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Rookie class restocks Mizzou presence in NFL

Rookie class restocks Mizzou presence in NFL

Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ryan Tannehill

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) is greeted by teammate Justin Smith (94) after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, bottom, during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

COLUMBIA, Mo. • Once the rookie draft picks and free agents sign their contracts in the coming days, weeks and months, Missouri could have as many as 32 players on NFL rosters. 

That, of course, comes with the caveat that NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed and many of the former Tigers will be scrapping to earn a roster spot this summer.

As it stands now, here’s a look at all the former Mizzou players currently with NFL teams. (Note, the two Missouri teams have the most Mizzou players.)

• NFC West

San Francisco: DL Justin Smith (signed through 2015); OLB Aldon Smith (signed through 2015); QB Blaine Gabbert (signed through 2014)

Seattle: OL Justin Britt (2014 second-around draft pick)

St. Louis: C Tim Barnes (signed through 2014); WR T.J. Moe (signed through 2014); CB E.J. Gaines (2014 sixth-round draft pick); DE Michael Sam (2014 seventh-round draft pick)

The skinny: The Smiths are core pieces to the Niners' defense, assuming Aldon can stay out of trouble. Gabbert will back up Colin Keapernick. All four Tigers in St. Louis will have to compete for jobs in training camp. Moe, Gaines and Sam might have to contribute on special teams to secure a roster spot. Britt has a great chance to win the starting right tackle job with the Super Bowl champions.

• NFC South

Atlanta: S William Moore (signed through 2017); LB Sean Weatherspoon (signed through 2014)

Carolina: DE Kony Ealy (2014 second-round draft pick); WR Marcus Lucas (undrafted rookie free agent)

The skinny: Moore's one of the league's top safeties and a cornerstone to Atlanta's defense. Weatherspoon is entering a pivotal contract year. The Panthers can afford to groom Ealy as a situational pass-rusher this year, while Lucas will have a shot to make a roster starved for receivers. 

• NFC North

Detroit: DL C.J. Mosley (signed through 2014); QB James Franklin (undrafted rookie free agent)

Minnesota: CB Kip Edwards (signed through 2015)

The skinny: If Franklin can't surpass backups Kellen Moore and Dan Orvlosky, he could head to Detroit's practice squad. (Hey, it worked well for Chase Daniel in New Orleans.) Mosley is a staple in Detroit's rotation. Edwards has his work cut out for him. 

• NFC East

Dallas: WR L’Damian Washington (undrafted rookie free agent)

Philadelphia: WR Jeremy Maclin (signed through 2014), WR Brad Smith (signed through 2014); RB Henry Josey (undrafted rookie free agent)

The skinny: The Cowboys need impact wideouts, and Washington brings size, speed and passion. No reason he can't make the roster. Maclin is back after missing all of last season and figures to resume his starting role. Smith returned kicks last year and could still become a weapon in Chip Kelly's offense. The Eagles have a dynamic 1-2 tailback punch with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Can Josey wiggle his way onto the roster?

• AFC West

Kansas City: QB Chase Daniel (signed through 2015); WR Jerrell Jackson (signed through 2014); CB Kevin Rutland (signed through 2015); DL Dominique Hamilton (signed through 2014)

San Diego: LB Andrew Gachkar (signed through 2014)

The skinny: Georgia rookie Aaron Murray could give Daniel a run for the Chiefs' backup job. The other Tigers-turned-Chiefs will have to battle to earn backup roles. Gachkar, a backup and special teams player, faces his contract year.

• AFC South

Jacksonville: DL Ziggy Hood (signed through 2017)

Tennessee: LB Zaviar Gooden (signed through 2016); LS Beau Brinkley (signed through 2014)

The skinny: After five good not great years in Pittsburgh, Hood gets a new start in Jacksonville and should contend for a starting job. Gooden is a backup who could play more on passing downs. Brinkley has a steady gig on special teams.

• AFC North

Pittsburgh: TE Eric Waters (undrafted rookie free agent)

The skinny: Like any UDFA, Waters has a big hill to climb but he fielded several offers and liked his chances best to stick with the Steelers.

• AFC East

Buffalo: OLB Jacquies Smith (signed through 2015)

Miami: TE Michael Egnew (signed through 2015); LB Andrew Wilson (undrafted rookie free agent)

New York Jets: DT Sheldon Richardson (signed through 2016)

The skinny: Last year's NFL defensive rookier of the year, Richardson could bust through as one of the league's elite young D-lineman this fall. The drafting of Georgia rookie Arthur Lynch could put Egnew on notice. If Wilson can make an impact on special teams he could stand a chance to catch the eye of Miami's brass.

• Free agents: WR Danario Alexander, OL Colin Brown, TE Chase Coffman, OL Elvis Fisher, FB Max Copeland, LB Donovan Bonner

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