Eagles, Allen agree to stay together

Eagles safety Nate Allen signed a one-year contract with the team. He has started 54 games for the Eagles, who now have five safeties under contract . YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles safety Nate Allen signed a one-year contract with the team. He has started 54 games for the Eagles, who now have five safeties under contract . YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 19, 2014

Even after the Eagles signed free agents Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos last week, there was the belief that they weren't quite finished adding to the safety position before May's draft.

Turns out, the team looked no further than its own list of unrestricted free agents to address the need for more depth and signed Nate Allen to a one-year contract on Monday.

Even though he started all 16 games in 2013, including one playoff game, Allen won't be handed a starting spot. Jenkins' three-year, $16.25 million contract ensures that he will, at the least, be given every opportunity to start. And second-year safety Earl Wolff will likely be penciled in at the other spot.

But Allen, who has 54 career NFL starts, certainly can provide competition and help out on special teams, and if either Jenkins or Wolff falters, he's an experienced alternative.

There weren't any talks about where exactly he would play, Allen said during a news conference at the NovaCare Complex, "but that's the way it is on this level. You've always got to come in and compete. Doesn't matter if you come in slated as a starter, day one, you've got to come in and work."

The Eagles now have five safeties under contract - Jenkins, Wolff, Allen, Maragos and Keelan Johnson. Maragos signed a three-year contract Wednesday and was brought in primarily to help out on special teams.

Patrick Chung, who started at safety in 10 games last season, was released last week. Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson also became free agents last Tuesday, but have a less likely chance of returning.

Allen said he spoke to other teams. But when it was clear he wasn't getting offers longer than one year and he knew that the Eagles were offering the same length, he opted to stay with the only NFL team he's ever played for.

The contract is worth $2 million - a total of $3 million if incentives are met.

"I was just . . . playing the waiting game - hearing from other teams," Allen said. "I was just keeping my options opened [but] really wanted to be back here."

Allen had arguably the best season of his career in 2013. He got off to a rocky start, particularly as a tackler, but improved as the year progressed. He cut down on the errors, but was still lacking in the big-hit, big-play department.

The Eagles credited him with 94 tackles, good for third best on the team. He had only one interception and one sack.

There were several other free-agent safeties with starting backgrounds still on the market - Miami's Chris Clemons, the Bears' Major Wright, and the Rams' Darian Stewart among them - but the Eagles felt comfortable with the mild-mannered but consistent Allen.

"You saw the comfort level in his play improve, and he now knows what is expected from . . . the coaching staff," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "He has played under four defensive coordinators during his career, so we believe the stability will help him continue to grow as a player."

Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft - one of the two picks the Eagles received from the Redskins for quarterback Donovan McNabb - Allen had an up-and-down first four seasons.

He was steady as a rookie and recorded three interceptions before he suffered a season-ending tendon rupture in his right knee. Allen returned in time for the start of the 2011 season but needed four games before he regained his starting spot.

The 2011-12 seasons were difficult ones, in part because of a schematic change that had the safeties responsible for run gaps behind a wide-nine 4-3 front. Allen lost his starting spot by the end of the 2012 season.

But he won the job back before last season and was steady throughout most of the year. Still, he failed to deliver on high expectations and faced added pressures, such as being drafted after the Eagles passed on Earl Thomas in the first round.

"That was there right when I came in, because everybody was saying, 'You've got big shoes to fill with Brian Dawkins,' " Allen said. "But like I said from day one, I'm not B-Dawk. He's a future Hall of Famer. I'm going to be Nate and play my game."


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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