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Eagles Appear to be Moving on From John Hightower

The former fifth-round pick in 2020 was among the 11 players the team signed to Future/Reserve contracts, though that can change at some point
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A team that still needs wide receivers despite spending their last two first-round picks doesn’t appear to believe John Hightower can help.

The Eagles released their list of 11 players they signed to Reserve/Future contracts. Hightower was not among them.

Now, that could change in the next day, the next week, or even the next month or two.

Right now, the former fifth-round pick is out.

Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall when the Eagles promoted KeeSean Johnson for the playoff game against Tampa Bay. Johnson played two snaps on offense and 16 on special teams.

Going back further with Hightower, the second-year receiver spent all season on the practice squad and was active for only one game, getting two snaps on offense and nine on special teams, one of which was a kick return.

As a rookie, Hightower showed some early promise.

He had nine catches for 166 yards in his first seven games. He was targeted, 24 times, though.

The receiver from Boise State played just two more games from Week 8 through Week 12 then was inactive for three games. He was basically a deep threat and not much of one at that, though he ended the 2020 season with 10 catches for 167 yards (16.7 yards per catch) on 29 targets.

If Johnson doesn’t land with another team, perhaps the Eagles will bring him back, but based on how rarely he played this year, his future likely lies elsewhere.

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Interestingly, Johnson was not one of the 11 who signed, either.

Deon Cain, though, was. The WR was a former sixth-round pick of the Colts in 2019 who was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad on Oc.t. 18. He was never active, but has limited experience, making it into 15 games, with six starts, for the Colts and Steelers.

Of the 10 others signed by the Eagles, all but two saw playing time this season.

“We really thought it was important to explain roles, to point out roles, and let everyone be aware, ‘Hey, this is your role on this football team’” said head coach Nick Sirianni last week. “The guys that were at the back end of the roster, it was always, ‘Hey, we need you to contribute on special teams and be a guy that's on special teams and ready to make plays on special teams, those 22 to 25 plays a game.’

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“But also, your job is to be there and be ready without a lot of the reps, to be ready to go if your number is called upon. I just think guys accepting their role on the team…It's so important for a team to accept their role and be able to play their role, and then that role can be elevated based off different things.”

Here are the other 10:

OL Kayode Awosika. The rookie free agent out of the University of Buffalo was his NFL debut in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys and played 43 snaps.

LB Christian Elliss. A rookie free agent of the Vikings out of Idaho, Elliss made his NFL debut in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys and posted two tackles in seven snaps.

CB Craig James. He spent his third year with the Eagles in 2021. His most extensive playing time came in 2019 when he played 14 games with one start. James was a special teams captain in 2020.

DE Matt Leo. The 6-7, 280-pound Australian native originally joined the Eagles in 2020 through the NFL International Player Pathway Program. He has spent the last two season on the Eagles’ practice squad.

DE Cameron Malveaux. He was called up by the Eagles for each of the final four games this past season, including playoffs. He played 66 snaps on defense in the regular season and another 15 in the playoffs, notching four total tackles.

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S Jared Mayden. Mayden was called up for four regular-season games this year and the former rookie free agent out of Alabama accumulated five tackles and another one on special teams.

CB Mac McCain. McCain was on the active roster and the practice squad for both the Eagles and the Broncos in his rookie season out of North Carolina A&T. He played in two games for the Eagles, registering two tackles.

LB JaCoby Stevens. A sixth-round pick out of LSU in 2021, Stevens played in the final two regular-season games, making his first career start in Week 18 against Dallas.

TE Noah Togiai. Originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Eagles in 2020, he was claimed by the Colts where he played in four games as a rookie. He returned to Philadelphia on Oct, 11 and made his Eagles debut in the regular-season finale against Dallas.

DT Marvin Wilson. A rookie free agent of the Browns in 2021, Wilson spent the entire season on the Eagles' practice squad. He made his NFL debut in Week 18 against the Cowboys and totaled four tackles in 19 snaps.

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Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.