As the second day of the NFL Draft wound down, Justin McElfish saw some familiar names flash across the screen: Players he had played with — or against — during recent All-Star games or during his career as a guard at the University of Richmond.
And though he never saw his name on ESPN, he’ll get a chance to play in the league, with the only team based in his home state.
McElfish will join the Washington Redskins as a rookie free agent, which has its advantages over draftees.
Sure, rookie free agents don’t enjoy the prestige — or the money — of being a draft pick. But unlike draft picks, they have a chance to decide what team they’ll play for.
“I’m glad I wasn’t a choice, where I could have gone some place that would have been a bad situation for me,” McElfish said on Sunday night. “I’m just happy to be somewhere. They called me and I took them up.”
Instead, he’ll go to a team that has dealt with him from the end of his college career. McElfish, an Osbourn Park graduate,?had attended a regional workout for the Redskins and got the chance to work with offensive line coach Kim Helton. And it was Helton who called McElfish on Sunday night to offer him a chance to be on the team — only minutes after the final round was completed.
“I hadn’t even changed the channel,” said McElfish.
Redskins guards have been a sore spot for the team over the past few years. Though Washington has bookend tackles in Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, the middle of the line hasn’t performed up to expectations. So guard was a major concern during the Redskins’ free agent frenzy: They re-signed Tre Johnson, and brought on newcomers Dave Fiore, Randy Thomas and Lennie Friedman. Washington also drafted Derrick Dockery, a 6-6, 347-pound guard from Texas.
McElfish and his agent, Paul Rutigliano of BFCA Sports Management, had narrowed the list of preferred teams to between six and seven. The Redskins were on that list because of their need at the guard slots and because of their salary cap situation.
“I have a better chance to stay on the team in any capacity,” McElfish said.
He added that Helton told him that he and Dockery were the only two rookie offensive linemen the Redskins would acquire this season.
McElfish goes from one extreme of the football world to another: The Spiders were a run-first offense, while Redskins coach Steve Spurrier became famous for his Fun ‘N’ Gun offense. And with players more suited to that style of offense, the Redskins could be a threat to throw downfield on any play.
“I was a little worried, because Steve Spurrier is so pass-oriented,” McElfish explained. “But I’m so raw, in pass blocking they can work with me, and teach me how they want me to block.”