Tough to say if Eagles drafted for talent or need

uspresswire-louisville-marcus-smith.jpg

Tough to say if Eagles drafted for talent or need

So the Eagles made a move Thursday night that seemed logical and sensible, if you only take into account that they drafted an outside linebacker.

They certainly needed one.

The fact that it wasn’t Anthony Barr or Dee Ford or Kony Ealy or any other pass rusher affixed with the first-round label seems to smack of desperation, a stroll down the draft-for-need lane that bit this franchise in the rear end several times in the past.

Howie Roseman insisted frequently that the Eagles would stick to their best-available-player philosophy, but when you consider the names he and Chip Kelly left on the table before drafting Marcus Smith, a hybrid pass rusher from Louisville who few draft analysts had going in the first round (see story), you have to wonder if they stayed true to their word.

They had Smith rated higher than Marqise Lee, Bradley Roby, Kelvin Benjamin, Louis Nix and Johnny Football?

Maybe they did, but some respectable names in the draft analyst business certainly didn’t.

Only the folks in the war room at One NovaCare Way know how the names stacked up on their board, but Kelly’s well-known preference for measurables -- height, weight, wingspan, etc. -- seemed to trump the big-game experience and performance against elite competition that Roseman often references as criteria for ranking prospects.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Smith (see bio) has a 34-inch arm length and is considered an excellent athlete, but 14.5 sacks against UConn, Florida International, Temple, Kentucky and Ohio leveraged against Lee’s shredding of Pac-12 secondaries or Ealy’s 9.5 sacks against SEC powerhouses just doesn’t seem to compute.

Kelly said the Eagles had targeted six other players, but all six were off the board before they were initially slated to pick at 22 and the price to move up wasn’t one they were willing to pay.

In response, they moved down four spots, adding a much-needed third-round pick and enabling the Browns to get Manziel while planning all along on nabbing Smith.

Kelly said he didn’t think Smith would be around Friday when the Eagles pick 54th, especially after the Chiefs took Dee Ford at 23rd, but NFL Network’s Mike Mayock -- who’s perhaps the best at what he does -- had Smith ranked 53rd overall, eight spots behind Ealy and 12 behind Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence, another outside linebacker.

If Mayock’s right, the Eagles not only didn’t take the best player available but also didn’t even take the best pass rusher left on the board.

“I applaud the pick,” Mayock said, per the Louisville Courier-Journal, “because it attacks an area of need for [Philadelphia].”

Benjamin went two picks later to Carolina, and Roby three picks after that to Denver. But Ealy and Nix are still on the board. As is Lee.

"We've had them all rated for a long time, and our board is our board. ... We've had since last year to stack the board the right way," Kelly said. "If we liked [Lee], that should have been a discussion a while ago. ... That's what you do rationally. You can't let emotion get into it. I think Marqise is a special kid. I tried to recruit him coming out of high school, and he had a tremendous career at USC, but for us, we think Marcus was the right pick."

So which is it: Best player or need?

Time will tell if Kelly and Roseman were smarter than everyone else and uncovered a double-digit sack producer who exceeded others’ expectations, but they insisted that they’d take the prospect who ranked highest on their board, not the one who filled an immediate hole.

At this moment, it’s hard to decipher which one’s which.

NFL Notes: Cowboys DE David Irving suspended 4 games for PEDs

NFL Notes: Cowboys DE David Irving suspended 4 games for PEDs

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas defensive end David Irving has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

The ban announced Wednesday leaves the Cowboys without two potential starting pass rushers because of suspensions. Randy Gregory, a second-round pick who slid in the 2015 draft because of concerns over marijuana use, is likely to miss the entire season for multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy.

Irving, one of the team's best pass rushers at the end of last season, can return Oct. 8 against Green Bay at home. The third-year player is eligible for training camp and preseason practices and games.

It's the third straight year that Dallas will begin the season with at least two defensive players suspended, and the Cowboys could have a third. Cornerback Nolan Carroll, a free agent pickup from Philadelphia, faces a two-game ban over his arrest on a drunken-driving charge in Dallas.

NFL: Marijuana ring accused of bilking investors, including ex-NFLers
DENVER -- A mammoth marijuana trafficking ring that pretended to be growing weed for sick people was instead illegally shipping the drug to a half-dozen other states and bilking investors, including former NFL players, Colorado officials announced Wednesday.

A Denver grand jury indicted 62 people and 12 businesses in the case that involved federal and state agents executing nearly 150 search warrants at 33 homes and 18 warehouses and storage units in the Denver area.

"The black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish," state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement.

The indictment targets the largest illegal marijuana operation discovered since Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2012, Coffman said.

It says the enterprise produced more than 100 pounds of illegal pot each month for shipment to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and other states.

The ring operated from 2012 until 2016 and raked in an estimated $200,000 a month, Coffman said.

The defendants were charged with 31 felony counts of money-laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes. Most are now under arrest awaiting trial dates in Denver District Court.

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

The Eagles' biggest back might be getting a bit smaller in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Field Yates, LeGarrette Blount has an incentive in his contract with the Eagles that will net him $50,000 if he weighs in between 240 and 245 pounds when the team reports for training camp on July 24. Blount's one-year deal carries a $1.25 million cap, including a $900,000 base salary as well as a $200,000 signing bonus.

Currently, the Eagles' website lists the two-time Super Bowl champion running back at 6-foot, 250 pounds — at least 30 pounds heavier than any back currently on the roster. 

When asked how much he weighs at an introductory press conference last month, Blount responded, "The weight I need to be at."

Weight clauses have become more and more common, especially with running backs. Seattle's Eddie Lacy earned $55,000 in May when he tipped the scales at 255 pounds (or fewer) and the Seahawks' bruising back will have the chance to earn another $330,000 over the course of six more weigh-ins through the end of the regular season.

The same goes for Atlanta defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who could bank as much as $500,000 in bonuses if he slims down to 330 pounds from his listed 346 pounds.