Uncertain about role, Marcus Smith being noticed

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Uncertain about role, Marcus Smith being noticed

About two dozen media members swarmed Jordan Matthews as he walked off the practice field Thursday afternoon.

Everybody loves talking to the rookie wide receiver.

A few minutes later, first-round pick Marcus Smith walked off the field, and almost nobody noticed.

Nobody seems all that interested in the rookie linebacker.

While Matthews has quickly become a media darling and fan favorite because of his non-stop hustle, team-first attitude and catchy sound bites, Smith has flown under the proverbial radar the first week of training camp.

It may seem like nobody is noticing the rookie first-round pick. But his teammates sure are.

And they can’t stop praising him.

“Rookies, you’ve got a lot on your plate, so it can get discouraging at times, but Marcus, he’s a high-spirit guy and he’s been good about it,” DeMeco Ryans said.

“He’s really stepped in and you really don’t see him as a rookie. He’s like one of us already, like a vet already, the way he’s stepped in and just meshed with everybody in the locker room.”

Unlike Matthews, who will start the season in the slot, Smith’s role is undefined right now, another reason he isn’t getting a ton of attention these days.

But a week into training camp, you’re starting to hear teammates and coaches talk about Smith in terms of what he can do instead of what he can’t do.

“He’s going to get on the field, he’s going to play,” Connor Barwin said. “It’s exciting to think what he’s going to be able to do, out there with Trent [Cole] or out there with me.

“The one area I’ve been impressed with him is his natural ability to cover. I think he’s very patient. He doesn’t know exactly where he needs to be yet — he knows a little bit but not exactly where receivers and backs might go. But you can see his athleticism in coverage.”

Smith has been repping at both outside linebacker spots but mainly at Barwin’s Jack position, a hybrid of setting the edge, stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing the passer.

“I’m just trying to teach him the defense, really,” Barwin said. “I’m just trying to let him know any tricks I know. I think he’s doing fine right now in camp. I think his head is spinning a little bit, but it’s a lot for a rookie, your first year. I’ve been there before.

“He’s picking everything up and just trying to tell him to improve and think about one little thing each day to improve on, and he’ll get where he needs to be.”

Smith has had a lot thrown at him in a short period of time, but he said he feels like he’s been able to stay on top of everything.

It only took him a couple days to move up with the second team, and the way defensive coordinator Billy Davis likes to substitute, significant reps once the regular season starts are a possibility.

“I was definitely going to come in and try to get it down pat as quickly as I could,” Smith said. “Not being in school and graduating, this is all I do, this is my life now, this is the world I live in, and I think it was a lot easier to grasp everything because you’re doing it every day.

“I want to show the team they can count on me when I’m in the game. Whenever they put me in the game, I can be the kind of guy who can go make a play.”

Nobody is concerned with Smith’s athleticism. That’s not an issue. It’s all about the mental side of it. His ability to match the mental side with the physical side over the next few weeks will determine how much he plays.

If any.

“The toughest thing for Marcus is him just getting the playbook down,” Ryans said. “We do a lot on defense, so for him it’s just getting it down.

“We’ve had a year to learn everything, so we’re all comfortable. But for Marcus and the other first-year guys, they really have to learn things on the fly, and that can be tough. But we just tell him, don’t get too overwhelmed with it, it’ll come.

“Marcus has been doing a really good job, been showing up, been making some plays for us. I think he’s going to be a really good player.”

You have to go pretty far back to find an outside linebacker who made an impact with the Eagles as a rookie.

Omar Gaither started a few games at outside backer at the end of 2006 and played OK, but you have to go back to 1996 and Ray Farmer to find a rookie who was a real difference maker. Farmer is now the Browns’ general manager.

“Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic,” Davis said. “So you have a bunch of characteristics that you look for in all Eagles players. He cares a lot about the game.

“He's picked it up fairly quickly, and one of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and Charlie Strong's defense is a lot like ours, and the way they used him is a lot the way we use our Jack position.

“So he comes in not as an end, a 4‑3 end in college that we are converting to a 3‑4 outside backer. He's coming to us as a 3‑4 outside backer.”

Smith, just 22, said he no longer considers himself a rookie. He just doesn’t want to think that way.

Because if he gets in a game, he doesn’t want to think like a rookie. Or play like a rookie.

 “You know what, people might say you’re a rookie, but once you get out here on the football field, that rookie stuff goes out the window because they might need you right now,” he said.

