BETHLEHEM -- Danny Watkins is driving up to Lehigh from South Jersey tonight after signing a four-year contract with a three-year guarantee, apparently worth a little less than $8 million.
"This is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, that's for sure," said Watkins, the Eagles' first-round draft pick, who will work out with his teammates for the first time Wednesday. Eagles players are off tomorrow. "I understand there's a business aspect of football. It's something I've never cared for or know much about. I'm just glad this is over with, and (I can) get rolling."
Watkins, projected as the Eagles' starting right guard, has missed five days of workouts, only two in pads. He got caught in a tug-of-war over exactly where in the first round teams are going to offer three-year guarantees vs. four-year guarantees, in the first year of the new CBA.
"At the end of the day, it was time for Danny to play football," said agent Joe Panos, a former Eagles lineman. Panos said the Eagles "sweetened the pot" Monday, but the key factor was that it became apparent to him that first-round picks past the 20th slot weren't getting the fourth-year guarantee given to the signees earlier in the first round. Watkins, 26, from Baylor, was drafted 23rd overall.
"You have to know when to stop," Panos said.
"I have the playbook, so I've been going through that as much as I could," Watkins said. He said he would meet with offensive line coach Howard Mudd and try to make good use of the players' off day tomorrow.
Asked if he thinks he can be ready to start in less than six weeks against the Rams, Watkins said: "I'm going to come in and compete. Nothing's guaranteed that I'm going to be a starter, by any means. That's a coaches' decision, not mine ... I'm eager to learn. It would be an honor and a privilege to get in front of (quarterback Michael) Vick and let him work his magic. I'm hopin' and I want to come in and compete right away."