If Dalvin Cook is available, Eagles should take him and draft CB later

If Dalvin Cook is available, Eagles should take him and draft CB later

When Howie Roseman landed two receivers -- Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith -- on the first day of free agency, most folks assumed the Eagles would turn their full attention to defense in next month's NFL draft. It makes sense given their obvious needs at cornerback. They also could use another pass rusher.

But what about the Eagles using their first-round pick on a running back? I'd certainly consider it, especially if Florida State's Dalvin Cook is still on the board.

The Eagles have made it clear their No. 1 priority this offseason is to build around their young quarterback Carson Wentz. It is absolutely the right strategy. More than any other player, he represents the future of the franchise so it is incumbent upon the organization to surround him with the kind of talent that will allow him to flourish. It is great to draft a blue-chip quarterback but if you don't put good players around him you wind up like the Indianapolis Colts. They have Andrew Luck but they were 8-8 each of the last two years.

The Eagles feel they have the quarterback, now they need the other pieces. They upgraded the wide receivers with Jeffery and Smith and they added depth to the line by signing Chance Warmack. Why stop there? Why not add another weapon to the backfield? Cook would be a very good fit.

I know the argument: You don't draft running backs in the first round. The NFL is a passing league. You can find serviceable running backs later in the draft. Sometimes you can find really good ones. LeSean McCoy was a second-round pick. Brian Westbrook was a third. Wilbert Montgomery was still there in the sixth round. It is a mistake to draft one high.

That is the conventional wisdom but I think it is about to change.

Last year Jerry Jones was widely criticized for using the fourth overall pick to select Zeke Elliott, a running back from Ohio State. Of course, all Elliott did was lead the league in rushing (1,631 yards) and dramatically reshape the Dallas offense. The Cowboys went 13-3 with a first-year quarterback, Dak Prescott, and the rest of the league took notice. Elliott was the only running back chosen in the first round last year.

This year I think at least three running backs will be selected in the first round -- Cook, Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford -- and if so it would be the first time that happened since the 2012 draft (Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson). Richardson, of course, is the ultimate cautionary tale. He was a total bust who lasted just four years and now is out of football.

Fournette is a 6-foot-1 power back (he weighed 240 at the combine) who is built to be a heavy-duty, between-the-tackles runner. He will likely go somewhere in the top 10. Cook and McCaffrey are smaller, quicker backs who are equally effective in the passing game. Cook, in particular, has a skill set that would work nicely in the Eagles' offense.

Cook is 5-10 and weighed 210 at the combine. He ran a 4.49 40, which ranked seventh among running backs, but he isn't defined by his straight line speed. What sets him apart is his instinct and vision. He has a natural feel for running the football. He is patient -- much like Le'Veon Bell in Pittsburgh -- and he lets the blocking develop before accelerating through the hole. Those are things that can't be taught or coached. Cook does it effortlessly.

He is the all-time leading rusher at Florida State with 4,464 yards. He also caught 79 passes. He is a thicker, stronger version of Warrick Dunn, another Seminole star who played 12 seasons in the NFL. Cook doesn't have push-the-pile power, but that's OK because in the NFL, he will do most of his damage running on the edges and in the passing game, especially screens.

Try to envision the Eagles' offense with three wide receivers -- Jeffery, Smith and Jordan Matthews -- spreading the field, Zach Ertz working the middle and a slippery runner like Cook coming out of the backfield. Wentz can drop the ball off to Cook and watch as he weaves through the open field. If the idea is to put playmakers around the young quarterback, a back like Cook will complete the set.

The Eagles are expected to part ways with Ryan Mathews, which means they have Darren Sproles, a valuable but aging role player, and Wendell Smallwood, who saw limited duty last season, left in the backfield. They have to add at least one more back either through the draft or free agency. They could draft one late and hope they find another Wilbert Montgomery or Correll Buckhalter. Or they could use the No. 1 on a blue chip prospect like Dalvin Cook.

He has undergone three shoulder surgeries dating back to high school, but there weren't any medical red flags at the combine. He knocked out 22 reps on the bench press (225 pounds), which ranked fourth among all running backs. Every team will check him out thoroughly, but I have no doubt he will be a first-round pick. His explosiveness is undeniable.

The Eagles have needs in the secondary, that's for sure, but this draft is uncommonly deep in cornerbacks. There will be good ones on the board in rounds two and three and even four. The Eagles could take a running back in the first and still fill the defensive needs on Day 2 and 3.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think, but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

Kelce attributed many of his problems early last season to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

Often characterized as undersized, he said weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp, and then he hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

He admitted last season he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past." 

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

Cortez Kennedy, one of the best defensive linemen of his generation and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee despite rarely finding himself in the spotlight as a player, has died. He was 48.

Police in Orlando, Florida, say the former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead Tuesday morning. Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

"Cortez Kennedy has been a pillar of the Seahawks franchise since joining the team as a rookie in 1990," the Seahawks said in a statement. "Tez was the heart and soul of the Seahawks through the 1990s and endeared himself to 12s all across the Pacific Northwest as a player who played with a selfless and relentless approach to the game. ... We are proud to have been represented by such a special person."

A star who spent his entire 11-year NFL career in relative obscurity playing in Seattle, Kennedy became the second Seahawks player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

"Cortez will be remembered not only for all his great achievements on the football field but how he handled himself off the field," Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said. "He epitomized the many great values this game teaches which serves as inspiration to millions of fans."

Kennedy was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1990 draft out of Miami and Seattle smartly never let him leave. He brought notoriety to an otherwise dreadful period in Seahawks history as an eight-time Pro Bowler and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

Kennedy was scheduled to be in Seattle on Thursday as part of an event for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

Kennedy experienced only minimal team success in his career with the Seahawks. His 1992 season, when Kennedy was the league's defensive player of the year, was made even more remarkable by the fact that his 14 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and 92 tackles came for a team that went 2-14 and was among the worst ever offensively in a 16-game season.

What made Kennedy so difficult to stop was his low center of gravity, unexpected quickness and remarkable strength packaged in a 6-foot-1, 300-pound frame. If he was asked to hold the line on a running play, he would regularly eat up two or three potential blockers.

But he could also rush the passer up the middle, a rarity for an interior defensive lineman. While 1992 was his best individual season, Kennedy recorded at least six sacks in six of his 11 seasons.

"(One) of the most talented players I ever recruited or coached," tweeted Jimmy Johnson , one of Kennedy's coaches at Miami. "... A sad day."