Eagles sign S Nate Allen

Rookie safety Nate Allen has finally signed a contract with the Eagles. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Safety Nate Allen, who the Eagles are counting on as a likely starter, signed a four-year contract Tuesday night and is expected to take part in practice Wednesday, according to the team.

Allen is expected to get the first shot at the team's vacant free safety spot. The Eagles took him with the 37th pick in April's draft, using the selection obtained from the Redskins in the Donovan McNabb trade.

Allen missed the first two practices of training camp Tuesday. Other rookies reported Monday.

He began running with the first team in June practices after free agent signee Marlin Jackson was lost for the season with injury. The team struggled at free safety last year after losing Brian Dawkins in free agency, and is hoping Allen can fill the void on a new-look defense.

Before he signed, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had stressed the importance of Allen and first round pick Brandon Graham getting into camp before their rookie years.

"If you're not here it's hard to improve as a football player," McDermott told reporters earlier Tuesday.

McDermott had also praised Kurt Coleman, another rookie safety who had a strong first day of practice.