TEMPE — Jaron Brown and Tony Jefferson hit the practice field Monday.
They represent a growing group of players in the NFL: The undrafted rookie free agent.
According to ESPN’s John Clayton, 77 such players made rosters over the weekend — a better than 50 percent increase over a typical season.
Peter Schrager of FOXSports.com noted there are more undrafted free agents (which he pegged at 78) than sixth and seventh rounders on NFL rosters.
“Those guys come in with the same opportunity as everybody else,” Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “As soon as we got here, we made it clear that it’s not how you got here; it’s what you do while you here. And Tony Jefferson was a prime example. Jaron Brown was a prime example.”
Jefferson, a second-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12 selection out of Oklahoma, is one of six cornerbacks on the roster. He had a team-high two interceptions and tied for third with 14 tackles in the preseason.
“Getting here is just one step, one part of it,” Jefferson said. “I got a long way to go to be where I’m satisfied and content, and I’m nowhere near that. This is just a stepping stool to build confidence — let you know you’re good enough to be here. So, now I’ve just got to continue to progress. I want to make plays and get on the field.”
Fellow defensive back Patrick Peterson praised Jefferson’s efforts.
“I’m excited for him. I thought he had a great preseason,” Peterson said. “I believe he’s definitely ready to go. He’s going to be a player for us in the years to come.”
The Cardinals hope for the same with former Clemson receiver Jaron Brown, who at 6-foot-2 caught 11 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in four preseason games.
“I think I was more nervous about my Clemson Tigers winning that Georgia game,” he said, smiling when asked how nervous he was over the weekend waiting to find out if he had secured a roster spot.
“It’s a blessing really,” continued Brown, one of only four receivers the team decided to keep. “One thing I got to do is just not get complacent and keep working.”
At one point, the Cardinals had three undrafted rookie free agents on the final roster, but linebacker Kenny Demens was released Sunday. So, with the addition of Brown and Jefferson, there are now 10 players on the 53-man roster who entered the league as undrafted rookie free agents.
“More and more guys, with only seven rounds in the draft, get left out,” Arians said. “There’s a lot of quality football players out there.”