As teams around the NFL quickly scoop up the best players from the short-lived AAF, the Eagles got in the mix on Tuesday.
The Birds announced they have signed QB Luis Perez (Birmingham Iron), WR Greg Ward Jr. (San Antonio Commanders) and WR Charles Johnson (Orlando Apollos) to one-year deals.
Ward, 23, should be a familiar name. He has a unique story and is a perfect example of why a developmental league like the AAF should exist. Now a wide receiver, Ward (5-10, 186) was a college quarterback at the University of Houston. He’s trying to make it in the NFL as a receiver and has needed a little extra time. Ward caught 22 passes for 214 yards during the league’s brief stint.
The Eagles signed Ward as an undrafted free agent back in 2017 and was on their practice squad for a good portion of the Super Bowl year. Last season, he was back with the Eagles in the spring and summer but again didn’t make the team. He has yet to make a 53-man roster.
Perez, 24, has an even crazier backstory. The former Division II and junior college product actually taught himself how to play quarterback by watching YouTube videos. His numbers weren’t very good in the AAF, but he comes in with a chance to stick around as a practice squad player or even perhaps as a third QB on the 53-man roster.
Johnson, 30, isn’t some developmental guy. He’s a former seventh-round pick of the Packers back in 2013. He bounced from the Packers to the Browns to the Vikings to the Panthers to the Jets to the Apollos and now to the Eagles.
But from 2014-16, Johnson played in 39 games with the Vikings and caught 60 passes for 834 yards and two touchdowns.
In the AAF, Johnson put up big numbers for the league’s best team. He led the league in receptions (45) and receiving yards (687).
The odds are still against him and Ward, but it’s not a crazy thought that one of them might have a chance to make the Eagles’ roster. The Eagles have a dynamic starting group with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, but lack depth.
Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are the top returning depth guys, but after that, the Eagles have reserve/futures players Braxton Miller, Dorren Miller, Johnny Holton and Marken Michel. It seems really likely that Ward, Johnson or one of those guys will become a training camp darling this summer and push for a roster spot.
What might become important for Ward is his ability to return. The Eagles are in need of return men, especially punt returners. Darren Sproles is a free agent, so the Eagles will likely need someone else. Jackson can do it in big situations, but at 32 years old, the Eagles shouldn’t make him their primary punt returner. That could give Ward an extra chance.
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