"Once you get a Priest Holmes, once you get a Bart Scott; once you get a Justin Tucker, you can convince a player that it isn't lip service," Savage said. "You're going to get a chance to win a role on our roster. I think a lot of time, the free agents that sign with Baltimore feel like they have something to look up to."
Ellerbe, who was undrafted out of Georgia, signed with the Ravens one year after McClain, another inside linebacker, made the team as a college free agent. Ellerbe got a $2,000 signing bonus and a $310,000 base salary. To put that in perspective, the Ravens' second-round pick that same year, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, got a $1 million signing bonus.
Less than five years later, Ellerbe left the Ravens as a free agent, agreeing to a five-year, $35 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens were sorry to see him go, but like with so many other undrafted free agents, they had already reaped the financial and football benefits of Ellerbe's being with the team.
DeCosta joked that guys like Ellerbe are on the "All-Moriarty team," a reference to senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty, who manages the team's salary cap.
"Those are the kinds of players that really help the salary cap in the short term, and you get a bonus because you're getting players that end up being really good for you and work fairly cheaply," DeCosta said. "It helps but what really helps is when you find a guy that you have low expectations for who ends up being a really good player who can help you win some games. That's worth really any amount of money. If the guy is a productive player for us, that's really more important than anything else."
Baltimore Sun reporters Aaron Wilson and Matt Vensel contributed to this article.
Eight standout undrafted free agents
Lauded for their success in the draft, the Ravens have also developed a reputation for their ability to sign quality undrafted free agents. Below are eight who stand out:
|Player||Pos.||Years with Ravens||Skinny|
|Will Demps||S||2002-2005||Started four seasons alongside Ed Reed and had four interceptions and 3.5 sacks|
|Dannell Ellerbe||LB||2009-2012||Parlayed a strong 2012 season with Ravens into a five-year, $35 million contract with the Miami Dolphins|
|Mike Flynn||C||1998-2007||The starting center on the 2000 Super Bowl champions, Flynn was a key member of the offensive line for a decade|
|Priest Holmes||RB||1997-2000||Started 19 games over four seasons for the Ravens but became one of the NFL's best backs after leaving for Kansas City|
|Jameel McClain||LB||2008-present||Before suffering significant spinal-cord injury, he started 44 games over the past three seasons for Ravens|
|Alan Ricard||FB||2001-2005||For three consecutive seasons, he started every game for Ravens while serving as lead blocker for Jamal Lewis|
|Bart Scott||LB||2002-2008||The "Mad Backer" started 58 games in seven seasons in Baltimore and made the Pro Bowl in 2006|
|Justin Tucker||K||2012-present||Beat out Billy Cundiff last training camp and then converted 30 of 33 field-goal attempts, including two game-winners|
Best of the rest: LB Josh Bynes (2011-present), DL Marques Douglas (2001-2004, 2008), DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu (2002-2005, 2012), LB Albert McClellan (2010-present), KR B.J. Sams (2004-2007), WR Deonte Thompson (2012-present)