Eagles sign first-round pick Watkins

will need his skills as a 'quick learner.'DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
will need his skills as a 'quick learner.'DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER (Danny Watkins)
Posted: August 02, 2011

BETHLEHEM - Eagles players have the day off today - part of the kinder, gentler training camp negotiated as part of the new CBA - but Danny Watkins expects to be busy with offensive-line coach Howard Mudd.

Watkins was driving up to Lehigh from South Jersey last night after signing a 4-year contract with a 3-year guarantee, which a league source said was worth a little less than $8 million.

"This is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, that's for sure," said Watkins, the Eagles' first-round draft pick, who will work out with his teammates for the first time tomorrow. "I understand there's a business aspect of football. It's something I've never cared for or know much about. I'm just glad this is over with, and [I can] get rolling . . . It's something I definitely didn't enjoy."

Watkins, projected as the Eagles' starting right guard, has missed 5 days of workouts, only 2 in pads. He got caught in a tug-of-war over exactly where in the first round teams are going to offer 3-year guarantees vs. 4-year guarantees, in the first year of the new CBA.

"At the end of the day, it was time for Danny to play football," said agent Joe Panos, a former Eagles lineman. Panos said the Eagles "sweetened the pot" yesterday, but the key factor was that it became apparent to him that first-round picks past the 20th slot weren't getting the fourth-year guarantee given to the signees earlier in the first round. Watkins, 26, from Baylor, was drafted 23rd overall.

"You have to know when to stop," Panos said.

Watkins moved into a South Jersey home a few weeks ago, thinking that as soon as the lockout ended, he'd start his NFL career. No such luck. Watkins said last night he had been "champing at the bit," but that Eagles fans who recognized him recently have been understanding and supportive.

"I have the playbook, so I've been going through that as much as I could," Watkins said.

Asked if he thinks he can be ready to start in less than 6 weeks against the Rams, Watkins said: "I'm going to come in and compete. Nothing's guaranteed that I'm going to be a starter, by any means. That's a coaches' decision, not mine . . . I'm eager to learn. It would be an honor and a privilege to get in front of [quarterback Michael] Vick and let him work his magic. I'm hopin' and I want to come in and compete right away."

Mike McGlynn has taken most of the first-team reps at right guard so far. With right tackle Winston Justice (knee) also not available to work out, Mudd has not been able to convene anything close to his presumed Opening Day starting line. Mudd is teaching a different philosophy and a different way of "setting" to pass block than the Eagles employed under Juan Castillo.

"I don't think I'd be where I am now if I wasn't a quick learner," said Watkins, who grew up in Canada and never played football until 4 years ago. "I'm going to put my best foot forward and work as hard as I can."

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