The day before the Eagles’ final preseason game against the Jets last week, the Eagles made Steven Means an offer he couldn’t refuse.
They had pretty much decided that they were going to keep the 6-3, 263-pound fourth-year player as their fifth defensive end over second-year man Alex McCalister.
Means is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $690,000 this season. The team offered him a one-year extension at a slight increase with a small up-front signing bonus.
If Means ends up having a terrific season, he might regret his decision to accept the extension. But given his tenuous job security, he never considered turning the offer down. Same with another bubble player, guard Chance Warmack, who also agreed to a one-year extension before Saturday’s final roster cuts.
Means referred to the extension as a “blessing from God.’’
“I can’t even put it into words,’’ he said. “I’m not surprised by what God can do. I’m just surprised that he’d do it for me.’’
That’s probably the first time anyone mistook Howie Roseman for God.
Two years ago at this time, Means was out of a job. A fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2013, he had just been released by his second team, the Baltimore Ravens.
It took six weeks for another team – the Houston Texans – to call him. They signed him to their practice squad in late October. Less than two months later, during the final days of the Chip Kelly regime, the Eagles signed him to their 53-man roster.
He didn’t play in the Eagles’ final four games that season, but he impressed in practice.
“He started beating guys in one-on-one drills as soon as he got here,’’ former Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin said last summer. “You recognized right away what he could do.’’
Means played just 36 defensive snaps in eight games last season as the fifth end behind Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith.
Now he’s behind Graham, rookie first-round pick Derek Barnett, Chris Long and Curry.
But Curry is coming off a disappointing season. He had just 2½ sacks in 435 snaps and is another year removed from that five-year, $46.2 million contract the Eagles gave him in February 2016.
If Curry starts slow, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who likes to use a four-man rotation on the outside, won’t hesitate to increase Means’ reps.
He had an excellent preseason, recording 2½ sacks, five hurries and three tackles for losses in 95 snaps in the Eagles’ first three preseason games.
He is a solid all-around player, which is what gave him the edge over the 6-6, 245-pound McCalister, who had 3½ sacks, four hurries and two forced fumbles this summer, but whose light, Jevon Kearse-like frame hurts him as a run defender.
“[Means] is a really good all-around football player,’’ said Long. “He plays the run and pass equally well. He can rush from either side. He does a lot on special teams. I really respect his game a lot.’’
When the Eagles signed Means in December 2015, Billy Davis was the defensive coordinator and the Eagles were playing a one-gap, 3-4 scheme. They viewed Means as a potential edge rusher in sub-packages.
Davis was replaced by Schwartz, who plays a wide-nine 4-3. Even though he hadn’t played much nine-technique before, he has adapted well to Schwartz’s scheme.
“I don’t think I ever played it before I came here,’’ said Means, who was a 3-4 edge rusher at the University of Buffalo and a traditional 4-3 end in his two years with the Bucs. “It’s real good being out there wide and just trying to wreck the edge.’’
With the jury still out on their corners, the Eagles need to be able to “wreck the edge’’ a lot this season. Their pass rush came out of the gate fast last season but petered out.
The Eagles had 20 sacks in their first six games but just 14 in their last 10. It’s why they drafted Barnett in the first round and signed the 32-year-old Long.
And it’s why Schwartz won’t hesitate to move Means ahead of Curry this season if Curry, who will make $7 million and has a $9 million salary-cap number, doesn’t stay on his feet more and step up his play.
“We’ve got a lot of talented guys [at defensive end],’’ Means said. “We’re deep. We can rotate guys in and out and keep everybody fresh, which is great.’’
Means’ comfort level in Schwartz’s scheme is much higher this year than it was a year ago, when he still was feeling his way around it.
“Jim Schwartz makes you feel comfortable,’’ he said. “Especially for the defensive line. Especially for the ends.
“The coaches make it real specific and detailed as far as what they want and what they don’t want us to do. I really love this defense. I can put my hand in the dirt [or] stand up. Go inside, go outside. A lot of different stuff.’’
Means is just happy to be with a team that wants him and valued him enough to want to lock him up for an extra year.
“I always keep my faith high,’’ he said. “I rest my assurance in God, believing that he will take care of me no matter what. That he’ll put me where I’m supposed to be.
“I guess I’m supposed to be here.’’