Richard Rodgers

Eagles bring back veteran receiver Markus Wheaton in time for Week 1

Eagles bring back veteran receiver Markus Wheaton in time for Week 1

In need of receiver depth, the Eagles brought back Markus Wheaton on Tuesday morning. 

The veteran receiver didn’t make the initial 53-man roster, but without Alshon Jeffery and with Mack Hollins’ health in question, the Eagles made a move to bring back an experienced veteran. 

To make room for Wheaton on the roster, the Eagles put tight end Richard Rodgers on IR. Rodgers has a knee injury and was considered “week to week” by Doug Pederson. Rodgers had been seen the last couple of weeks with a heavy brace on his knee. The Eagles will go with Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Josh Perkins for now at tight end. Rodgers could still return later in the season. 

Wheaton, 27, was having a good training camp early, but then hurt his hamstring and missed considerable time. He returned for the final week of practice in the preseason and played in the fourth preseason game before getting cut. 

Wheaton’s last good NFL season came in 2015, when he caught 44 passes for 749 yards and five touchdowns. In the two years since, he has seven catches for 102 yards. Injuries have had a lot to do with his drop in production. 

The Eagles on Tuesday also made another smaller roster move. They added Joe Walker to the practice squad and cut Asantay Brown from the practice squad. Walker was waived after the team claimed D.J. Alexander from the Seahawks this weekend. 

The Eagles will practice on Tuesday, have a walkthrough Wednesday and will start their season when they host the Falcons on Thursday night. 

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Anthony Denham trying to come off the couch and make Eagles' roster

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Anthony Denham trying to come off the couch and make Eagles' roster

The phone rang Monday morning. It was the Eagles asking Anthony Denham if he wanted to fly from Phoenix to Philadelphia for a workout.

“They called me at 10 o’clock in the morning and told me they had a flight at 10:30 p.m. if I was interested,” Denham said.

So Denham, who’s been out of football all summer, boarded the red-eye in Phoenix.

But he needed sleep before his important workout.

“I was in the bulkhead row, so I just stretched out on the floor and closed my eyes and got some sleep,” he said. “All the lights were out and I was wearing all black, so nobody saw me.”

Sufficiently rested, Denham arrived in Philly at 6 a.m. Tuesday, worked out for the Eagles, signed a contract and went out to practice wearing jersey No. 49.

Denham, 27, is in his sixth NFL season out of Utah. He’s bounced around the league but spent 2016 on the Eagles’ practice squad and last summer in Eagles training camp. So he knows the offense and is familiar with tight ends coach Justin Peelle.

With Richard Rodgers out indefinitely, the Eagles don’t have a proven third tight end behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

Or maybe they do.

“People were saying I did great today,” he said. “Tried to come in and surprise some people. Very excited about the opportunity.

“Imagine how it feels when you’re sitting home but you feel like you should be somewhere playing.”

Denham said he remembered most of the playbook despite being away from the Eagles since last Sept. 1.

“About 80 percent,” he said. “I went back there and didn’t make many mistakes and didn’t have any second thoughts about what I had to do when it was my time to pop on the field and run a play. I knew pretty much what I was doing.

“Wasn’t thinking too much. I turned (Peele’s) head. He was very surprised. He was like, ‘We haven’t even talked about that and you still remember it.’

“I went out there and had a great day and I have to keep doing that.”

The problem is final cuts are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday. So Denham has just that one practice and one preseason game to prove he belongs.

“Even if this is the last game of my career, I want to go out with a bang,” he said. “If I don’t go out there and give it everything I have, then obviously I’m going to look back and have regrets.

"But if I go out there and bust tail, no regrets no matter what happens. And who knows. There are 31 other teams out there might see me and say, ‘Hey, we want to bring you in.’ Or maybe they won’t, but at least I know I gave it everything I had.

“Ertz told me, ‘You had a great day today. You came off the couch and did way more than anybody expected.’ He’s a Pro Bowler, so I’m going to listen to what he says and follow his lead and show up on Thursday.”

The Eagles face the Jets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Linc. Ertz won’t play and the rookie Goedert probably won’t either.

If Denham can pull this off, it would be a remarkable story.

“It’s a shot,” he said. “It’s like me having the ball with five seconds left. Am I going to pass it? Come on, no way. If I don’t pull it up from the three-point line or take a 17-footer, I’ll always regret it.

“I don’t know if it’s a long shot or a short shot, but it’s a shot and I’m going to take it.”

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Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

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