Michael Vick was obviously on the team, so was 3rd round pick Nick Foles, even if he hadn’t stepped up in Mike Kafka’s absence and nailed down the #2 quarterback job, despite the team viewing him as a developmental 3rd quarterback at the start of the offseason. Kafka went from primary backup to injured to 3rd string and when he returned, he found that Trent Edwards had beaten him out for the 3rd string job. Not wanting to keep 4 quarterbacks, the Eagles tried to trade the 2010 4th round pick Kafka, but did not have any luck and made him a final cut. He should catch on somewhere as a backup.
LeSean McCoy was a lock as was primary backup Dion Lewis. Bryce Brown and Chris Polk were 7th round and undrafted rookies respectively and there was talk about if the team would keep both and if they did, would that mean releasing true fullback Stanley Havili. Instead the Eagles opted to keep all 5, keeping 4 running backs and a fullback. Brown and Polk won’t see much action as rookies unless injuries strike, but it’s clear the team has interest in developing them.
The Eagles’ top 3 receivers, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant were all locks as was tight end Brent Celek. Tight end Clay Harbor and wide receiver Damaris Johnson were also pretty close to being locks. Johnson was an undrafted free agent, but nailed down a roster spot with his strong play on special teams. He was named the team’s primary punt returner and 2nd kick returner. Harbor, meanwhile, was a big part of their two-tight end sets from a year ago. The Eagles didn’t have a better option on the roster and, in fact, didn’t keep another tight end, cutting a pair of undrafted free agents Emil Igwenagu and Chase Ford, both of whom were added to the practice squad.
With the two Johnsons, Maclin, and Avant at wide receiver, the Eagles had 4 players competing for the final receiver spot, with Riley Cooper, the incumbent, nursing an injury. He’s unlikely to play week 1, but the Eagles kept him on the roster, cutting 6th round rookie Marvin McNutt, former 4th round pick of the Rams Mardy Gilyard, and Chad Hall, a “veteran” who has been up and down with the team several times over the last couple of years. McNutt was added to the practice squad.
The Eagles had their starting 5 on the offensive line locked in before final cuts, with King Dunlap at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Danny Watkins at right guard, and Todd Herremans at right tackle. Demetress Bell, who surprisingly lost the left tackle battle to the inexperienced King Dunlap, was a roster lock because his 3.25 million dollar salary was fully guaranteed. Dennis Kelly, a 5th round rookie, also locked like a pretty safe bet for the team.
They kept those 7, but only one other, reserve center Dallas Reynolds, a member of their team last year. They cut 6th round rookie Brandon Washington and looked awfully thin on the inside of their offensive line with only Reynolds backing up all 3 positions, though if an injury struck to one of the guards, Bell could fill in. The Eagles got their 9th offensive lineman after final cuts, signing Nate Menkin, an undrafted free agent cut by the Texans. It’s a bad sign for the Washington that the Eagles brought in an outside undrafted free agent over keeping an insider 6th round pick.
The defensive line is easily the Eagles’ deepest group and it might be the deepest defensive line group in the league. Starters Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, and Trent Cole were all locks, while Fletcher Cox, their 1st round pick defensive tackle, who figures to have a big rotational role as a rookie, was also a lock. Also locks, 2010 1st round pick Brandon Graham, who is final healthy and heading into a make or break year, and 2nd round pick rookie Vinny Curry, both defensive ends. The Eagles also put Mike Patterson on the non-football injury list, taking him off the active roster as he unfortunately is not recovered from offseason brain surgery.
With Curry coming in and Graham coming back off injury, Darryl Tapp, a talented reserve defensive end was expendable at his 2.575 million dollar salary, but he took a paycut and stayed with the team, even though he’ll be just their 5th defensive end. Phillip Hunt was also kept as the Eagles kept 6 talented defensive ends. Cedric Thornton, a 2011 undrafted free agent, beat out Antonio Dixon, coming off injury for the final defensive line spot, and will be the 4th defensive tackle. Given how much they like rotation on the defensive line, Thornton could see pretty significant action this year with Patterson out and Dixon gone. Dixon was a starter in 2010, but was coming off injury and didn’t fit the new defensive coaching staff’s scheme so he was let go.
At linebacker, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, offseason additions through trade and the draft respectively, were locked in, as was Akeem Jordan, who somewhat surprisingly won the weak side linebacker job over Jamar Chaney. Chaney was kept as a reserve on the strong side because of his versatility and experience at all linebacker positions.
Casey Matthews beat out Ryan Rau, an undrafted free agent late added to the practice squad, for the backup middle linebacker job, in part because he was a 4th round pick just last year and in part because of his abilities in coverage and potential in become a situational coverage linebacker. Brian Rolle, another candidate for the starting weak side job, was kept as a reserve weak side linebacker over Keenan Clayton. With 10 spots going to defensive linemen, they only had 6 spots available for linebackers max, so Clayton was also cut.
Starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were locked in, as was Brandon Boykin, a 4th round rookie who locked down the nickel cornerback job. With him locked in there and on special teams as kick returner, Joselio Hanson became unnecessary and the slot specialist was cut for more versatile cornerbacks. Curtis Marsh, a 3rd round pick last year whose upside they still really like, was kept as one of those cornerbacks as was, slightly more surprisingly Brandon Hughes, which meant the end of the road for Trevard Lindley, a 2010 4th round pick.
At safety, Nate Allen is one starter and Kurt Coleman won the other job, somewhat by default over Jaiquawn Jarrett, a 2011 2nd round pick, and veteran OJ Atogwe. There was some speculation that Jarrett, widely considered a major disappointment thus far in his career would be cut already, but they aren’t ready to give up on him and instead cut the veteran Atogwe, who might be at the end of his line after being cut by two safety needy teams, Washington and Philadelphia, this offseason. Two special teamers, Colt Anderson and David Sims, got the final 2 jobs, with Sims being acquired from Cleveland for a late round pick.
Alex Henery and Chas Henry are back as place kicker and punter respectively and are their only two kickers. Jon Dorenbos is also back as long snapper. Boykin, as I’ve mentioned, is the starting kick returner, while Damaris Johnson won the punt returner job. He also backs up Boykin as kick returner and Boykin, likewise does the same at punt returner. Bryce Brown, another rookie, is the 3rd guy if anything happens to the first two.
WR Marvin McNutt
WR BJ Cunningham
MLB Ryan Rau
TE Chase Ford
TE Emil Igwenagu
C Chase Beeler