to dac's point, sometimes sims dont sign people right at signings, either. i am 90% sure ive seen a sim pop up on an ineligible after the first cycle too, because of this same kind of thing, where they did enough effort to sign but not enough to get considered straight away. i DONT think players start to lower their standards 1-2 cycles into recruiting, otherwise that could reasonably explain it - rather, it just seems there is some weird bug with sims where randomly, things take a cycle or two longer to happen. otherwise, i dont know why guys would not sign with sims in the first cycle of signing, when they have enough effort it. ive tossed a bit of money at a guy or two sims didnt sign, thinking they must have a teeny tiny bit of effort in, but that turned out not to be the case, i dont remember the details, but i remember being surprised the sim had that much effort into the guy, as i assumed they had to be following our rules - to not sign at 8, that sim must have had enoguh effort to get considered but not signed, which is a VERY narrow window and very small amounts of effort, but that wasnt true.
in conclusion, trying to apply human recruiting thinking to sims has basically failed me in any and all cases... so i give up. i just assume sims march to the beat of their own drum, except when they dont, in which case, they usually do nothing, but not always. there are also a number of reported cases where sims come from behind to sign a player, which makes far less sense than anything else ive seen regarding sims.