Down the line, we might decide this was the move that stabilized the right side of the Eagles' offensive line. Or, the moment when we knew the team was desperate and grasping at straws.
The Eagles announced today that they have signed Reggie Wells, and head coach Andy Reid said Wells would "continue the competition" at right tackle.
Wells, 30, joined the Eagles last Sept. 3 after a trade with Arizona, for a sixth-round pick. He had been a starter on a Super Bowl runnerup team in 2009, so the assumption a year ago was that he was being brought in to start, at guard or tackle. That didn't happen. Then-offensive line coach Juan Castillo was a stickler for o-linemen playing his "vertical set" system, which Wells hadn't played before, and didn't adapt to quickly. Wells soon got buried on the bench; as the season wore on, reporters who covered the team figured that given the choice, Castillo would rather start one of the security guards than Wells.
But Castillo is running the defense now, the o-line lacks a clearcut right tackle starter, and Wells (6-4, 318), with 91 career o-line starts, was available. Center Jamaal Jackson suggested Wells might be a better fit for current o-line coach Howard Mudd's "quick set" philosophy than he was for what Castillo wanted.
(Jackson is experiencing the opposite problem. He confirmed to Comcast SportsNet.com's Reuben Frank today that rookie Jason Kelce will take the first-team reps this week, as the Eagles prepare for a home preseason game Thursday against the Browns.)
"I don't know what my reaction about being back is," Wells said. "I definitely enjoyed last year. It didn't work out like everybody thought it would, but it was a learning experience."
Wells, who flew in from his home in Arizona, arriving at 6 am, in time for today's light practice, said he has "played all over."
Reid said Wells was brought in for depth last year and never really had the chance to compete for the job.
"It's just the way it went. We were winning early, and the guys we had in there, I thought they were doing a solid job," Wells said. (Though right tackle Winston Justice labored down the stretch with a knee injury, and is still rehabbing from surgery.) "I think along the way I learned this system, got some quality experience with it."
Wells appeared in 8 games, starting once, in a meaningless Week 17 loss to Dallas.
He said he last started at right tackle in an early season game in 2009 for Arizona, against St. Louis.
Asked his preference, Wells said: "Being on the field is my preference, be it at tackle, guard, center, tight end, whatever you want to call it."
Reid said King Dunlap did a "fairly nice job" against Pittsburgh and is the starting right tackle for now. Dunlap got the first-team reps in practice Saturday.
Ryan Harris returned to practice today after missing last week with back spasms. Incumbent starter Winston Justice remains sidelined after offseason knee surgery.
Reid said Justice is making progress and is close to being able to return, but he still has pain in his affected knee, and can't plant or "stick" that leg in the ground as hard as he can the other leg.
To make room on the roster, the club has released WR Brandon Caleb and DT Charlie Noonan. Noonan, from St. Joe's Prep, was cut and then brought back in advance of Thursday's game and then cut again. Basically, Noonan came back because Jose Acuna, a DT the Eagles got on waivers from the Cowboys, is dealing with a family medical situation and has not been able to report yet, Reid said.