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Iowa’s Kaevon Merriweather among undrafted free agents to have favorable NFL landing spots
How Iowa, Iowa State, UNI undrafted free agents fit with their NFL teams
IOWA CITY — Along with the seven players from Iowa’s FBS football programs drafted — four from Iowa and three from Iowa State — another six have NFL homes as undrafted free agents.
Undrafted free agents are often long shots to make teams’ 53-man rosters.
Iowa, for example, had five undrafted free agent signings after the 2022 NFL Draft. Kicker Caleb Shudak was the only one to make a team’s 53-man roster. (Running back Tyler Goodson snagged a spot on Green Bay’s practice squad.)
Others, like Iowa’s John Waggoner or Iowa State’s O’Rien Vance, will try to prove themselves at a rookie minicamp with hopes of then signing as an undrafted free agent.
A player’s outlook could change significantly between now and August as remaining veteran free agents find homes and roster needs change. Someone with a tough roster situation could have a more favorable one in August, and vice versa.
Here is a breakdown of what awaits the undrafted free agents from Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa:
Iowa S Kaevon Merriweather
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After teams passed on Merriweather in favor of other safeties in the seventh round, Merriweather picked a place in need of reinforcements at his position.
The Buccaneers have only three safeties on their active roster.
The Belleville, Mich., native will have some competition from sixth-rounder Josh Hayes and fellow undrafted free agent Christian Izien.
Tampa Bay had four safeties on its Week 1 roster and later took on a fifth, suggesting there might be one or two roster spots for those three players to compete for.
Merriweather was a second-team All-American in college via Sporting News and the Associated Press. Hayes and Izien were not.
While undrafted free agents in general are far from a shoe-in to make a 53-man roster, this is close to best-case scenario for Merriweather.
Iowa LB Seth Benson
Team: Denver Broncos
Benson will be joining a Denver team that already is deep at linebacker.
The Broncos have 12 linebackers on their active roster.
Third-rounder Drew Sanders, widely considered one of the best inside linebackers in the draft class, will make that 13 when he signs his rookie deal.
Denver had 10 linebackers — four inside, six outside — on its initial 53-man roster last year.
Benson will have an uphill climb at Mile High, but a good offseason could lead to opportunities elsewhere.
Iowa FB Monte Pottebaum
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
There are a couple reasons for optimism as Monte Pottebaum competes for a roster spot with the Steelers:
- The Steelers have kept a fullback on the roster in past years.
- The Steelers do not have a true fullback (other than Pottebaum) on the roster now.
Pottebaum is certainly not a lock, though, to have one of the final 53 roster spots.
Connor Heyward, a 2022 sixth-rounder who played in 17 games as a rookie, is listed as a tight end/fullback and could handle the fullback duties. Former Steelers fullback Derek Watt remains available via free agency, giving Pittsburgh another possible option.
Iowa State DE M.J. Anderson
Team: Seattle Seahawks
An opportunity appears to be there for the taking at defensive end in Seattle.
The Seahawks have three defensive ends listed on their active roster, including fifth-round pick Mike Morris from Michigan. They most likely will need to have four on the 53-man roster.
Anderson — one of the players good enough to receive a combine invitation, but not be drafted — will have some competition for that last defensive end spot, though.
He is one of five undrafted-free-agent defensive linemen coming to Seattle, according to a running list from the Seattle Times.
Iowa State C Trevor Downing
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
A productive August could open an opportunity for Trevor Downing in Pittsburgh as he joins an offensive line that does not have a ton of depth at center.
Mason Cole has started 57 games in his career, including all 17 last year. The other options have much less experience.
Ryan McCollum appeared in 13 games in 2021 with the Detroit Lions and spent all of 2022 on the Steelers’ practice squad. Kendrick Green started at center for the Steelers in 2021 as a rookie, but he did not see any game action last year.
Northern Iowa S Benny Sapp III
Team: Green Bay Packers
The good news for Sapp is Green Bay is in significant need of a safety.
The bad news for Sapp is he will have a lot of competition on Lombardi Avenue.
The Packers have nine safeties, including Sapp, on their active roster. After seventh-rounder Anthony Johnson Jr. signs, it’ll be 10.