Friday, February 12, 2016

Watkins, Harbor out; Eagles trim to 53

Danny Watkins, the Eagles' 2011 first-round pick, was released today, along with tight end Clay Harbor, and some surprises.

Watkins, Harbor out; Eagles trim to 53


The Eagles cut from 62 to the regular-season limit of 53 today, but the composition of the remaining roster indicates more moves will be coming through the Labor Day Weekend. (For one thing, they ended up with just three outside linebackers.)

The release of guard Danny Watkins is the headline, not because his departure is a surprise but because he was the team's first-round pick in what now seems to be a disaster of a 2011 draft -- a disaster current managment lays at the feet of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, fairly or unfairly. 

The Eagles also cut veteran tight end Clay Harbor, along with rookie offensive tackle Michael Bamiro, linebacker Travis Long, linebacker Chris McCoy, wideout Greg Salas, wideout Russell Shepard, safety Dave Simms, and running back Matthew Tucker.

It's a bit of a surprise that linebacker Casey Matthews is still on the team, at least for now, after demonstrating yet again his athletic shortcomings in the preseason finale Thursday vs. the Jets. Also unexpected is the retention -- again, at least for now -- of corner Curtis Marsh, recovering from a broken hand. Marsh has shown little ability since arriving in the third round in 2011.

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Three undrafted rookies made the team -- offensive tackle Matt Tobin, nose tackle Damion Square and linebacker Jake Knott. The Eagles also kept wideout Jeff Maehl (at least for now), the ex-Oregon star they acquired in a trade for offensive lineman Nate Menkin.

The Eagles made 11 draft selections in 2011. The best player they got was sixth-round center Jason Kelce. They also got their kicker, Alex Henery, in the fourth round. But the first three rounds were Watkins, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and Marsh. Watkins and Jarrett are gone, and Marsh was not expected to make the team this year before he broke his hand. He remains unlikely to be playing any sort of pivotal role. Fourth-round linebacker Matthews remains, to the puzzlement of many observers.

Sixth-round center/guard Julian Vandervelde also arrived in that draft. He was cut last year and came back. Overall, not much of a haul from an 11-pick draft; probably one of the underrated reasons leading to Reid's demise.

Watkins, who turns 29 this season, never played football until he was 22 and traveled from his native British Columbia to Butte Community College in California to take a firefighting course. He won a scholarship to Baylor and was considered a solid, safe pick when the Eagles took him. He had all the physical measurables, but the fact that he had no football instincts probably was not sufficiently weighed. Also, it was never clear that Watkins really burned with a desire to play pro football. This was a career path he followed because he was told he'd be good at it and make money. It was never something he grew up wanting to do.

It isn't at all clear that Watkins has a future in the NFL, but the CFL prizes homegrown talent; if he wants to, he can certainly play there.

Harbor, who tweeted his thanks to fans, almost certainly will play elsewhere in the league. He's an athletic tight end who never quite blossomed the way the Eagles hoped when they drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 out of Missouri State. When the Eagles brought in vet James Casey and drafted Zach Ertz in the second round this year, Harbor got pushed toward the back of the line. Then Emil Igwenagu, originally a fullback/tight end, looked good at TE in camp, and Harbor took some reps at wide receiver, but there just wasn't a roster spot. Igwenagu,, who remains in the roster, is the strongest blocker of the TE group.

Staff Writer
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