“Because what if Connor Barwin goes down? What if Trent Cole goes down? What if I have to step in? That rookie stuff won’t matter because I have to go in there and make a play.

“That’s what I’m preparing to do. Be able to go make a play and help my team whenever I’m out there.”

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

The Eagles have signed former Dolphins offensive guard Dallas Thomas to a reserve/futures contract. 

Thomas, 27, was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round (No. 77) out of Tennessee in 2013 and was with them until this past season.  

In his four-year career, Thomas has played in 37 games with 26 starts. He started nine games in 2014 and started all 16 games at left guard in 2015. 

Thomas (6-5, 315 pounds) and 2014 third-rounder Billy Turner were both released in October after a poor showing against the Titans. While Thomas was the team's starter at left guard in 2015, rookie Laremy Tunsil took over that position with the Dolphins in 2016. 

In 2015, when Thomas started all 16 games at left guard, he was ranked as the worst guard in football by ProFootballFocus. He gave up 10 sacks, 10 QB hits and 36 QB hurries. 

Eagles to receive just under $8 million in salary cap carryover for 2017

Eagles to receive just under $8 million in salary cap carryover for 2017

The Eagles are getting salary cap help. Just not quite as much as they expected.  

The NFL Players Association announced the official 2017 salary-cap carryover figures on Wednesday, and the Eagles will receive $7,933,869 in extra cap space this coming year on top of the unadjusted salary cap figure that every team begins the offseason with.

The NFL’s official 2017 salary cap figure hasn’t yet been announced, but it’s expected to be somewhere in the $166 to $170 million range, up from a record-$155.3 million in 2016.

Under terms of the CBA, teams can receive credit in each year’s salary cap for cap space that went unused the previous season. This creates an adjusted cap figure that can vary by tens of millions of dollars per team.

The Eagles under former team president Joe Banner were the first to use this once-obscure technique in the late 1990s. Today, every team uses it to some extent.

The more carryover money a team gets, the more it has to spend relative to the combined cap figures of players under contract the coming year.

The NFLPA originally estimated in the fall that the Eagles would receive $8.25 million in carryover money, so the new figure is about $316,000 less than originally expected.

It’s also the ninth-highest of the 32 teams, although below the average of $9.18 million. That’s because the top few carryover figures are so much ridiculously higher than the average (Browns $50.1 million, 49ers $38.7 million, Titans $24.0 million).

According to salary cap data tracker Spotrac, the Eagles have 52 players under contract for 2017 with a total combined cap figure of $158,040,710.

With an $168 million unadjusted cap, the Eagles would have an adjusted cap figure of $175,933,869.

They have $7,055,933 in dead money, mainly from trading Sam Bradford ($5.5 million) and Eric Rowe ($904,496) but also from departed players such as Andrew Gardner ($250,000), Josh Huff ($138,986) and Blake Countess ($98,678).

Subtract the 2017 contract obligations – the $158,040,710 figure – along with the dead money – the $7,055,033 figure – and that leaves the Eagles with roughly $10.84 million in cap space.

That figure may not include some 2016 bonuses that have not yet been made public. And it doesn’t include, for example, a $500,000 pay raise Peters got by triggering a contract escalator.

So that reduces the $10.84 million figure to $10.34 million.

From there, about $4 ½ million or so will go to the 2017 rookie pool.

So that leaves the Eagles currently with somewhere in the ballpark of $6 million in cap space.

Now, the Eagles will obviously be able to increase that number by releasing players.

They would more than double their cap space just by releasing Connor Barwin, who has a $8.35 million cap number but would cost only $600,000 in dead money for a cap savings of $7.75 million.

Jason Peters ($9.2 million), Jason Kelce ($3.8 million), Ryan Mathews ($4 million), Leodis McKelvin ($3.2 million) and Mychal Kendricks ($1.8 million) would also clear large amounts of cap space.

So for example by releasing Barwin, Kelce, McKelvin and Mathews, they would increase their cap space by a whopping $18.75 million. 

Of course, then the Eagles have to think about replacing those players with cheaper versions while still trying to build a playoff roster.

Whatever happens, the Eagles are in a unique position as they enter the 2017 offseason, with far less cap flexibility than other years.

“Yeah, it's unusual, certainly since I've been here, to have a more challenging situation,” vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said earlier this month.

“But part of our job in the front office is to look at this over a long period of time. So as we sit here today, it isn't like the first time that we are looking at that situation, and we'll do whatever's best for the football team.”