PHILADELPHIA – Every undrafted free agent has a story to tell about his hopes of getting drafted, only to be disappointed when their name isn’t called.
Carson Strong is no different.
“When it was draft day and each round kind of went by, I was like, ‘OK, this sucks,’” said the quarterback battling to win a job on the Eagles’ 53-man roster or practice squad.
“At the end of the day, after the seventh round, and I was talking to the Eagles, I could tell that they believed in me, and they wanted me to come here. So, I’m just lucky to be here.”
The hill is steeper to climb as an undrafted free agent, but sometimes it is a better path, because at least a player gets to pick a team that shows interest, and the Eagles showed interest in the former Nevada quarterback, giving him a $320,000 contract to come in and compete with Reid Sinnett to be the No. 3.
“I’m glad that I got to choose the team,” said Strong. “This is a great offense, and great coaches, and a great organization to be a part of.”
There have been several undrafted free agents in recent Eagles history who have claimed a job these past few years with the Eagles, including starting LB T.J. Edwards, backup TE Jack Stoll, OL Nate Herbig, and RBs Josh Adams and Corey Clement, to name a few.
This year it’s going to be difficult for anyone to do it.
Not because of the talent brought in by GM Howie Roseman, but because of the talent Roseman added to the roster in the offseason. It looks complete from top to bottom.
It’s an undrafted rookie’s job to keep his head down and concentrate on each play, each meeting, each day, and not get caught up in looking at the numbers, but instead, concern himself with winning a job.
“I don't think any of the guys that are undrafted free agents are thinking anything other than ‘How do I get a little bit better each day?’” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “Maybe in the back of their mind they're thinking, ‘How do I make this team?’ But you can't do that unless you get better every day.”
To be honest, none of the UDFAs have stood out to this point, yet, where you say, ‘yeah, he’s got a shot.’
Perhaps 6-0, 186-pound Mario Goodrich, a cornerback from Clemson, has looked the best so far, but the CB room is crowded.
Strong has a long way to go, and as far as WRs and potential punt returners Devon Allen and Britain Covey, there hasn’t been a single flash play.
"Understanding your value and your worth is important, and I know that's a big reason why I was brought in here (to return punts), so that's a big thing that I'm focusing on,” said Covey, who is just 5-8, 173. “I got my start in the return game as a freshman at Utah by simply catching everything and everything after that came after, right?
“So that's what I'm focusing on now is catching every single ball to the point where the coaches can trust me enough to where they can put me out there. And I feel like my resume in college speaks for itself. I love the ball in my hands. You don't need to be tall. You don't need to be this crazy, big athlete.”
Sirianni is a student of the game and its history.
He said he talks to his players every year about John Randle, an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1990 who went on to a star-studded 14-year career, mostly in Minnesota, and ended with him being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, his second year of eligibility.
Sirianni also shows players a commercial from about five years ago featuring the NBA’s John Starks, about how he was bagging groceries and made one of the most iconic dunks in the game that launched a poster despite going undrafted in 1988.
He tells them about a documentary he watched on Terrell Davis, a sixth-round pick enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2017. Specifically, a play Davis made on special teams.
“We don't really care how they got here because our job is to pick the best players to help us win,” said the coach. “That's all that matters. It's a winning and losing business ... we also make it very clear to them that we've had some phenomenal free agents make it. Just like the guys on this team and the guys on the teams that we’ve coached in the past.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.