Over the course of this weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles are getting to know seven rookies that were drafted, 15 undrafted free agents, and seven tryout players just hoping to land a temporary contract. It’s a safe assumption that the seven players drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend are assured a roster spot past the mandatory roster cut-down of 75 players. And while only two of the seven players drafted by the Eagles have signed their rookie contacts (wide receiver Josh Huff and defensive tackle Beau Allen), rookie camps provide far more incentive for the 15 undrafted free agents signed in the chaotic aftermath of the NFL Draft. And while it’s a long shot for any of these players to make a contributing factor to the Philadelphia Eagles when games count, we don’t need to look much further than undrafted running back Chris Polk to see that the middle and end of an NFL roster is constantly fluid.
When dissecting the Eagles undrafted free agents, it’s clear that depth at running back (trading running back Bryce Brown surely contributed) and along the offensive line was the priority. Seven of the 15 players acquired post-draft played either in the backfield or in the trenches. Many of these players will be fighting for a spot on the practice squad however. Another one of the additions was the infamous kicker dubbed “Murderleg” from the University of Vanderbilt. Two potentially interesting projects at the tight end position accompany several fringe players with upside who can serve as camp bodies to help develop the remainder of the roster. Aside from the majority of these players, whom I do not feel will have a realistic shot at cracking the 53 man roster, here are the players that we can get to know now, before they potentially become a part of our everyday Eagles life.
Carey Spear (Place Kicker) - An undrafted senior kicker at the University of Vanderbilt and teammates with 2nd round wide receiver Jordan Matthews, Carey Spear was dubbed with the ever so popular nickname, “Murderleg” after making several tackles on kickoff coverage (including a devastating hit on Cordarrelle Patterson while at Tennessee). Aside from a cool nickname, what most likely got the attention of Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly and Special Teams Coach Dave Flipp was the fact that Spear has the ability to not only kick field goals from distances greater than 40 yards, but can also serve as a reliable kickoff specialist. The latter is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of incumbent kicker Alex Henery‘s game, as we all found out watching the Eagles loss to the Minnesota Vikings as well as the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. This will surely be the camp battle to watch for, and most likely won’t be finalized until the 53 man roster cut-down date.
Trey Burton (Tight End) - The undrafted hybrid player out of the University of Florida can do it all, but he just can’t do anything exceptionally. The problem that emerges with Burton is that he’s not clearly defined in a positional role entering the professional level. At 6’2″ and 224 pounds, Burton is nearly big enough to tight end, but not quite. He would serve as a big receiving target in the passing game, but the depth chart is already beginning to take shape and would seem unreasonable to expect the young man to be dressing on Sundays. What I expect out of Burton is to provide great energy in camp, potentially make it past the first round of cuts, and hopefully emerge on the practice squad when the off-season is completed. Coming from a power conference, Burton has demonstrated crisp route running as well as the ability to read different coverages against quality opponents. His speed, strength, and ability to shed blocks needs work, but all those negatives can be addressed if he can hang with the team past August.
Blake Annen (Tight End) - Perhaps my dark-horse to make the Philadelphia Eagles in some capacity, undrafted tight end Blake Annen from the Cincinnati Bearcats appears to be closer to H-Back James Casey than fellow Cincy alum and current Eagles tight end Brent Celek. With limited size and mediocre blocking comes a player that has the potential to get off the line cleanly and force linebackers into a footrace down field. Annen ran a 4.41 40 at Cincinnati’s pro day, which for even wide receivers is a stunning time (Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins ran a 4.43 40 yard dash). Chip Kelly loves speed, and if Annen can show some semblance of pass-protection and run-blocking at a professional level, he’s going to force the Eagles brass into a very difficult roster decision.