The Eagles and tight end Richard Rodgers agreed on a one-year contract Wednesday, helping the team with positional depth they lost when Trey Burton left in free agency and they cut Brent Celek.
Rodgers, 26, played for the Green Bay Packers for the last four seasons. A 2014 third-round pick out of California, Rodgers has 25 career starts and career totals of 120 catches, 1,166 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He’s coming off a down year, totaling a career-worst 12 catches for 160 yards and a score. His best season came in 2015 when he recorded 58 catches for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. Rodgers has missed only one career game, so he comes with a track record of durability.
He’ll try to reboot his career with the Eagles, where he could fit in as the No. 2 tight end behind Zach Ertz. The Eagles also have Billy Brown, Joshua Perkins, and Adam Zaruba on their roster at tight end. They can add to the position in the draft, too. They haven’t drafted a tight end since Ertz in 2013. Signing Rodgers does not change their draft strategy. The Eagles signed James Casey in free agency in 2013 to pair with Celek, and they ended up adding Ertz in the draft because Ertz was too appealing of an option in the second round.
Rodgers isn’t known for his blocking, although he has worked to improve in that area. He’s considered a sure-handed receiver and can add another option in two-tight end formations because he’s a reliable pass catcher in the middle of the field. Rodgers also should help the Eagles in the red zone, where 10 of his 16 receptions have been for touchdowns. (Rodgers’ most famous touchdown was on a 61-yard Hail Mary to beat the Detroit Lions in 2015.)
His starting experience is a plus, although the Packers sought to replace Rodgers in the starting lineup during his tenure. Pass-catchers usually don’t get better after leaving Aaron Rodgers. But the Eagles benefit from steady quarterback play and their offense has been tight end-friendly. He’s not arriving in Philadelphia expecting to shoulder the load at the position — just to be quality depth.
There’s certainly playing time to go around. Celek played 41 percent of the offensive snaps last season and Burton played 27 percent of the snaps. (Ertz missed two games last season, which allowed for more playing time for the other tight ends.) If the Eagles draft a tight end, that rookie could earn the playing time. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki is among the headliners in a talented class that has already caught the attention of coach Doug Pederson.
The Eagles have signed five players from outside the organization since free agency opened. Each addition signed a one-year contract. It’s part of the team’s strategy to have veteran depth in 2018 while avoiding onerous contracts.
The Eagles released punter Donnie Jones from the reserve/retired list, allowing him to sign with any team he chooses. Jones announced his retirement earlier this offseason, although this transaction would allow him to return. … The Indianapolis Colts signed former Eagles linebacker Najee Goode. Goode spent most of the last five seasons with the Eagles and was a core special teams player. After adding Corey Nelson and Paul Worrilow this offseason, the Eagles found the veteran depth that Goode provided.