Throughout the last month, Eagles coach Andy Reid often cited a desire for roster competition. Almost every job seemed for the taking, when taking Reid's comments with a literal interpretation.
The Eagles trimmed their roster to the league-mandated 53 players on Friday, and the decisions were an ode to the organization's missive. Quarterback Trent Edwards, who was out of football last season and barely took any snaps early in training camp, made the roster as the No. 3 quarterback. Trevard Lindley, who was also out of football last season, jumped on the depth chart to claim a roster spot.
Players who seemed a given to make the team when camp opened - such as quarterback Mike Kafka, cornerback Joselio Hanson, safety Oshimogho Atogwe, and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon - will wake up Saturday morning unemployed.
"At our first minicamp, we talk about competition," general manager Howie Roseman said. "It doesn't matter where you come from, our eyes dictate the roster decision."
The Eagles dropped 23 players on Friday, with the most notable being the aforementioned veterans who were expected to fill key backup spots. They traded a conditional draft pick to Cleveland for safety David Sims late in the night.
Sixth-round wide receiver Marvin McNutt and sixth-round guard Brandon Washington were the only draft picks waived, while undrafted wide receiver/punt returner Damaris Johnson and undrafted running back Chris Polk made the roster.
The top fullback spot went to Stanley Havili over Emil Igwenagu, while Chas Henry came away with the punter job over Mat McBriar. The Eagles are also gambling with only one interior offensive lineman, Dallas Reynolds, who has never been on the active roster. He stayed on the roster over Steve Vallos, a veteran with starting experience.
The Hanson decision was one of the first that came out on Friday, and it was the second consecutive season the Eagles cut the veteran cornerback. He spent six seasons on the Eagles roster and has started 19 games in his career. Rookie Brandon Boykin, a fourth-round pick, will be the nickel cornerback.
One of the final decisions was waiving Dixon, the big-bodied run stuffer who was a starter for the Eagles in 2010. The Eagles kept 10 players on their defensive line, including six defensive ends. The Eagles value pass-rushers, and they are deep in talent at that position. They elected to go thin at other positions (wide receiver, offensive line) rather than drop a valuable player. Darryl Tapp agreed to restructure his contract, according to a league source.
"You talk about pass-rushers and how important it is for us to have the defensive line as one of the strengths of our team," said Roseman, who thinks the Eagles can have five defensive ends activated on game days.
The roster that was set last night is subject to change in the coming days. The Eagles front office will come to work at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and teams will be active claiming waived players or signing released players. Roseman is confident in the roster entering the first week of the season but will scour the options to improve the team.
The choice that incited the most intrigue leading up to Friday was Edwards over Kafka, who broke his left hand in the first preseason game, opening a spot for Nick Foles and Edwards to usurp his spot on the depth chart. Edwards and Foles were together on Friday, attending Jeffrey Lurie's barbecue with their girlfriends with the knowledge that they'll be teammates this season.
"I honestly thought 50-50," Edwards said about whether he thought he'd make the roster when he awoke on Friday. "I've seen a lot of things in this league. I'm not surprised really by any things anymore. I wouldn't have been shocked had the 215 area-code number that called me earlier had been a phone call to turn in my playbook and be told that you are no longer needed."
Edwards laughed at the attention bestowed upon the No. 3 quarterback in Philadelphia, but pledged to ably fill the role. He has been a starter like Michael Vick and a rookie third-round backup like Foles, so he can understand both situations. But the well-traveled Edwards has never had a training camp or a cut day like this year, when he went from long shot to roster spot in a month.
Roseman admitted that he would not have anticipated Edwards' making the roster two months ago. But the choice was an example of an organizational philosophy to trust their eyes and let what happens on the field count.
"I've always been one of those guys that hasn't taken preseason that seriously," Edwards said. "Maybe that was in the past when my job was a little more secure. Now, for me, it was a do-or-die situation. I took it that way, more serious than I have in the past. Ultimately, it paid off. But I think from Day 1 in this league, I needed to have that approach, and maybe other guys will see that, too."
QB (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards
RB/FB (5): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Stanley Havili
WR (5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson
TE (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OL (8): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds
DL (10): Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Jason Babin, Phillip Hunt, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton
LB (6): DeMeco Ryans, Akeem Jordan, Mychal Kendricks, Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, Casey Matthews
CB (6): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley
S (5): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, David Sims, Colt Anderson
ST (3): Alex Henery, Chas Henry, Jon Dorenbas