Eagles give up on Caver Birds add ex-Dallas linebacker

Posted: October 22, 2002

Eagles linebacker Quinton Caver showed up at training camp in July a year older and wiser than he was his rookie year. This time, Caver brought an alarm clock.

"I didn't have one last year," Caver said in July. "It's kind of hard to sleep at night when you're waking up every 30 minutes, thinking you're going to oversleep."

The buzzer sounded for Caver yesterday. The Eagles released the 2001 second-round pick to create roster space for former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keith Adams. The Eagles were awarded Adams on waivers late in the afternoon.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Caver was the 55th pick in last year's draft. The 5-11, 223-pound Adams was the 232d pick, a seventh-rounder out of Clemson who was selected by Tennessee.

Caver received a signing bonus of $1.05 million as part of a four-year contract. Adams received $27,000 from the Titans.

Caver failed to beat out Mike Caldwell for the starting weak-side linebacker job as a rookie. Adams failed to win a starting job. Because the Titans' investment in Adams was not that great, he was released and then signed by Dallas for its practice squad. Caver spent last year playing on special teams, although he was inactive for five games.

This summer, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson gave Caver several chances to earn playing time. With the departure of Caldwell via free agency, and the lack of a reliable backup for strong-side linebacker Carlos Emmons, Johnson tried Caver in both spots.

He was unable to earn playing time. That relegated him to special teams again, but he did not excel on coverage teams, either. He was credited with just two tackles over the first five games. When special teams coach John Harbaugh shuffled his personnel after the team gave up its third touchdown return in four weeks, Caver was replaced by undrafted rookie linebacker Justin Ena.

Along with 2002 first-round pick Lito Sheppard, Caver was inactive for Sunday's 20-10 victory over Tampa Bay.

That game-day decision proved to be a warning sign. Coach Andy Reid knew the Eagles had placed a waiver claim for Adams on Friday. That claim was not decided until after 4 p.m. yesterday.

In effect, then, the Eagles chose Tennessee's seventh-round pick from last year over their own second-rounder.

"Keith Adams is a nice addition to our football team," Reid said in a prepared statement. He was not available to comment on the transactions. "He has been a solid special-teams player who saw a good deal of action at linebacker for the Cowboys this year. As far as Caver, we wish him well in the future."

When the Eagles selected Caver, Reid was making draft-day decisions in concert with Tom Modrak, the team's director of football operations. A few months later, the Eagles fired Modrak and gave Reid full control of personnel. Owner Jeffrey Lurie said that Reid was making the calls anyway, and that Reid's evaluations had proved more accurate than Modrak's over the previous couple of years.

Reid and Modrak both praised Caver at the time of the draft. Citing his nickname at Arkansas - "Range Rover" - they talked about his speed and the amount of ground he could cover.

Wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, the first-round pick in that draft, has not been able to earn significant playing time. Mitchell has been playing on special teams, and he made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff return Sunday.

The Eagles fared better with their picks in the third and fourth rounds, although both of those players are injured. Defensive end Derrick Burgess and running back Correll Buckhalter had very strong rookie seasons. Third-team quarterback A.J. Feeley was the Eagles' fifth-round pick.

As for Adams, he is the son of longtime New England Patriots defensive end Julius Adams. The younger Adams was promoted to the Cowboys' roster last November as a special-teamer. After middle linebacker Dat Nguyen was injured this season, Adams started five games in his place - including the Cowboys' 44-13 loss to the Eagles last month.

Last week, Cowboys coach Dave Campo decided to give Markus Steele a chance to start in the middle. Because of injuries, the Cowboys had to sign an offensive lineman, Jeremy McKinney, to their active roster. To make room, they waived Adams on Friday morning.

The Cowboys told reporters they hoped Adams would make it through waivers so he could be signed to their practice squad. He did not.

Because of the complexity of Johnson's scheme, Adams is not likely to make an impact on defense anytime soon. He could get a chance to firm up the special teams, however. Harbaugh has been making do with a smaller group on kickoff coverage - including Mitchell and rookies Brian Westbrook, Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis.

Sheppard's exclusion from that group raised eyebrows as much as Caver's did. The cornerback from Florida has been hampered by injuries since the preseason. He fell behind Brown, a second-round pick, both on defense and on special teams.

"We dressed some other fellows to play special teams," Reid said yesterday.

He was asked what that said about Sheppard's standing, whether there was a clock ticking for that high pick.

"I'm not going to go there," Reid said.

Contact Phil Sheridan

at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.

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