Carson Wentz's college teammate C.J. Smith trying to stick with Eagles

Carson Wentz's college teammate C.J. Smith trying to stick with Eagles

While Carson Wentz fielded questions at a podium from a horde of Philadelphia reporters, his college teammate C.J. Smith sat on a stool in a mostly-empty locker room, at his temporary popup stall, scrolling through his phone.

Smith, a 5-11, 185-pound cornerback from North Dakota State, signed with the Eagles after going undrafted a month ago. And he knows if he wasn’t a college teammate of Wentz's, it wouldn’t have happened.

He just doesn’t care.

“Take it how you get it,” Smith said Tuesday at OTAs. “I’m just glad for the opportunity to be here now.”

In late March, the Eagles took a trip to Fargo, North Dakota, to get a closer look at the 6-foot-5 quarterback they would eventually take with the No. 2 overall pick. That was the trip that concluded with the now-famous dinner date between Wentz and the top-ranking decision-makers in the Eagles' organization.

But Wentz wasn’t the only player the team worked out during that trip. They also worked out left tackle Joe Haeg, who was taken in the fifth round by the Colts.

Smith was a late addition to the plan. And he must have shown the Eagles something.

Just a few days earlier at the NDSU pro day, Smith didn’t have a great 40-yard dash time (4.59), but did have a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-11 broad jump and put up good times in the 20-yard shuttle (4.13) and the three-cone drill (7.0). If Smith did the same thing when the Eagles were watching, it’s easy to see why they’d be interested.

And it really didn’t bother Smith that he was just an afterthought to Wentz. In fact, he got to North Dakota State because the Bison were scouting his high school teammate, tight end Cameron Jones, who ended up playing at South Dakota State.

Now in Philly, Smith has enjoyed getting a chance to be teammates with Wentz again.

“It’s nice to have someone to talk to on a daily basis, a familiar face every day,” Smith said.  “It’s definitely good. “

The two had plenty of battles in Fargo that have continued in Philly for the last few weeks. On Tuesday, though, Wentz got the better of his old teammate.

Wentz threw a ball deep down the right sideline to fellow rookie wide receiver Xavier Rush, who wrestled it away from Smith despite the close coverage.

“Yeah, he got me today,” Smith said with a smile. “I was talking to him about that earlier.”

Smith and Wentz both got to North Dakota State in 2011 as redshirt freshmen and spent the next five seasons as teammates. While Wentz’s meteoric rise into a top-two pick surprised a lot of people, Smith isn’t one of them. He remembers watching a highlight film of all the freshmen in 2011 — when he saw Wentz, he thought, “who’s that?”

“I was like ‘Wow, he’s good,’” Smith remembered. “Practicing with him and them, him having to wait to play, I already knew he was going to be great. Just seeing his work ethic throughout the four years I’ve been with him, it’s just been great.”

Wentz is the future of the Eagles. Smith’s future is far cloudier.  

That’s the reality for an undrafted free agent, especially one from an FCS school on an NFL team with a plethora of young and talented defensive backs. But carving out a role is not impossible. Smith even has a success story at his disposal.

When Smith and Wentz were just arriving to Fargo, a cornerback named Marcus Williams was already a standout for the Bison. Williams was a four-year starter at North Dakota State before going undrafted in 2013. He signed with the Houston Texans after the draft and put together an impressive few months in Texas — impressive enough that it was a surprise when he was released at final cuts.

Williams latched on with the New York Jets and has become a key part of their secondary. In the last two years, he’s played in 21 games, with 11 starts. And last year, he led the team with six interceptions — one more than Darrelle Revis.

“He’s definitely one of my biggest role models,” Smith said. “I talk to him every so often for advice about how he did it. So yeah, he’s just been one of those people who inspired me throughout my whole college career and still to this day.”

For every Marcus Williams, though, there are dozens of undrafted guys who don’t work out and have to start their post-NFL careers much earlier than they’d like.

But for now, Smith is choosing to be positive. And he doesn’t care about coming from a small school.

“If people want to talk about schools and things like that, we can compete,” he said. “I think we kind of have a chip on our shoulder. But once you get to the NFL, nobody talks about where you’re from.”

Nor how you got here.

Top pending free agents from NFC East

Top pending free agents from NFC East

By now, you know which Eagles are set to become free agents on March 13 (see story), but do you know how they stack up against the other pending free agents in the division? 

The Eagles are set to lose some pretty significant pieces compared to the rest of the division. 

With less than a month until the start of free agency, here’s a look at the top 10 free agents from the NFC East: 

1. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys 

Lawrence isn’t just the top pending free agent in the NFC East, he might be the top free agent in the NFL. It’s either him or Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney. Lawrence won’t turn 27 until April 28 and he’s already turned into a perennial Pro Bowler. His career got off to a relatively slow start, but his last two seasons have been great. In the last two years, Lawrence has had 25 sacks. Just three players in the NFL (Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan) have had more in that span. Lawrence has also been very good against the run and has had 29 TFLs in the last two years. The Cowboys can’t afford to let him go. 

2. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles 

After the Eagles picked up his option year and then Foles immediately told the Eagles he’d pay back $2 million to buy his freedom, the former Super Bowl MVP is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles could prevent that by slapping a franchise tag on him, but if they don’t, he’ll be free to choose his next team when he becomes a free agent on March 13. (The tagging window is from Feb. 19 through March 5.) There probably aren’t a ton of landing spots left for Foles, but a couple of them might be in the division. Jacksonville and Miami make some sense too. 

3. Landon Collins, S, Giants 

Collins just finished out his rookie contract as a second-round pick and has been a Pro Bowler his last three years. He hasn’t stayed at his All-Pro level from 2016, when he was on the short list to be the Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s still been pretty damn good. The Giants probably can’t afford to let him walk, so if they can’t get a long-term deal, they’ll probably have to slap a tag on him. 

4. Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles 

BG is 30 now and is coming off a season where he had just four sacks, but he’ll still be a highly sought-after free agent. The former first-round pick has played all nine of his NFL seasons in Philly, but will likely get to test the free agent waters. Graham isn’t the top DE in this free agent market, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a big deal. 

5. Preston Smith, LB, Redskins 

The former second-round pick hasn’t lived up to his potential with 24 1/2 sacks in four seasons, but he’s just 26 and has been a pretty big part of Washington’s defense. Washington probably still has some hope that Smith has room to grow. 

6. Golden Tate, WR, Eagles 

He came over from Detroit halfway through the season and the Eagles struggled to get him involved. Eventually, Tate did make a game-winning catch in the playoff game against Chicago, but is that enough for the Eagles to want to re-sign him? A YAC master, Tate will be 31 by the start of next season and had gone over 1,000 yards in three of his four previous seasons before 2018. 

7. Ronald Darby, CB, Eagles 

Darby tore his ACL against the Cowboys in November and is still recovering, which might delay his signing. In two seasons with the Eagles, he’s had two pretty significant injuries; the dislocated ankle in 2017 and the ACL tear in 2018. But when he’s been on the field, he’s been pretty good. The problem might be that the Eagles now seem to have some depth at corner. Maybe they still try to bring him back. 

8. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Redskins

Washington traded a fourth-round pick to the Packers at the deadline to bring in Clinton-Dix, who then played nine games with the Skins. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016, but has had an up and down career overall. But after releasing D.J. Swearinger, it might be important for Washington to keep Clinton-Dix. 

9. Jordan Hicks, LB, Eagles 

Because of his injury history, Hicks is one of the hardest free agents to figure out. When he’s on the field, he’s been a really productive player, but he has also missed 21 games over his first four years because of injury and that doesn’t include missing the Super Bowl run in 2017 after tearing his Achilles. 

10. Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys 

It’s hard to believe, but Beasley just finished his seventh NFL season. He’s been unhappy with his usage in Dallas, which could mean he’ll be ready to get out of town. In 2018, he had 65 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns. His best season came in 2016, when he caught 75 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns. 

Notable mentions: David Irving, DT, Cowboys; Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins; Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles; Russell Shepard, WR, Giants

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Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

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Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

In the wake of news that the NFL had settled collusion cases brought forth by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, fellow activist and Eagle Malcolm Jenkins has weighed in. 

Despite some disagreements between the men in the past, Jenkins has always maintained that Kaepernick and Reid belonged in the league and thought NFL owners colluded to keep Kaepernick and Reid out of the NFL. 

Reid is now employed by the Carolina Panthers, but Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016. 

You’ll remember in October, Jenkins and Reid got into a heated exchange before the Eagles-Panthers game at the Linc. And after the game, Reid called Jenkins a sellout and a coward (see story).  

That day, Jenkins refused to get into a war of words. 

"I would never get up here and say anything bad about somebody who I know [their] intentions were about helping their communities, especially another black man," Jenkins said on Oct. 21, after the game. "I'll leave it at that."

The exchange between Jenkins and Reid that day stemmed from lingering animosity about the way the Players Coalition — led by Jenkins — brokered a $90 million deal with the NFL to help with projects dealing with racial inequality. 

On Friday afternoon, the NFL released the following statement: 

"For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party."

Because of the confidentiality agreement, we don’t know how much this settlement is worth, but it’s likely to be very significant. It’s also unclear if the NFL admitted any wrongdoing in the settlement. 

The grievances began when Kaepernick and Reid claimed they had been blacklisted by the NFL for demonstrating during the national anthem. Kaepernick began those protests by sitting and then later taking a knee. 

Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem but stopped once his Players Coalition brokered that deal in 2017. Jenkins raised his fist in the Eagles’ preseason opener in 2018, but did not during the 2018 season. Jenkins has said many times he wants the focus to be on work in the community and not the demonstrations. 

A tweet earlier on Friday falls in line with that. 

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