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Eagles put franchise tag on Smith

The Eagles' history with the franchise tag has not been good, but there is reason to believe things will be different with tight end L.J. Smith, the team's latest player to be designated with that label.

The Eagles' history with the franchise tag has not been good, but there is reason to believe things will be different with tight end L.J. Smith, the team's latest player to be designated with that label.

Though he is less than thrilled about the idea of playing another season on a one-year deal, Smith knows that the $4.522 million salary that accompanies a franchise tag for a tight end is nothing to complain about.

"Any time you have a job in this league, it's a good situation," Smith said by telephone last night. "Being that I come from humble roots, I'm not going to act spoiled about this. I know most people would die to be in the situation I'm in."

Smith, who missed six games last season and was at less than 100 percent in several others because of injuries, made $920,000 last season, the final year of his five-year rookie contract. He earned $3.635 million during his first five seasons, so his one-year salary under the franchise tag would surpass his career earnings.

Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in 2002 and defensive tackle Corey Simon in 2005 were the last two Eagles to receive the franchise tag, and each time it caused a nasty rift between player and team. The Eagles eventually removed the franchise designation from both players, allowing them to become free agents.

Smith and his agent, Brian Mackler, remain hopeful that a long-term deal can be negotiated with the Eagles, but they did not look at the franchise tag negatively.

"Everybody interprets the franchise tag differently," Mackler said. "I think the Eagles demonstrated that they think L.J. is an elite player at his position. We're still talking about a long-term deal. This doesn't preclude it. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks."

Smith, 27, would be an interesting free agent because he and Indianapolis' Dallas Clark are considered the elite free-agent tight ends. However, Smith's injuries last season limited him to career lows in catches (22), yards receiving (236) and touchdowns (one), which he acknowledged did not help his earning power.

"It's still kind of weird, because I really, really wasn't expecting to be here," Smith said when asked about the franchise tag. "Now, it's a one-year deal. I really didn't help myself by being injured. If I had a great season and they franchise-tagged me, I'd be upset. I'm happy they're bringing me back, but it is a one-year deal, and I'm going to be in the same boat this year as next year.

"Hopefully I'll be healthy and be able to show people what I'm capable of doing. I do still want that long-term security, but I wasn't expecting to get it from the Eagles. Obviously they've evaluated me and they're saying, 'When L.J. is healthy we can use him and he helps us.' That's a compliment and I'll take it. Philly is a great place to play when you're winning, and hopefully we can get some wins and I can help this team pick up where it left off."

Smith is guaranteed $4.522 million as soon as he signs the franchise-tag tender. Though a team can technically pursue him as a free agent, there's no chance of that happening because the cost would be two first-round draft choices if another team signs him. The Eagles still can trade Smith, and until he signs the contract, he is not obligated to attend either the mandatory minicamp in the spring or training camp in the summer at Lehigh.

Simon, in fact, skipped the spring minicamps in 2005 and was sitting out training camp when the Eagles rescinded the franchise tag and allowed him to sign as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts. Before releasing Simon, the Eagles tried to trade him to the Baltimore Ravens.

Asked if he'd sign the franchise tender before the Eagles' mandatory May minicamp, Smith was noncommittal.

"It's something me and my agent have to talk about," he said. "I've never been the type to [sit out]. I know what it takes for me to be ready, but me sitting at home and not working out with whoever the starting quarterback is, I'm not really cool with that. I just have to talk to my agent and see what he thinks we should do."