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Behind the Eagles’ Josh McCown decision | Early Birds

The signing of the veteran quarterback sounds like a win-win all around.

Josh McCown (18) is an Eagle again.
Josh McCown (18) is an Eagle again.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans! The season opener is less than a week away, and the last several days have been particularly active. The Eagles trimmed their roster to 53 players Saturday, jettisoning some familiar names. They claimed running back Jason Huntley off waivers Sunday. They signed 15 of 16 possible players to their practice squad, including 41-year-old quarterback Josh McCown. They released popular cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc after he initially made the team. And they placed safety Will Parks and receiver Quez Watkins on short-term injured reserve.

General manager Howie Roseman is likely not yet finished setting the roster before formal preparations for Sunday’s opener begin Wednesday. He has only four cornerbacks and could add another. Many assumed he’d keep more than the two tight ends he has on the roster. And there’s got to be a better solution at left tackle — aside from the obvious one in Jason Peters the Eagles inexplicably won’t tap into in — than Matt Pryor. Changes could be coming.

The Eagles will reconvene after the long weekend for a light practice Monday morning. They hope the players stayed close to home and followed protocols to keep COVID-19 from entering the NovaCare Complex. An outbreak on the eve of the season would obviously be the last thing the Eagles need. They’ve already had far too many injuries, but they aren’t alone as the NFL embarks on what could be the most awkward season ever.

The 2020 campaign, for better or worse, will start Thursday when the reigning Super Bowl -champion Chiefs host the Texans, and for the Eagles three days later when they travel down I-95 to face Washington. What happens is anyone’s best guess.

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Why did the Eagles bring back Josh McCown?

On Sunday, Josh McCown became the oldest practice-squad player in NFL history when the Eagles signed the 41-year-old quarterback.

The announcement shocked many, but the idea of a quarantine quarterback had been suggested to teams by enterprising agents looking for work for their veteran clients for weeks. McCown’s agent, Mike McCarthy, first publicly pitched the idea in a July MMQB article.

“It just makes too much sense,” McCarthy said then. “That’s an extremely inexpensive insurance policy at the most important position, and it gives you a guy who not just knows the offense but is keeping up with the intricacies of the game plan every week.”

The new rules put in place because of the pandemic made it possible. With practice squads expanded from 10 to 16 players, one spot devoted solely to a quarantine quarterback wouldn’t be excessive. He wouldn’t be required to be at the team facility and could train at home or somewhere else while attending meetings virtually.

And it would cost only $12,000 per week. McCown was an obvious choice for the Eagles because of his one year with the team. But keeping him in the fold also allows them to keep a great influence on Carson Wentz in the quarterback room, so to speak, and a possible future coach on the team.

The Eagles had discussed a coaching role for him during their exit interview with McCown after the playoff loss to the Seahawks in which the backup was called upon after Wentz left with a head injury.

McCown wasn’t sure then that he wanted to start coaching in the NFL. He wanted to keep his playing options open. And he wanted to continue to help with his sons’ high school football, while also remaining home with his family.

This arrangement allows him, in some essence, to do both. McCown will reside in Texas — he recently relocated from North Carolina — work out and watch film from there, join virtual meetings when necessary, and stay ready in case there’s a COVID-19 outbreak among Wentz and backup quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Jalen Hurts.

And he gets to continue his playing career, while also serving his family, with a possible eye toward a future as an NFL coach. And the Eagles get an insurance policy on the cheap and a high-character player-coach to assist Wentz and company. Sounds like a win-win all around.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. EJ Smith has the Eagles’ practice-squad moves and the release of cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc.

  2. I give analysis of the 53-man roster upon the Eagles’ initial cuts and what it says about some of the team’s recent drafts.

  3. Paul Domowitch has all the detail on the Eagles’ roster-deadline decisions, including the releases of cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.

  4. My report on the Eagles’ still being open to trading receiver Alshon Jeffery.

  5. EJ does a player-by-player breakdown of the Eagles’ roster.

From the mailbag

Who are a couple of players you would’ve liked to make the roster? (And which would you switch them out with?) — Tay P (@Addicted_Ramen) via Twitter

I thought undrafted rookie tight end Noah Togiai would have made the 53-man roster. He wasn’t extraordinary in any way during training camp, but he clearly showed an aptitude for the NFL game and potential should the Eagles want to keep him long-term.

But he was released with the thinking that he would clear waivers and be brought back on the practice squad. The Colts must have been reading my practice reports, because they claimed Togiai and thwarted the Eagles’ hopes of sneaking the Oregon State product onto the taxi squad, where he could be protected.

The Eagles instead brought back Caleb Wilson to fill that role. They also might re-sign Richard Rodgers to the 53-man roster to back up Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and be a part of Doug Pederson’s three-tight-end packages.

I’m not sure whom I would have cut instead. Six safeties were a lot, even if the Eagles had to compensate for the Will Parks injury. So maybe Marcus Epps or Rudy Ford would have been my first choice to go.

I also would have kept Joe Ostman over Genard Avery. He was clearly the better defensive end in camp, and if it weren’t for the fourth-rounder the Eagles sent to the Browns for Avery last season, it’s likely Ostman would have gotten the nod.

Ostman did return on the practice squad, however. I wouldn’t write him off. Avery has a ways to go to convince me that he’ll have a role on this defense.