BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Cliff Harris #13 of the Oregon Ducks returns a punt for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cliff Harris
All 32 NFL teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. ET to trim rosters from 90 players down to 75. The Eagles used the weekend to get a head start on the first wave of cuts ahead of the season opener against the Browns on Sept. 9. On Saturday, the names included WR Elvis Akpla, S Wade Bonner, DE Xavier Brown, WR Brian Hernandez, WR McKay Jacobson, WR Tiger Jones, G Alfred McCullough, S Tom Nelson, CB Kevin Thomas and T Thomas Welch.
Nothing particularly surprising since all were long shots to make the roster. Then Sunday morning came this news; cornerback Cliff Harris was also released. Harris was a former college All-American at Oregon after an eight-interception effort following the 2010 season, and on top of that he was a dangerous return man. On the field, there was plenty to like, and along with Damaris Johnson, the Eagles had landed two of the biggest names among rookie undrafted free agents. But also like Johnson, Harris' off-field baggage was the reason he went undrafted.
Still, the news of his release comes as a shock. As CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank writes, the Eagles are aging at the position (Nnamdi Asomugha and Joselio Hanson are 31) and depth remains an issue.
So what happened? PhiladelphiaEagles.com's Dave Spadaro has some thoughts:
Why didn't Harris make the cut here? At the top of the list is the idea that he didn't play well enough to beat out a talented group of cornerbacks, and it's hard to dispute that after watching practice every day and after three preseason games. Harris needs to add strength and he needs to refine his technique and he still needs to learn to approach the game as a professional. Talent alone doesn't get it done in this league. Every player has talent.
Spadaro adds that it didn't help that Harris missed OTAs because of the NCAA rules prohibiting players from working out with NFL teams until their college graduations. And while Harris showed well early in camp, he wasn't the same once he suffered an ankle injury.
And this happens every August. Those under-the-radar players that fans and media think should have an impact because of their college successes struggle to make the transition to the NFL game. We'll no doubt hear that the Eagles could've kept Harris around for another few days, giving him one last look in the final preseason game, and if they remained unimpressed they could've stash him on the practice squad.
But here's the thing; it's rarely the case that a rookie undrafted free agent gets cut and goes onto a Hall of Fame career. Does it happen? Sure. But for every Kurt Warner or James Harrison's there are thousands of names we never heard or can't remember. That's not to condemn Harris' career before it starts, more a commentary on just how good NFL personnel departments are.
This isn't the end for Harris, though; NFL teams will always need good cornerbacks. He can still catch on with a club, and if it doesn't happen this season, he'll have a year to train and try it again in 2013.