Eagles' early signings fit Howie Roseman's plan

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Eagles' early signings fit Howie Roseman's plan

Howie Roseman told the truth. He cautioned about expecting the Eagles to splurge on Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. He insisted free agency would be a patch-filling tool, not a foundation-building mechanism. He spoke on the virtues of rewarding those from within the NovaCare as opposed to outside.

His moves so far reflected those tenets.

Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager, continued the refurbishing of the 2014 Eagles on Tuesday by landing the proven safety they desperately needed in Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing punter Donnie Jones. On Wednesday morning, he added safety/special teams maven Chris Maragos.

Jenkins fills an immediate void and will start right away. Jones was a key component of last year’s worst-to-first team under coach Chip Kelly. Maragos can replace Colt Anderson and has upside the team likes.

None of the additions were considered premier players at their position on the open market, and the Eagles didn’t have to stretch their wallet to haul them in. Jenkins signed a three-year deal worth $16.5 million, with $8.5 guaranteed. Jones is back on a three-year deal worth $5.5 million. Maragos’ three-year deal can max out at $5.3 million.

It used to be an annual occurrence on the first day of free agency, the Eagles' making a big announcement about a major free-agent haul, from Jevon Kearse to Asante Samuel to Nnamdi Asomugha. But for the past two seasons Roseman has let other teams win the first-day free agency championship. 

The Bucs and Bears made big splashes within minutes of the 4 p.m. start of the league year and the Saints gave a stunning $54 million to Byrd, but the Eagles had already made their most significant transactions in the preceding 10 days, when they extended the contracts of center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jason Peters and re-signing potential free agents Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Cedric Thornton.

By not blowing a cash cow on Day 1, as Roseman hinted that he wouldn’t do, the Eagles have enough funds to continue upgrading as free agency goes on, when the market settles and bloated price tags lose some weight.

And that’s good, because Roseman still has some work that remains.

Upgrades to the pass rush and kicking game can also come at the right price, much like Connor Barwin joined last offseason after the first-day signing flurry had subsided. If they’re seeking a mid-level receiver to replace Jason Avant, the Birds will have plenty to choose from. 

And, of course, there’s Darrelle Revis, the All-Pro cornerback whom the Eagles were connected to in an ESPN report Tuesday morning. Revis is expected to be released Wednesday if the Bucs can’t trade him.

It just doesn’t seem like the Eagles are done.

There wasn’t much buzz Tuesday around Mike Neal, the versatile outside linebacker from Green Bay whom the Birds could use, or around Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, another potential upgrade over what the Eagles currently have.

Whatever sculpting remains for Roseman in the coming days, he has the cap flexibility to chisel away judiciously after passing on the market’s top commodities and going the economical route that he believes is the best formula for building an annual contender.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jenkins isn’t a franchise-changing safety and doesn’t come off an overly thrilling 2013, but he’s an upgrade for an Eagles defense that sorely lacked durable, consistent safety play last year.

Jenkins can slide right into the starting spot next to second-year pro Earl Wolff, and his contract is structured in a way that won’t preclude Roseman from drafting another safety early if he’s the best player available when they pick.

It would have been hard for Roseman to make more enhancements for this year and have an eye on extensions for Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks next offseason if he had succumbed to the temptations of Byrd, who claimed $54 million from the Saints, with a staggering $28 million guaranteed.

Maybe Jenkins didn’t produce that statistics that warranted his 14th overall selection in 2009, but the market this year went batty compared to last year’s modest free-agent opener, so Jenkins probably would have commanded way more coin if he had anywhere near the 22 interceptions Byrd has since 2009.

Donte Whitner, another former Ohio State safety, went home to Cleveland for $7 million per year. Perhaps the Browns misread his birth date and thought he was 18, not 28. Denver gave Ward  just under $6 million per year and one-year Panthers wonder Mike Mitchell secured a five-year $25 million contract from the Steelers.

The thriftier spending on Jenkins falls in line with Roseman’s belief that winning free agency doesn’t equate to winning Super Bowls.

Time will tell if he’s right.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant will miss the next preseason game after sustaining a concussion in practice.

Coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that Bryant was hurt a day earlier when the receiver's head hit the shoulder pads of safety Barry Church. Garrett says Bryant was held out of the rest of that practice and will not play Thursday night at Seattle.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, Bryant promised Cowboys fans that he is OK.

Garrett said Bryant seemed "much better" Tuesday, and the coach doesn't think there is a long-term concern.

Bryant had four catches for 74 yards in two preseason games. He had a touchdown catch in each game.

Patriots: Brady ready after 'silly accident' with scissors cuts thumb
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady says he's ready to play after a "silly accident" cut his right thumb with a pair of scissors before the Patriots preseason game against the Bears last week.

Brady says he missed the first two practices this week for personal reasons, but he's available and ready to play as New England prepares to play at Carolina.

He says the accident with the scissors occurred when he was trying to get something out of his cleats and the scissors slipped and cut his thumb. Brady said he wanted to play, but coach Bill Belichick made the decision he'd sit out.

Brady has yet to appear in a game this preseason. He's got two remaining opportunities before the start of four-game regular-season NFL suspension for what the league says was his role in "Deflategate."

Bills: Receiver Marquise Goodwin sustains possible concussion
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin is being evaluated for a possible concussion sustained during practice on Tuesday.

Coach Rex Ryan would only say the player was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol, which makes it unlikely Goodwin will play in Buffalo's preseason game at Washington on Friday.

The fourth-year player was hurt when the back of his head slammed against the turf while attempting to make a catch in the end zone during a red-zone drill.

Ryan says he didn't have an update on the status of right tackle Jordan Mills, who hurt his knee and did not return.

Ryan expects Watkins and linebacker Manny Lawson to make their preseason debuts Friday. Watkins has practiced the past two weeks since recovering from surgery in April to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. Lawson missed the first two weeks of training camp with a partly torn chest muscle.