The Detroit Lions didn’t select an offensive tackle during the three-day NFL draft last week. So LaAdrian Waddle figures he has as good a chance as any rookie tackle could to make their team.
Texas Tech’s first-team all-Big 12 tackle came to terms with the Lions late Saturday after the NFL draft concluded.
“I ended up getting to choose where I could go instead of being plugged in somewhere with a team that has a greater amount of linemen, with less chance of making a squad,” Waddle said Sunday. “So it really all worked out well for me. It definitely would have been nice to be drafted, but this is the next best thing.”
The 6-foot-6, 321-pound Waddle started 41 career games for the Red Raiders. Lions officials had him up to to Detroit before the draft, so some groundwork had been laid in advance.
Waddle said the Ravens, Broncos, 49ers and Dolphins also made him free-agent offers.
“Just because I knew Detroit had that initial interest, even before then, I felt it wasn’t that big a decision,” he said, “although Miami made a small push, especially toward the end.”
Three other Tech players agreed to free-agent deals: Safety Cody Davis with the St. Louis Rams, quarterback Seth Doege with the Atlanta Falcons and center Deveric Gallington with the Oakland Raiders.
Running back Eric Stephens received an invitation to a three-day minicamp with the New Orleans Saints. The camp is the second weekend in May, and if Stephens does well, he has a chance to land a free-agent contract.
Stephens said he was sitting in church when the Saints called.
“I think it’s a blessing,” he said. “I’m excited about it. I’m just happy somebody took a chance and gave me the opportunity.”
Stephens was averaging 114 rushing yards a game his junior year when he suffered a major knee injury in the fifth game. As a senior, he rushed for 480 yards and five touchdowns and caught 16 passes, one for a TD.
This winter and spring, Stephens said the subject of his knee recovery never came up with NFL teams.
“No one ever even mentioned it,” he said. “They asked what kind of shape I was in, if I was still working out. But no one ever even mentioned the knee injury.”
Perhaps no Tech player had a more hectic Saturday than Davis, who said he had offers from 11 teams. The most appealing situations, he said, were with the Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins and Jets.
In the fourth round, he got a call from St. Louis, with Rams head coach Jeff Fisher as well as the team’s defensive coordinator and special teams coach conveying their interest.
Safety was considered a need for St. Louis. Even though the Rams chose Southern Cal safety T.J. McDonald in the third round, Davis still opted for the Rams.
“I wouldn’t say it was because they called me first at all,” Davis said. “I really did go through all my options, kind of weighing out how much safety depth they have and safety experience and how many slots they have that are kind of up in the air.
“The signing bonus wasn’t that big of a deal, but it also showed level commitment. They were saying I would come in as a high-priority free agent. It came down to two or three teams that all had situations that looked good, and the Rams looked like the best fit.”
Davis, a four-year starter for Tech and two-time team leader in tackles, improved his stock with good workouts this spring. Nevertheless, having nearly a dozen free-agent offers was a consolation only to an extent.
“Not too much of one,” Davis said. “It’s just weird hearing all these calls and interest, saying how bad they want you, but they didn’t want you bad enough to draft you. That’s kind of a bittersweet feeling.
“You’re happy with all these opportunities that came up, but everybody wants to get drafted and go through that dream.”
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