Eagles Add Undrafted Free Agents After Making Only Five Picks in 2019 Draft

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles picked only five players in the 2019 NFL Draft, certainly not enough to fill out a roster properly. As such, the team will need to fill out their 90-man roster with some undrafted free agents.

Over the last two season, the Eagles have hit on some players, such as running backs Corey Clement and Josh Adams as well as cornerback Chandon Sullivan, punter Cameron Johnston and safety Tre Sullivan, who were brought in as undrafted free agents.

The Eagles will hope that they hit on a few more players in this round of free agent signings, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where they took only one player in the entire draft.

Below is a list of undrafted free agents that the Eagles have signed. Note that not all of the below players have been signed to deals that would put them on the 90-man roster, but have instead been invited to rookie minicamp where, if they prove their worth, they can sign a deal at which time the Eagles would need to release a player from the 90-man roster.

Ryan Bates – Offensive Lineman – Penn State

Bates could certainly be a steal for the Eagles as nearly all Penn State offensive lineman come with positional flexibility. Bates, however, has only played the two tackle positions in his 37 games. The Eagles currently have Jason Peters, Lane Johnson and first-round pick Andre Dillard ahead of Bates at tackle and once Peters departs following 2019, Jordan Mailata could jump over him as well.

Bates is not likely to be a starter, but if he can learn to play the inside positions, he could very well stick. It might be best to see if the Eagles can teach him center as the team lacks a backup for Jason Kelce that does not require removing staring left guard Isaac Seumalo.

Bates is the third Penn State rookie the Eagles have added to their roster.

Anthony Rush – Defensive Tackle – UAB

Rush went undrafted in large part because UAB is not a big program and because Rush only saw the field in the final of his two seasons at the school. Those two seasons were extremely productive, however, as Rush registered 77 tackles (20 for loss), two sacks, one interception (which he returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles.

Clearly Rush produced in college, but he has a long jump from the CUSA conference to the NFL, though.

Deandre Thompkins – Wide Receiver – Penn State

A fourth Penn State rookie, Thompkins has arguably the most difficult road to sticking with the team.

While he is a character guy, Thompkins enters a crowded receiving corps that features Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Thompkins is a burner who totaled just 1,245 receiving yards and six touchdowns, but his path to the roster may be more in line with his 675 yards and two touchdowns in two years of returning punts. Without Darren Sproles, the Eagles have no clear return man and have proven they will keep a roster spot open for someone who can excel in that area.

Jerry Iweh – Linebacker/Defensive Back – Fairmont State

Iweh comes from Division II, so the competition change will be very steep, but the linebacker position is the clear weakness for the Eagles as they have only four linebackers on the roster for three positions. The only real “known” entity at the position is Nigel Bradham

Over his four years, he accumulated 218 tackles, eight interceptions, four sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

His ability to play both linebacker and defensive back will only help him in Jim Schwartz’s scheme.

Nico Evans – Running Back – Wyoming

Evans never got more than 15 rushes in a single season at Wyoming until 2018, when he got the ball over 200 times.

He rushed for 1,325 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Over his 211 touches, not once did he fumble the ball. His stats last year certainly show potential, but he will have a tough time cracking the roster with Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and Corey Clement essentially locks to make the team and Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams already ahead of him on the depth chart.

Evans could become a practice squad candidate with an opportunity to make the team in 2020 after both Wendell Smallwood and Jordan Howard could both depart in free agency.

Jay Liggins – Defensive Back – Dickinson State

The 2018 NorthStar Defensive Player of the Year and NorthStar Field Athlete of the Year, Liggins was also named a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award, Liggins is unlikely to make the roster in 2019.

Liggins comes from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, a rival organization that the NCAA has no control over. He is one of the best defensive players in the association, but the gap will likely be very large and he will need time to develop.

The Eagles also currently have what appear to be four spots at safety and six at corner locked down in 2019, but four of those spots are set to be free agents following the conclusion of the season. That combined with a year to develop should give him a much better shot at making the 53-man in 2020.

Tyrell Gilbert – Defensive Backs – Cincinnati

Gilbert comes from Cincinnati, a school that the Eagles have done very well with. Since 2005, the team has made three picks from the school since 2005: Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Jason Kelce not to mention guys like COnnor Barwin who the team did not draft, but picked up early in their careers. Safe to say they all worked out well.

In his NCAA career, he totaled 158 tackles, five interceptions and one sack. He will have difficulty cracking a roster that is ripe with depth in the secondary.

