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Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'aggressively pursuing' WR Calvin Johnson

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Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'aggressively pursuing' WR Calvin Johnson

The Eagles signed two free-agent wide receivers in March and invested two draft picks at the position in April, but there's only one Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, the legendary Lions wideout is also retired, and that's the way things are likely to stay.

That's just the first of several issues with a report that the Eagles are "aggressively pursuing" a trade for Johnson. A bigger problem is that rumor has since been refuted by more authoritative sources, namely Mike Florio for ProFootballTalk.

But Johnson is on the block, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and at least two teams have contacted the Lions about a swap. Just don't expect the Eagles to be seriously in the mix, regardless of what you may have heard.

For starters, the Eagles don't need Johnson.

Sure, the six-time Pro Bowl selection was a one-of-a-kind talent — a 6-foot-5, 237-pound target with a 42.5-inch vertical and 4.35 speed. Any offense could use that, in theory. Except the Eagles already have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith and Mack Hollins playing heavy snaps, and Jeffery's and Johnson's skill sets are incredibly similar. It simply isn't necessary.

Furthermore, the Eagles can't afford Johnson. At only $4.7 million under the salary cap, according to the NFLPA, they can't afford his salary, and even if they cleared the space, they really can't afford the trade for his rights. The Eagles have already dealt their second- and third-round draft choices in 2018. Now they're going to send more picks for a receiver they don't need?

It doesn't sound like Johnson is even interested in playing. Schefter makes it sounds as if his response to inquiries about coming out of retirement has been tepid at best, which is no surprise seeing as he quit football nearly two years ago.

So you have a player who doesn't want to play, whose rights are only available in a trade, who was the highest-paid receiver in the NFL at the time of his retirement, at a position where the Eagles don't really need help. Sounds like fertile grounds for a trade.

Even assuming some of these hurdles would be easier to clear than it seems — Johnson has a change of heart, restructures his contract, and the Lions deal him for cheap — is he any good in 2017?

Johnson is 32 years old. He already appeared to be in physical decline when he last played. Now, he would need be attempting to come back with a brand new team, in a brand new offense in which he's never played.

All of that sounds like a lot more trouble than it would be worth for an Eagles team that's amassed a 7-1 record without Johnson.

Oh, and the NFL's trade deadline is on Tuesday, by the way. That doesn't leave a lot of time to persuade Johnson, figure out the money and create a roster spot, and compensate the Lions for their trouble in all of this.

If Johnson were a free agent, there's no reason the Eagles wouldn't pick up the phone, assuming there was any reason to believe he wanted to play. There's no reason to believe Johnson wants that, and there's no reason to believe the Eagles want to trade for him, pay him, and mess with the dynamics of a team that's rolling as it's currently constructed.

Rating: Calvin Johnson's couch is probably pretty comfy.

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

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Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.