Trent Cole had been sick with pneumonia for two months when he was drafted by the Eagles, in the fifth round, back in 2005, Cole recalled today. He reported for his first minicamp, the weekend after the draft, at 240 pounds.
A hundred and eight games and 68 sacks later, Cole sat behind the NovaCare podium and reflected on the "rough road" to his new four-year contract extension, which agent Rich Rosa said would pay Cole around $48 million, with a maximum of $53 million, depending on incentives, $15.5 million guaranteed. Rosa said Cole, third on the Eagles' all-time sack list behind Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, will be the NFL's third-highest-paid defensive end, at least until Mario Williams's expected signing with Buffalo is official.
Cole was the 146th player taken in the 2005 draft, and yet, he is the best defensive player the Eagles have drafted under Andy Reid. Today Cole said he didn't sense much interest from the Birds when he was coming out of Cincinnati; playing the Senior Bowl with pneumonia, then being so sick he couldn't work out at the NFL Scouting Combine probably didn't help. In fact, Cole feels it pushed him down at least a couple rounds. He recalled having been excused from combine interviews because he was so visibly ill as he tried to answer questions.
"It really hurt me. I went from 260, running a 4.5, to 235, 230. I was like, 'man, I'm not going to let this pneumonia overcome me,' and I got back after it," Cole said. "I came to the Eagles at 240 ... I came to (minicamp) here and I went all-out. I was hoping they was gonna keep me. There was great players in front of me, that I looked up to (like Hugh Douglas) when I was thinking about playing in the NFL. I came back (for training camp) at 270. Everything just skyrocketed from there."
Cole notched five sacks while starting only seven games as a rookie, eight in 14 starts the next year, then began a run that has featured double-digit sack numbers in five of the last six seasons, a span in which he has missed a total of three games.
The Eagles, who also traded Winston Justice to the Colts and signed Antonio Dixon to his restricted free agent tender today, are taking care of their own business and monitoring the annual free-agent bazaar. The lucrative extensions given Cole and his fellow 2005 draftee, Todd Herremans, might reflect a front office that feels it needs to show some love to loyal, reliable locker room soldiers.
"Business was conducted professionally. This got me to where I wanted to be," Cole, 29, said. He noted that he and Herremans didn't take their sense that they had outplayed their contracts (which each had two years remaining) to the media, or cause any problems.
He was asked whether it was hard to watch the Eagles spend so much last season on free agency and not have his deal reworked.
“They have to do what they have to do," he said. "They have to conduct business and run the team here. They had to do what they had to make the team successful. My time has come, and I knew my time was going to come. It’s just that I had to play my role and hopefully everything would work out.”