Damaris Johnson sat in his locker stall after the Eagles' 37-7 preseason win over the New York Jets on Thursday night and faced an uncertain future. This is the third consecutive year Johnson entered Labor Day weekend unsure of whether he would be employed on Labor Day. His grasp on a roster spot has seemed to wane each season.
Johnson impressed this preseason, helping at running back while also filling his receiver and return roles. He finished with nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown; 12 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown; and averaged 11.8 yards per punt return and 22.6 yards per kick return.
In the fourth quarter Thursday, Kelly said to another coach on the headset that some players gave the Eagles difficult decisions this weekend. Johnson was one of them.
"Maybe go out on defense and make a couple tackles," Johnson joked, when asked what more he could have done this camp. "I took advantage of my opportunities. I feel good with what I did tonight and over this camp."
That might not be enough. Johnson has not been released, but his name is in trade discussions, according to a league source.
Wide receivers Ifeanyi Momah and Quron Pratt are both going to be waived, according to league sources. Arrelious Benn will go on short-term injured reserve and will be released once healthy. If the Eagles keep six receivers, former Oregon standout Jeff Maehl could again make the roster.
The Eagles could keep five wide receivers and four tight ends. Rookie tight end Trey Burton appears in good position to make the roster, according to a league source.
The Eagles did not announce any of their 22 transactions Friday. They must trim the roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday. General manager Howie Roseman is set to meet with reporters at that time.
The interim period created an anxious 42 hours for many players on the bubble. It is also a difficult time for the coaching staff and front office personnel, who need to determine the right combination at each position to field a competitive team, hold onto promising players for the future, and remain flexible enough to withstand injury. The better a team becomes, the more quality players it ends up releasing each summer.
"If you're not the starter, what is your contribution on [special] teams, especially at the wide receiver, running back, tight end, linebacker, defensive back," Kelly said. "So that's where we have some difficult decisions. That is a positive, for us as an organization that there are so many battles that we have to kind of hash out [Friday] and Saturday. But it's also still tough because you're going to have to tell some people that they didn't make the team."
Johnson was an undrafted rookie in 2012 who made the team in Andy Reid's final season. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, he does not fit the current staff's desire for bigger wide receivers. But his versatility is an asset that Kelly has praised.
"If it goes on size, I'd probably lose every time," Johnson said. "It's not something that's surprising to me when I make plays. I do it in practice and things like that. I feel good about my body of work."
Size is not an issue for Momah. At 6-foot-7 and 239 pounds, he is the tallest wide receiver in the league and one of the biggest. But Momah is still raw. He showed considerable improvement from last season's training camp, and could further develop if signed to the practice squad.
Benn is a former second-round pick by Tampa Bay whose injuries have hampered him during his career. Benn remained on the field throughout most of the summer and declared himself healthy after Thursday's game, which made the decision on him even more intriguing.
Those were only a few roster decisions uncovered Friday. The rest will be revealed Saturday.
"We told them on the first day and I said it before: You've got 90 guys and you've got to cut to 53," Kelly said. "There is math that goes on there. If you don't make our team, we hope you make another team."
Staff writer Jeff McLane contributed to this article.