Louis Vecchio – Defensive End – Vanderbilt

Veccio was a captain at the University of Pennsylvania prior to his playing for Vanderbilt in 2018.

In his one season at Vanderbilt, Vecchio posted 24 tackles, three sacks and an interception. He will face an uphill battle trying to crack the rotation of Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Shareef Miller and Josh Sweat as well as the possibilly, though unlikely return of Chris Long.

TJ Edwards – Linebacker – Wisconsin

A four-year starter from Wisconsin, it is a bit surprising that Edwards went undrafted. For those worrying about how the Eagles did not draft a linebacker despite it being their most glaring need, this one is for you.

Playing for a ranked college team against many ranked opponents, Edwards racked up 366 tackles, 10 interceptions, eight sacks, 15 defensed passes, forced a fumble and recovered another. Edwards is the most likely of any player on this list to both make the roster and make an impact.

Kevin Wilkins – Defensive Tackle – Rutgers

Despite playing all four years at Rutgers, Wilkins appeared in only 39 games. He accumulated 122 tackles, but only two sacks to go along with them.

He will have a difficult time cracking the roster with the recent additions of Ridgeway and Jernigan on one-year deals, but he could be a candidate for the practice squad who could turn into a rotational player in 2020.

Iosua Opeta – Guard – Weber State

The small school and rough edges scared teams away from drafting Opeta, but the Eagles could not pass up the opportunity to get a talented offensive lineman that simply needs some coaching. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the best in the business and if anyone can get this man on track.

The Eagles have a recent history of going really hard for undrafted free agents they really loved like Corey Clement and the team paid Opeta $80,000 to attend rookie minicamp with them.

He originally played football as a defensive tackle in college, but the transition to guard was a wise one. He put up huge strength numbers at the combine and the Eagles will likely look to stash him and give him a year to learn before he can become an impact lineman.

Nate Herbig – Guard – Stanford

The second of three additions from Stanford, Herbig is a bit of an oddity.

The likelihood of him making the roster in 2019 is essentially zero. He hasn’t played a whole lot and declared early for unknown reasons. He could have greatly benefited from more reps.

Also an oddity, the weaknesses of Herbig seem to largely be effort and interest based. That neither contributes to or meshes with the Birds locker room and would seem to make him the opposite of what the Eagles are and have been looking for.

Joey Alfieri – Linebacker – Stanford

Alfieri is the third Stanford addition for the Birds and arguably the second-most likely player to make the Eagles 53-man roster behind only TJ Edwards, who plays the same position.

The Eagles need linebacker depth and Alfieri played 47 games over his four years at Stanford. He compiled 156 tackles, 12 sacks, two interceptions and two each of fumbles forced and recovered.

If he can find a way to translate his speed into better pass protection, he could almost be considered a lock to make the roster.

Update: The signings below have been added since the original posting of this article.

Delvon Randall – Safety – Temple

A three-year starter at Temple, Randall compiled 249 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 12 interception.

He is a versatile playmaker who can hit hard, but he is not without flaws. He lacks the speed needed to be in man coverage and the run game has not been a strength. Still, his hard hitting abilities and ball skills and ability to break on the ball would serve him well as a free safety for the Birds in more of the role that Rodney McLeod has played the past few seasons.

Many thought he would be drafted and there were some who thought he would go as high as the third round. He could become a major player on the team should injuries crop up as they did in 2018.

Johnny Gibson Jr. – Offensive Line – Arkansas

Gibson was originally a walk-on at Arkansas and moved up the ladder to become a regular player in his sophomore season.

After starting the final 24 games of his college career at right tackle, left tackle and right guard, Gibson has shown a propensity to be able to play any of the positions on the offensive line. That versatility whill help him crack the roster. He and Ryan Bates have a good chance at competing for a spot if they are able to learn center.

Ryan Fulse – Running Back – Wagner College

Coming from Wagner College in the FCS, Fulse will have some difficulty adjusting to the NFL, but the Eagles have seen what can come from taking outstanding FCS players over the last few drafts with picks like Carson Wentz and Dallas Goedert.

In just two seasons, Fulse had 3,088 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns and an additional 246 yards and two touchdowns receiving during his senior season.

He is a smaller back at just five foot, eleven inches, but comes with promise in the passing game and, like Miles Sanders, has fewer mileage on his legs than many other backs having played only two seasons at Wagner.

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