Success: Two players signed after taking part in veterans combine
The NFL’s experiment with a veterans combine has worked immediately for at least two players.
Wide receiver Nathan Slaughter is the first success story from Sunday’s session, signing with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. Cornerback Deveron Carr became the second when he signed later Monday with the Indianapolis Colts.
Slaughter ran what some estimated as an unofficial 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, the fastest time.
"We liked what he showed yesterday," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. "He’s fast, explosive and really caught our attention with his 40 time. We thought that his style fits well with what we like to do offensively, and were intrigued enough to add him to our roster to compete."
Slaughter, 22, also could find a role on special teams.
"The way the NFL works, when you are out of sight, you are out of mind," Slaughter said. "Guys in my situation, I would tell them do to whatever it takes to try to get another shot. No matter how much it costs or where it’s at."
Slaughter played four seasons at Division II West Texas A&M, where he caught 74 passes for 1,978 yards and 14 touchdowns, along with three kickoff return TDs.
He signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent last year, but was cut in May. He caught on with Jacksonville in training camp, then was waived injured with a left foot problem on Aug. 6.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Carr followed a similar path to the veterans combine.
An undrafted free agent, he played in nine games with Tampa Bay in 2013, all on special teams, before he was cut in August. The Colts, who have found hidden gems in some unusual places, are now giving Carr a chance to jump-start his career in a secondary looking for depth.
The veterans combine was designed to give such players another opportunity to show their skills. Clearly, in Slaughter’s case, it worked.
"Nathan took full advantage of the opportunity afforded to him by the veterans combine," said Matt Birk, the league’s director of football development. "We know there are some free agents out there who only need a look in order to catch our teams’ eyes. This is exactly why the event exists."
Slaughter was scheduled to leave Arizona on a Monday morning flight, but the Cardinals contacted agent Chris Gittings right after the combine to express their interest. They asked Slaughter to stay for a physical, and when he passed, signed him to a two-year contract on Monday.
Gittings said he had "some other inquiries, but the Cardinals were the most aggressive."
Slaughter also was contacted by the Bengals, Bears and Browns.
Slaughter praised the quarterbacks who threw to him, several of whom have NFL experience.
"They threw me great balls to catch and show I have good hands and run the routes," he said. "I appreciate what those guys did because they were laying it on the line, too."
Slaughter will report to the Cardinals for upcoming offseason workouts. Without the veterans combine, who knows what looks he would have gotten from NFL teams.
"Any opportunity you get to put your client in front of decision makers, how could you turn that down?" Gittings said. "A guy like Nathan, without the combine, how do you show he is healthy and fast and worth having?"