Eagles sign Thornton to one-year contract

DE Cedric Thornton signs a one-year contract. D4
DE Cedric Thornton signs a one-year contract. D4 (YONG KIM)
Posted: March 05, 2014

The Eagles signed defensive lineman Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract on Monday. The deal was mostly a formality because Thornton was an exclusive-rights free agent, so he was not free to sign anywhere else.

Thornton, who will turn 26 in June, can become a restricted free agent next offseason and is still two seasons away from unrestricted free agency.

He started all 16 games for the Eagles in 2013. Thornton finished with 78 tackles and one sack and was a key member of the defensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds, he played in different spots and was valuable as a run-stuffer. The Southern Arkansas product worked his way up in the organization from undrafted free agent to practice-squad player to reserve to starter.

The Eagles now have seven defensive linemen under contract. The average of their ages is 24.6. All three starters - Thornton, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan - are returning. The only free agent on the line is Clifton Geathers.

Free-agent focus

The free-agent picture became clearer after Monday's deadline for franchise and transition tags, and it could be good news for the Eagles in their pursuit of safeties.

Neither Buffalo's Jairus Byrd nor Cleveland's T.J. Ward received the franchise tag, which would have required a team to sacrifice two first-round picks if it signed one of the safeties. Both Byrd and Ward are 27-year-old Oregon products who were second-team all-pros this season.

Chip Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon during Byrd's final two seasons with the Ducks, and Kelly was head coach during Ward's senior season. Ward played for Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur when he was head coach in Cleveland.

The demand will be fierce for both players if they become free agents. They can still re-sign with their current teams before March 11.

Finding an edge-rushing outside linebacker in free agency became more difficult on Monday. Washington used its franchise tag on Brian Orakpo, and Pittsburgh used its transition tag on Jason Worilds. The transition tag gives Pittsburgh the right to match any offer sheet.

The Eagles did not use either tag on any of their six unrestricted free agents.

Orakpo was one of four players to receive the franchise tag. The others were New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, and New York Jets kicker Nick Folk. Cleveland center Alex Mack was the only player other than Worilds to receive the transition tag.

Teams can begin talking to free agents from other teams on March 8, and contracts can be signed beginning March 11.


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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