The Eagles' roster move to bring in wide receiver and kick returner Brad Smith was predicated on Smith's versatility, general manager Howie Roseman told the Daily News.
Roseman said the Birds liked Smith coming out of Missouri in 2006, when he was an athletic quarterback drafted in the fourth round by the Jets, who early on used him at quarterback, running back and wideout. Roseman noted he then "signed a good free agent deal with the Bills," implying the price then (four years, $15 million in 2011) outstripped the Eagles' interest.
Smith suffered a rib injury this year and was placed on the kind of injured reserve where the player can return that season, but not with the team that put him on IR. He is healthy now and was released by the Bills this week.
The Eagles have not been overjoyed with the work of returner Damaris Johnson, particularly on kickoffs, where he shows little vision. They've used Brandon Boykin on kickoffs the past two weeks, but Boykin is a key member of the defense and they really aren't keen on exposing him to a greater injury risk.
"The more versatile players you have on your (active) 46 and your 53, the easier it is to go into gameday," Roseman said. "He's been successful on coverage teams, on punt and kickoff coverage. He's had really good success as a kickoff returner. And then he can go in and play a variety of positions -- he can play inside, he can play outside, he can line up in the backfield. Obviously, he's thrown the ball. He's got a lot of tools in the toolbox."
Smith practiced with the Eagles Tuesday, wearing Chad Hall's old No. 16. Afterward he said Chip Kelly's offense appealed to him.
"That's one of the main reasons (for signing here.) I can use the skills I do have."