The Eagles brought their roster to a final 90 player count by signing 11 undrafted free agents. They won’t all make the team, but usually one or two will find a spot, and tight end Trey Burton is the most visible example of one becoming a solid contributor — 37 catches for 327 yards and a touchdown in 2016 along with years of special teams stardom. After getting two sacks as a rookie last season, defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao could be charting the same course.
The Eagles got some of the biggest names available after the draft, and while some match positions of need and some seem destined to be among the final cuts no matter how well they perform (Donnie Jones is a hard man to unseat), here are three of the most interesting players they picked up.
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Running back, along with cornerback, is one of the positions on the Eagles’ roster with the most opportunity for a new player to win playing time with a good performance in camp. The Eagles, expected to cut Ryan Mathews, have yet to sign a free agent at the position and didn’t spend a high draft pick on a player seen as an every-down back, instead picking up FBS all-time leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round.
Clement — 5-foot-11, 220 pounds — looks like a nice complement to the diminutive Pumphrey on paper. The latest in a long line of productive college runners from Wisconsin, he rebounded from an injury and off-field incident that interrupted 2015 to run for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016. He has the lateral agility to be a good fit for the Eagles, and hits defenders with power, but needs to develop patience. Ranked at times as high as a mid-round pick, Clement’s slide to being undrafted has been attributed to middling reviews from the Wisconsin program. If the fall has sparked him, the opportunity exists to make the Eagles’ rushing role his own.
Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
With Carson Wentz secure as the starter and veterans Nick Foles and Matt McGloin competing for a backup role, there is little space on the roster for a developmental talent like Evans. It’s unlikely he’ll make the team at this crowded position; the Eagles only carried two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2016. But don’t be surprised to see him land on the practice squad.
A junior college transfer, he started just one season at Virginia Tech, leading the Hokies to a 10-4 record and a 35-24 victory in the Belk Bowl over Arkansas despite trailing the Razorbacks 24-0. It was their highest win total since 2011. Evans is a 6-foot-3, 232 pound dual threat who threw for 3,546 yards and 29 touchdowns (just five interceptions) and ran for 846 yards and another 12 scores in 14 career games. Had he stayed in college another season, he would probably have found himself a decent pick in the draft. But he wouldn’t be an Eagle either.
Randall Goforth, CB/S, UCLA
There’s a pretty big discrepancy between the ability for advancement at cornerback, a veritable free-for-all of rookies and veterans, and safety, where Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney Mcleod are entrenched as starters and Chris Maragos holds down a role as a special teams linchpin. But there is room for a fourth or fifth safety on the roster, and being able to pull double duty at these two positions should give any player a leg up in the cornerback competition.
First things first, Goforth has a great name. Second things second, he seems like a natural fit for the Eagles secondary. He started for four seasons at safety for UCLA, but the Eagles have listed him as a corner. Questions about size (5-foot-10, 190) and speed are the reasons Goforth was available after the draft, but we’ve talked before about how the Eagles’ draft targets show they are prioritizing other traits over measurables.
Goforth had enough ball skills for 10 career interceptions and 23 pass breakups. He’s a willing tackler who could definitely be coached up in ability. The positional versatility, experience, productivity and aggressiveness are all traits the Eagles value that make Goforth seem a natural fit for this defense. Mark him down as our best bet to make the roster.