WE KNOW Leonard Weaver is very happy with the Eagles this morning. Will Witherspoon, less so. How Aaron Kampman feels about them remains to be seen. We might be finding out in the next several days.
The Eagles signed Weaver to a 3-year, $11 million contract yesterday that could be worth $11.7 million if incentives are reached, agent Harold Lewis said. Lewis said $6.5 million is guaranteed, in what apparently is the richest contract ever awarded a fullback. The day before, Weaver was given a second-round tender as a restricted free agent.
"We received a few calls [after the tender was announced]," Weaver said. "The thing that I told my agent was, 'Philly is the place that I want to be.' That's the bottom line. Teams submitted their deals, but I wanted to wait on Philly. This is where my heart was set and where I wanted to be."
Right after Weaver spoke with reporters at NovaCare, the Eagles announced they were releasing Witherspoon, the linebacker who fewer than 5 months ago cost them wideout Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round draft pick in a trade with St. Louis. The move wasn't a shock, in that Witherspoon, 29, was scheduled to make $5 million in base salary this season and was not guaranteed a starting role, with starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley scheduled to return to the mix after missing last season following knee surgery.
We don't know whether the Birds tried to bring Witherspoon back at a lower price. General manager Howie Roseman said the release was timed "so he can catch on somewhere else." Agent Tom Condon did not respond to a request for comment.
Witherspoon was brought in as an emergency solution to the middle-linebacking crisis, after Bradley and Omar Gaither went down for the season, but he eventually was moved to the weakside. Bradley is on track to return this year, and if Akeem Jordan - tendered at the second-round level Thursday - goes from the middle back to his former weakside spot, that would leave no obvious starting role for Witherspoon.
The Eagles announced no pending free-agent visits yesterday. Reports differed as to whether Kampman might be coming, but lots of people around the league seemed to believe the Birds are interested in a high-motor defensive end known for his work ethic. The stumbling block might be the ACL tear Kampman suffered with the Packers in November; it's unlikely the Eagles or any team would sign Kampman without taking a thorough look at his knee. Agent Neil Cornich has touted Kampman's ahead-of-schedule recovery, but - this just in - agents say a lot of things and teams generally require verification. Cornich has not responded to requests for comment from the Daily News.
Speaking of agents for defensive ends and the things they say, Carl Carey, the agent for Julius Peppers, maintained yesterday that the Birds were a fallback for his client, who quickly signed on his first visit, to Chicago. The Bears' strong interest in Peppers, and the fact that they lack first- or second-round draft picks in an excellent defensive draft, was no secret to anyone. A source close to the situation indicates that the Birds had interest, but that Carey did not solicit offers from teams other than Chicago.
Chicago also removed from the list of possible signees running back Chester Taylor, who might have been a nice veteran complement to Shady McCoy. Detroit signed defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who might have interested the Eagles.
Of course, one option for the Eagles is to continue the late-season trend of using Weaver as a running back.
"I look at myself definitely as a tweener; we call it the halfback, that's the new name that we have out there," said Weaver, who made the Pro Bowl after leading NFL fullbacks with 70 carries for 323 yards. "I definitely look at myself as a fullback who's very versatile, who can run the ball, also run block as well as on third down be able to . . . protect Donovan and catch the ball out of the backfield."
"Leonard proved to be a versatile player for us last year from the fullback position," coach Andy Reid said in a statement. "He made plays both running and catching the football and was a reliable blocker. Plus, he is committed to donating time and energy in the community. Leonard is an All-Pro on and off the field. We are happy to have him back for the next three seasons."
The situation turned out well for Weaver, but he allowed that it was a little strange, being forced back into restricted free agency by the expiration of the collective-bargaining agreement a year after signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent. Obviously, he signed the 1-year deal last year because he didn't get the offers he wanted, thinking he could build a platform for a more lucrative contract. Then he found himself boxed in - but by a team that valued his contributions, in a place where he definitely wanted to stay.
"I think it got to the point where I felt like I was giving in and they felt like they were giving in," Weaver said when asked about the contract talks, which seemed close to completion for a week or so. "I think it worked out perfectly and, like I said, I thank God for this opportunity, and obviously, I've expressed to the organization time and time again - that this is a place that I love. The fans. I mean, what better place can you play than Philadelphia, where the fans are all for you? They'll tell you like it is, they're hard workers, it's been a blessing."
Weaver hit the ground running when he signed here last year, starting a program at Camden's Bonsall Elementary School called "Weaver's Workerz."
"I mentor a group of 25 kids, young men. I teach reading and writing curriculum as well as character-based essential curriculum as well," Weaver said. "I go in every Tuesday on my day off and I actually teach. I go in at 8 and I leave about 4, 5 o'clock. It's an awesome program, it's thriving very well."
Indications last night were that wideout Jason Avant, tendered at the second-round level, probably would end up with a longer-term deal with the Birds . . . The Rams signed A.J. Feeley yesterday. If the plan is to make him their Doug Pederson while they develop a quarterback this year, they might not be all that interested in any of the current Eagles QBs . . . Brian Westbrook officially became a free agent; no obvious suitors emerged . . . If you're keeping an eye out for safeties who could interest the Eagles, Steelers free agent Ryan Clark seems like a possibility.