Since then, Fryar worked for Channel 6, WPVI-TV, as a sports reporter. Every now and then, a rumor would surface that he might sign with another team. First it was the New England Patriots, with whom Fryar began his career way back in 1984. Then it was the Oakland Raiders, the team coached by former Eagles offensive coordinator Jon Gruden.
None of those deals materialized. This time, however, it looks real. Redskins personnel man Vinny Cerrato told the Washington Post the team hoped to have Fryar in uniform by next week's preseason game. Yesterday, Fryar's agent, Mike George, called the Eagles to inform them of the imminent deal as a matter of courtesy. Fryar will reportedly sign a three-year contract worth a total of $6 million today or tomorrow. Realistically, Fryar will get a modest signing bonus and a salary worth about $1 million, combined, for this season.
The Eagles did not consider bringing Fryar back. His contract, negotiated last September, gave the Eagles an option that they chose not to exercise. That decision made Fryar an unrestricted free agent in February. Indeed, Fryar said he decided to retire partly because he knew he wasn't in the Eagles' plans and he didn't want to move his family again.
"I refuse to go somewhere else to play," Fryar said back in December.
Those words would be tough to eat if Fryar was signing with a team that was farther away. It will be possible for him to maintain his residence in South Jersey. Fryar did not return calls yesterday.
Still, he is signing with a division rival. He will be reunited with former Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete and will play against the Eagles twice this year - Nov. 14 at the Vet and Nov. 28 in Landover, Md.
"I'll just have to kick his tail," said Vincent, who is likely to draw Fryar as his primary assignment. "I don't feel betrayed at all, no. Only Irv knows how he feels. He did what's best for his family and we have to respect that. At that point in time, he felt it was best to retire. Maybe he just wanted our motorcycle."
"Maybe we could have a ceremony where he presents the motorcycle to me," said Eagles chief operating officer Joe Banner. "I could ride it off the field this time."
Vincent and Fryar were teammates for three years in Miami and both came to the Eagles as free agents in 1996. They've known each other a long time. Vincent was more surprised by the specifics - the timing, the team - than by Fryar's decision to return to the game.
"I knew he wasn't ready," Vincent said. "I told him. You could see it. The main reason was, I knew he still had it. We went against each other every day in practice, and I knew the guy still had it. So if you still have it and you see some of the talent level that's around the league - he could be someone's go-to guy or No. 2 guy or, at worst, a No. 3 guy."
"He can still do it," safety Brian Dawkins said. "He's still running real good. He still has the tools, still has the hands."
At a going-away party for Fryar last winter, Fryar took Dawkins aside and asked him to take over the role of team spiritual leader. Fryar, an ordained minister, saw Dawkins as his heir.
"He kind of passed the baton to me," Dawkins said. "He explained a couple things he was trying to do here. That was something the Lord put in his heart to tell me. It meant a lot to me."
Fryar meant a lot to the Eagles on the field in his first two seasons with the team. He caught 88 passes in '96 and 86 more in '97, going to the Pro Bowl after both seasons. Last year, with the team going nowhere, Fryar suddenly seemed finished. He dropped more passes than he ever did before. After appearing to relish contact over the middle his first two years here, he didn't seem quite so reckless as the team went 3-13. Fryar caught just 48 passes for 556 yards and two touchdowns.
"He was banged up," Vincent said. "He never really got a chance to get healthy and perform at the level we were all used to seeing."
Whatever the reason, it didn't seem like a bad idea when Fryar announced his retirement. He was 36. He'll turn 37 next month. He had been doing weekly appearances on Channel 6, preparing himself for his next career. Fryar signed on full time at Channel 6. He was going to do some national work on Fox's NFL broadcasts.
Fryar spent a lot of time at Eagles camp, especially early on, which makes his signing on with a division rival a little awkward. Some days, Fryar would be on the sideline just a few feet from Mike Quick, who serves as the color commentator on radio broadcasts, and Harold Carmichael, who is the team's director of player relations. Those three caught over 1,700 passes for more than 26,000 yards and 217 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, on the field, the Eagles were desperately looking for wide-receiver help. It was hard to miss the irony.
For the last week or so, Fryar hadn't been around. It turns out that's about the time that talks with the Redskins heated up.
"What, did they break camp yesterday?" one former teammate smirked when he heard the news.
Bingo. The Redskins did, in fact, end their camp at Frostburg, Md., yesterday.
"Very smart," Vincent said. "He's not going to tear his body up. That's a veteran move."