April 20, 2018
In each of the last two years, the Philadelphia Eagles have made it a priority to hit the undrafted free agency phase of the draft hard.
In 2016, they spent the most guaranteed money in the NFL on undrafted free agents, although none panned out.
In 2017, they were similarly aggressive, but this time they found a significant contributor to their Super Bowl run in undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement.
Six others from that undrafted rookie class – TE Billy Brown, DT Winston Craig, DB Randall Goforth, P Cameron Johnston, WR Greg Ward, and S Tre Sullivan – still remain on the roster today, though only Johnston can be considered a decent bet to be on the final 53-man roster.
In 2018, the importance of finding another diamond in the rough like Clement will be heightened, for two main reasons:
Personnel head Joe Douglas thinks that landing priority undrafted free agents will be more challenging for the Eagles than it has been in the past.
"You would think that because we're coming off a Super Bowl and we don't have a second- or third-round pick that it would be a lot easier (to land free agents) after the draft, but in my experience, coming off a Super Bowl, it's sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it's going to be that much tougher to make the team," Douglas explained.
"That's going to be a challenge for us, and we know it, and we're going to attack it. I think our guys are going to do a great job of recruiting these guys that slip through the cracks like they did last year, but it is going to be a challenge."
Back in January, former Eagles and Ravens scout, and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said that he believed the Eagles have built the best scouting department in the NFL.
"A lot of them are guys I have good relationships with, that I know and I've been around," he said. "When you go back to my time in Baltimore, I'm there with (personnel head) Joe Douglas, I'm there with (Assistant Director of Player Personnel) Andy Weidl, I'm there with (Director of College Scouting) Ian Cunningham, I'm there with (Player Personnel Executive) TJ McCreight. All those guys are great, and they have great reputations around the league.
"And then having spent time in the Eagles' organization, I know how good (Senior Director of College Scouting) Anthony Patch is, I know about (Assistant Director of College Scouting) Mike Bradway, and (Southeast Area Scout) Al Wolking and all those guys.
"They have such a deep group, and when you look at most scouting staffs, either they're top-heavy or they've got some good individual scouts. The Eagles don't really have a blind spot. In most organizations, you have to cover up for some guys. You have to work around them. They all collectively are just really, really good at what they do. And I think that, all those guys I know, there are no egos in there. They all just want to get the player right, and they don't care if they're right. They just want to get the player right, so I think they have a chance to have a long sustained run there."
With only six draft picks and the obstacle of a deep roster (a good problem to have, obviously) potentially hampering their ability to sign top undrafted free agents, the Eagles' scouting department will really be put to the test over the next two weeks.
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