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The Eagles’ annual training-camp ritual: Filling in the pieces of the roster puzzle

A dependable third safety and a solid linebacker or two could still be targets as training camp begins.

Carson Wentz (left) and Sam Bradford talk before an October 2016 game between the Vikings and the Eagles. Sending Bradford to Minnesota is Howie Roseman's biggest training camp move.
Carson Wentz (left) and Sam Bradford talk before an October 2016 game between the Vikings and the Eagles. Sending Bradford to Minnesota is Howie Roseman's biggest training camp move.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

A year ago, the Eagles reported to training camp with nearly everyone thinking they needed secondary help, particularly at cornerback, where they'd jettisoned 2016 starters Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin.

The top corners as camp opened were Jalen Mills, coming off an up-and-down rookie season, and journeyman vet Patrick Robinson. Behind them were third-round rookie Rasul Douglas and C.J. Smith, who made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2016. After that, we were talking about Ron Brooks coming back from injury and former CFL star Aaron Grymes.

The picture changed significantly when football operations vice president Howie Roseman traded wideout Jordan Matthews to Buffalo for starting corner Ronald Darby on Aug. 11. Eight days before that, in a much less-heralded transaction, the team signed Corey Graham, who would become the third safety for a Super Bowl-championship season.

So, the point being, the group that reported to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday for training-camp workouts is not complete. Most years, the Eagles make a significant addition before the regular season starts. Roster churn from late July through August is common, though there no longer is an NFL-mandated cut before the reduction from 90 players to 53, which this year is scheduled for Sept. 1.

So, let's look back at the training-camp moves the Eagles have made recently. Roseman took charge in 2011, but for the purposes of this review, we're going to exclude that year. That was the lockout summer, when free agency and everything else offseason-ish took place as camps opened, so of course there were many moves; it's hard to draw any parallels to today.


As camp commenced, the Eagles traded offensive lineman Allen Barbre to Denver, where he could compete for a starting role, and finally waived disastrous 2014 first-round defensive end Marcus Smith, who ended up in Seattle.

There were 13 roster moves in August before mandatory cuts. The Eagles acquired corner Dexter McDougle from the Jets for safety Terrence Brooks. Offensive lineman Matt Tobin was shipped to Seattle. Long snapper Jon Dorenbos was traded to New Orleans, which led to the discovery of a career-ending heart problem.


There were four minor roster moves as camp opened, then Roseman traded for wideout Dorial Green-Beckham on Aug. 16, sending offensive lineman Dennis Kelly to the Titans. Hopes that Green-Beckham would turn out to be a big, season-boosting acquisition were not realized. The Eagles signed a Jim Schwartz favorite, Stephen Tulloch, on Aug. 22 for middle-linebacking insurance. But the big move came Sept. 3, when Roseman traded starting quarterback Sam Bradford to Minnesota, officially beginning the Carson Wentz era. Doubt Howie can top that one this year.


This was the year Chip Kelly had full control of personnel, and you could tell — the Eagles made far fewer moves than usual in June and July. On Aug. 1, the team traded nickel corner Brandon Boykin to the Steelers. Lots of churn was to follow that month, to little avail, unless you were Julian Vandervelde's travel agent. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks got a four-year contract extension. There were no significant additions after camp began.


Remarkably, the Eagles recorded absolutely no July transactions whatsoever — the only time that has happened at least since 1994, when Jeffrey Lurie bought the team and the Eagles first began recording month-by-month details of moves.

The first preseason roster move of 2014 didn't come until Aug. 19, when linebacker Jason Phillips was released after trying to come back from a knee injury, and running back Kenjon Barner arrived in a trade with Carolina. The next day, the team traded for Cody Parkey, who would set team records as a rookie kicker.


The Eagles lost wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the first day of full-squad workouts to a torn ACL. They eventually replaced him with former Oregon Duck Jeff Maehl, which should have been a warning to us all. Among the roster cuts as the season started was 2011 first-round guard Danny Watkins.


There were several roster moves in the early days of camp, none of them especially notable. The Eagles' training camp, their last at Lehigh, is remembered mostly for the death of coach Andy Reid's eldest son, Garrett, by drug overdose.

Where does this leave us?

Overall, Roseman's biggest preseason moves have come the past two years – the Bradford trade in 2016 that netted defensive end Derek Barnett, and the Matthews-Darby trade last year. This might reflect the fact that Roseman, brought back from personnel exile upon Kelly's firing, was placed more firmly in charge than he'd ever been previously. But it's unclear the Eagles really need a "big" move now, as they look to defend their Super Bowl title. A third safety (Corey Graham again? Happy 33rd birthday Wednesday, by the way) and a serviceable linebacker or two seem like the only outstanding needs, though it would be nice to see the vaunted defensive line get close to full health before the Sept. 6 season opener against Atlanta.

The potential "big" move, of course, would be a trade of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, something the Eagles were open to last winter, but the value they placed on Foles was more than anyone wanted to pay. It could still happen, should a starting QB somewhere go down, as Teddy Bridgewater did in Minnesota just before the start of the 2016 season. The Eagles have made it clear that Foles would have to be comfortable with any move, and really, nobody is trading much for a QB who can be a free agent next offseason, unless he is enthusiastic and is willing to sign a longer-term deal. Overall, unlikely but far from impossible.

>>READ MORE: Press Taylor's exhaustive approach to running the Eagles' quarterbacks room