Late night for Tigers

Missouri players seek free agent deals after not being picked.
Monday, April 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

After five years of tugging a Missouri jersey over their pads, a number of former Tigers are ready to trade in the Black and Gold for a new look, but some might have to wait longer than others.

The NFL Draft concluded Sunday without any Missouri players hearing their names called, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get a chance to play at football’s highest level.

MU players still have options

Center A.J. Ricker and tackle Rob Droege had agents working on the phones late Sunday evening, attempting to work out a deal to sign the former MU standout linemates.

Droege finalized a deal to join former teammate Justin Gage in Chicago. The offensive tackle was a three-year starter at Missouri. Terms of his deal were unavailable.

Harold Lewis, Ricker’s agent, was brokering deals with a few teams, including Buffalo, Jacksonville and Kansas City. Ricker said late Sunday that he was still weighing his options and looking for the right deal.

“I will probably make the decision tomorrow morning,” Ricker said. “I have narrowed it down a little bit.”

Linebacker Brandon Barnes will get the opportunity to learn from one of the best linebackers in football. He signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens where he will hopefully compete for a roster spot backing up Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Barnes said Baltimore seemed like a good destination.

“They had called me earlier today telling me that I was a guy they wanted,” Barnes said. “It was an easy decision because they showed the most interest in me. It’s a great opportunity for me and I am looking forward to it.”

Cornerback Michael Harden, tailback Zack Abron and defensive tackle Russ Bell also were working to line up free agent contracts.

Harden signed with Seattle, but Abron’s prospects are unknown.

Bell got a phone call from Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil around 7 p.m. inviting him to come to a two-day rookie tryout. Bell, who doubles as an All-American thrower for the Missouri track teams, said the Chiefs liked his athleticism and strength.

“I was fine until the coach called,” Bell said. “Then I got nervous, but the chance to stay in Missouri is more than I can ask for.”

A record-setting draft

This year’s edition of the draft saw a few record-breaking moments after an eventful first day. The two-day affair had 28 trades, breaking the previous record of 26, set in 1999. A day after Miami set a record with six first-round picks in the first 21 choices; Ohio State tied the Hurricanes’ record of 14 players going in the draft’s seven rounds.

Rams and Chiefs mix it up

The Rams and Chiefs ended their drafts with a mixed bag of talent.

St. Louis opted for defense with its fourth (linebacker Brandon Chillar) and fifth-round (safety Jason Shivers) selections. After adding depth on defense, coach Mike Martz did what many expected and drafted Jeff Smoker to compete for one of the quarterback slots. Smoker, from Michigan State, was the Rams’ sixth-round choice, No. 201 overall.

A pair of compensatory selections rounded out St. Louis’ draft. Tight end Erik Jensen from Iowa and offensive tackle Larry Turner, from Eastern Kentucky, completed the Rams’ seven-player haul.

Kansas City went for a majority of offense with its final four picks. Attempting to solidify their depth at wideout, the Chiefs grabbed Oregon’s Samie Parker in the fourth round and Auburn’s Jeris McIntyre in the sixth.

Jared Allen, a defensive end from Idaho State, was the Chiefs’ second fourth-round choice. Offensive tackle Kevin Sampson, from Syracuse, went to Kansas City in the seventh round to cap its draft.

The Chiefs also made a trade, acquiring Eagles’ guard John Welbourn for their fifth-round choice and a fourth-round pick next year.

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