trying to poach undrafted rookie free agents

Mark Herzlich

North squad’s Mark Herzlich of Boston College, talks with scouts following Senior Bowl NCAA college football practice in Mobile, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011. Herzlich survived cancer. The ACC linebacker is back working toward an NFL ?career at the Senior Bowl after missing the 2009 season. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


The owners’ transactions freeze prevents undrafted rookie free agents from signing with NFL clubs. And, as promised by Hartford Colonials coach Jerry Glanville on PFT Live just over a month ago, the lower-level football league is already in the process of poaching undrafteds.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the United Football League has moved up its draft and 2011 season, at least in part because it intends to aggressively pursue UDFAs.

The UFL draft is taking place today.

“If you really look at the population of NFL players, the majority are first- and second-round picks, but once you get past that, the second-biggest group is the undrafted group,” explained Omaha Nighthawks G.M. Rick Mueller. "... It’s a pretty good pool of talented players.”

The UFL is banking on the Eighth Circuit Court in St. Louis implementing a full stay of the lockout injunction. If the stay is not granted, Mueller, Glanville, and their competitors will have little chance of signing rookies who went undrafted by the NFL but were selected by the UFL.

The catch is that any player signing with the UFL will be bound into a contract, according to Breer, and unable to job-jump into the NFL. So players like Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin, and West Virginia running back Noel Devine would be taking quite the risk by signing with the less desirable football league.

Agents are expected to advise their undrafted clients to stay patient in hopes of landing with an NFL club, which undoubtedly has and will remain their ultimate goal.

But Mueller is also confident that the opportunity for sooner playing time -- and acceptance, via the UFL draft -- will appeal to at least some players.

“This is an opportunity for us to change the process,” Mueller said. “And it’s not a window that’s going to come open very often. We can offer these players a UFL opportunity. You mention guys like Tony Romo or Jake Delhomme, well, they sat around to get their chance. We offer guys like that an opportunity to play, and do it as part of a three-to-four month process, so that by Halloween, they can go to the NFL.

“And at that point, they’ll have real pro experience under their belt.”