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Explanation for Missing OTAs Could Signal End is Near for Marcus Smith

By Paul Macrie, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

With the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith. At the time, it was regarded as a mild surprise that Smith was taken in the first round.

Projected as a second-round selection, he was expected to give the Eagles another effective pass rushing option, opposite Connor Barwin

Three years later, Smith has already been labeled a bust, and rightfully so. He has played only 418 career snaps and has compiled four sacks, 2.5 of which came last season. Though he played marginally better in the 4-3 scheme in 2016, it still wasn't enough for the organization to invest a fifth year in the disappointing former first-round pick. 

This offseason, Smith decided to skip all 10 OTA, voluntary practices. Yes, the practices are voluntary, but for a player fighting for a roster spot in 2017, it would have better served him to be at the practices with his teammates trying to make a good impression on his coaches. Instead, he and his agent Kennard McGuire collectively thought it was in the best interest to workout at home, away from the facility where true football conditioning takes place.

On Tuesday after the first mandatory minicamp session, Smith said there wasn't a specific reason for missing OTAs, but made sure to remind reporters that they were voluntary. He also expressed he wasn't concerned about his roster spot being in jeopardy because he missed the voluntary practices during May and early June. 

Going through the offseason timeline, Smith was at the first two weeks of voluntary workouts in April at the NovaCare Complex. When the Eagles selected defensive end Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick, not long afterwards, Smith decided to return home to Maryland to workout. The team declined his fifth-year option, therefore making him a free agent after the upcoming season.

It is clear Smith isn't pleased with his current situation, and it can't be ruled out that he is trying to force himself out of town early to latch on to a new team sooner rather than later.

Of course, his agent is steering this ship to a certain extent. His role is to advise him on these type of dilemmas. The team drafted a defensive end early to improve a pass rush that underwhelmed last season, and by declining Smith's option year, they are suggesting they are ready to move on from him. 

It is difficult to have any sympathy for Smith. If he thinks he is the victim here, then he is delusional. Though he started his NFL career playing in a 3-4 defensive system that didn't truly fit his strengths, it wasn't as if he exploded to compile 10-plus sacks in the 4-3 in 2016. The bottom line is he has four sacks in three seasons playing in a limited role. 

One of the biggest draft busts in Eagles history, Smith has likely played his last meaningful snap in an Eagles' uniform. It can't be ruled out that he will struggle to find another home when he is officially released, which should occur sometime in August. Plummeting down the depth chart, he will need to have an unexpectedly great training camp to even be considered on the final roster heading into Week 1. 

Skipping OTAs in this instance was detrimental to Smith. The best solution heading into the most important season of his early career was to be at the NovaCare Complex to prove he will give it his all for the organization. He needed to have a do-whatever-it-takes mentality this offseason, and it has been almost the opposite of that. He might have done everything the coaches asked of him during the three-day minicamp, but it is too little, too late at this juncture. 

The 2014 first-round selection of Marcus Smith set the Eagles' franchise back for several years. It is very difficult to recover from missed picks in the early rounds. Hopefully, the organization learned from this faulty decision and will continue to build around potential franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.

There are signs it will turn around in the next several seasons, but it is a work in progress, and Smith's presence on the roster is a reminder of that.

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