Right before last week’s draft, I had some pretty heavy criticism for Kevin Colbert’s most recent pair of undrafted free agent classes. In a word, they were terrible. This year’s class remains to be seen, of course, but on the surface, it looks more promising compared to recent history.
We’re still waiting to hear the signing bonuses (and increasingly, guaranteeing base salaries, a way teams are circumnavigating the UDFA bonus limit). But they’ve reeled in some big names.
At the top of that group is ILB Matthew Thomas. As Dave Bryan wrote the other day, the hope is Thomas can become the diamond in the rough. Both in his talent, a tremendous athlete, with the ability to make the 53 man roster. You’ve already seen him show up on Dave’s and Matthew Marczi’s summer predictions. It helps, a little, at least, ease the surprise of them not taking one with their seven draft picks.
But Thomas isn’t the only name. Arguably, next up is Olasunkanmi Adeniyi the outside linebacker from Toledo. Again, there’s a roster spot available and the college production to boot. 20 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, who evidently wasn’t even healthy when he did it last year. Joey Porter is in his camp, vouching for him to come to Pittsburgh, so there should be an opportunity.
Jarvion Franklin is a bruising running back who could wind up on the practice squad. Greg Gilmore is a sleeper to make the 53 with nose tackle strength and defensive end length (nearly 34 inch arms). Quadree Hendrson has a tough path to carve out but should make a couple of splash plays in the preseason while Trey Johnson is an athletic corner who had multiple offers but decided on Pittsburgh.
Maybe someone else lesser known from the group, center Patrick Morris or defensive end Kendal Vickers, I’m just throwing out names, will surprise, too. They’re not all going to make it of course, that’s fine and expected, but I like this group’s odds to make the team.
As I wrote about before, the expectation isn’t for every signee to become the next Willie Parker or James Harrison. Make the roster, or at least the practice squad, and have the ability to make some level of contribution. They barely got that from the 2016 roster, Johnny Maxey played a handful of snaps, and so far, there hasn’t been any impact from last year’s crop.
I’m confident that’s going to change, to some degree, in 2018. And Colbert can get back on track with having above average groups and the occasional diamond in the rough.