Watkins) and an in-the-box safety (Temple's Jaiquawn Jarrett), the Eagles, who gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes last season,
finally selected a corner in the third round last night, using the 90th overall pick on Curtis Marsh of Utah State. But Marsh, a 6-0 1/2, 197-pound converted running back, is more project than plug-and-play. He has just 2 years of experience as a defensive player.
"What you're getting is a guy who is big, strong, physical, fast and very, very intelligent," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He doesn't have as much experience as some other [corners] in the draft. But we feel with the coaching here and his athletic ability, he'll develop into a fine football player and starter eventually for the Philadelphia Eagles."
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman admitted to reporters last week that there weren't many cornerbacks in this draft beyond Patrick Peterson (taken fifth overall by Arizona) and Prince Amukamara (19th by the Giants) who were capable of stepping right in and starting as rookies.
"There are a couple of guys at the top that are very talented," Roseman said. "Then there's a group that if you took 32 teams, you'd probably have 32 different draft boards of the next five or six guys as far as where they come off [the boards] and how they have them ranked. In years past, there's been more of a consensus top 5. This year, you'd get a lot of different views."
Jimmy Smith of Colorado was the only corner besides Peterson and Amukamara to go in the first round (27th to the Ravens). He was considered a top-10 talent, but came with a laundry list of character issues that caused him to nose dive.
Just one other projected corner - Miami's Brandon Harris - was taken in the first 80 picks. He went in the second round to Houston with the 60th overall pick, six picks after the Eagles took Jarrett. But Harris is just 5-9 and the Eagles already have a plethora of undersized corners. What they need is a bigger, physical corner who would complement Samuel, who is one of the league's top ballhawks, but is neither big, nor physical.
Marsh might eventually be that guy, but not this season. "In the third round, there were a handful of corners that could help you out, but we felt this kid's upside was too good to pass up," Reid said.
Marsh was one of six corners that were taken in a 15-pick span from No. 80 to No. 95. The Eagles initially had the 85th pick, but traded down to 90 with the Ravens. Two more game-ready corners ended up going right in front of them - Louisville's Johnny Patrick at 88 and USC's Shareece Wright at 89.
"There are other avenues [to get a starting corner]," Roseman said. "We don't want to force a particular position, a particular need if the right player is not there.
"The worst outcome for us is taking a player who's not a good enough player to help us. If there are areas after the draft that we need to address, there will be avenues to address them. That's different than in years past. Before, you'd be pretty much done with free agency after the draft and this is our team. It's not like that this year. It's kind of exciting."
It's also kind of a gamble. Right now, with the labor chaos that is going on in the league, no one knows when free agency will be or even what the rules will be. If the NFL wins its appeal to keep the lockout in place, this standoff could drag on into the late summer or early fall before teams are allowed to sign players.
If there is no new collective bargaining agreement, the league likely would implement the same free-agency rules it used in 2010, which would limit unrestricted free agency to players with 6 years of service time. That would substantially reduce the number of players available.
Nnamdi Asomugha would still be out there. But other top corners, like the Bengals' Jonathan Joseph, who entered the league in 2006, wouldn't be.
The Eagles have high hopes for last year's fourth-round corner, Trevard Lindley. Maybe he could step in and start if the Eagles were to strike out on Asomugha and other veteran free-agent corners. But that's a big maybe.
"I thought he did a really good job last year," Roseman said. "He played at a high level when he got a chance to play. At Kentucky, he played against the Julio Joneses and Percy Harvins of the world and did a really good job."
Reid said he is confident the Eagles will address all of their needs by the time this uncertain season starts.
"This is just a part of the whole," he said of the 3-day draft. "We've always banked on going in [to the draft] and getting good football players.
"We also know that somewhere along the line, free agency is going to come about. Wherever we feel we need somebody, we can always look at that."
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