Eagles' Roster Notes: LBs, Undrafted Free Agents, Lane Johnson

In addition to pulling off a blockbuster trade to ship Sam Bradford to Minnesota on Saturday (see story), the Eagles also released 21 players to get down to the required 53 (see story)

But it’s very possible these aren’t the same 53 the team will go into the season with. 

At his 20-plus-minute press conference on Saturday, de facto general manager Howie Roseman said the 53-man roster is “fluid,” which means the team will be scouring the waiver wire looking for talent cut from other rosters. 

For now, though, the Eagles have a 53-man roster (see breakdown). And there were some notable tidbits about it. 

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Light on linebackers
After cutting undrafted rookies Myke Tavarres and Quentin Gause and veteran backup Najee Goode, the Eagles were left with just four linebackers on the team. They have the three starters — Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham — as well as veteran Stephen Tulloch. 

“We will see what happens in the next couple of days,” Roseman said. “[With] a 4-3 team, four linebackers is a low number and we’ll just have to see what shakes out and what happens going forward and what’s out there. That’s a process that we’re going through right now.”

Aside from being at least an adequate backup, Goode has been a key special teams member for the Eagles. He played in 14 games in 2015 and started one. 

The cut was a surprising one on Saturday, but Roseman didn’t rule out bringing Goode back. 

“Najee has a history here and for us that was a really tough decision,” he said. “We had a couple really tough decisions with guys that have been around and that have been a part of this. We'll just see what happens here in the next couple of days and over the next couple weeks.

“Obviously, we thank Najee for his time here, but not ruling out anything going forward. We've got to just see how it all shakes out and we'll do that over the next couple of days.”

Four undrafted players stay
The Eagles kept five of their eight draft picks on the 53-man roster. Alex McCalister and Joe Walker are on IR, while Blake Countess was waived. Carson Wentz, Isaac Seumalo, Halalpoulavaati Vaitai, Wendell Smallwood and Jalen Mills made the team. 

So did four players the Eagles signed after the draft – DT Destiny Vaeao, WR Paul Turner, OT Dillon Gordon and CB C.J. Smith. 

The Eagles spent a lot of money to lure those undrafted free agents to Philly during the offseason because they lacked the number of high picks they’d normally have because of past moves. Signing four of these guys was just a continuation of that thought process. 

“We feel like we’ve got to find ways to improve this football team in an unconventional manner,” Roseman said. “When you look at the percentage of rosters taken up by undrafted free agents, outside of first-round picks, I think it’s the highest percentage of players on rosters. 

“For us, we felt like we needed to throw darts at that pool of guys that we liked. And it's hard to recruit undrafted free agents after the draft. You are competing against 31 other teams. We looked at the amount of resources we put into that and if we can get a couple guys out of it, how it would work for us. We're hopeful that it's not just now that it works, but going forward some of those guys are guys that can contribute to our football.”

The Lane dilemma
Lane Johnson still hasn’t been suspended by the NFL, so the Eagles’ right tackle is one of the 53 players on the roster. Without a suspension, there’s no roster exemption, so he counts. 

The team still hasn’t heard from the league and Doug Pederson is planning on starting Johnson next week if he’s available. 

Roseman gave a “no comment” when asked about Johnson on the first run through, but then was asked about the challenge of putting together a roster when one player’s status is undetermined. 

“We go with all the information we have,” Roseman said. “We can only go with the information that we have at this point. So until someone tells us differently about anyone on our roster, we go with the 53 guys we think give us the best chance and that's what we did today.”

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