The rollercoaster of being an undrafted free agent can often be scary. The wages aren’t secure, the future is often clouded, and the Mountain seems treacherous, but it’s one they must climb and one that Tre Sullivan has conquered.
After signing with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2017, the Shepherd University product sunk his claws into the practice squad during the team’s Super Bowl winning season. One year later, he earned a spot on the final 53-man roster and like a hungry Dog, refused to let go of that grip.
Amassing 17 tackles, Sullivan’s role on defense started to expand when Rodney McLeod went down with an injury, but he played in 47% of special teams snaps, an area where he made a real impact. This should come as no surprise though, given that in his final season at Shepherd, he blocked 3 kicks. Sullivan’s career has followed a very clear path up to this point, but there is a chance his journey receives a turbo injection this offseason.
The future of the Safety position appears to be nearing a crossroads. It’s become common knowledge (thanks to Roseman’s intricate dealings involving compensatory picks) that veteran Andrew Sendejo could be cut in order to gain a compensatory fourth-round selection. That’s caused plenty of speculation surrounding just who will replace Corey Graham.
Known as a hard-hitter, Sendejo is a true tone setter in the secondary and while he may not carry the same reputation as some of the more notable free agents of that class, he was definitely among the more ‘bang for your buck’ available. Prior to his injury, he was coming off of a career-high 80 tackles in 2017, along with a career-best 7 passes defensed.
Then, there’s former Eagles draftee Blake Countess. Since being snatched up by the Rams after the Eagles let him go amidst roster cuts, he’s carved out a nice career. He’s played in 37 games and even intercepted two passes as a backup safety. He led the team in special teams tackles in back-to-back years and has 44 defensive stops to his name. Last season, he also started to return kickoffs, averaging 24.6 yards per return. The Birds claimed him off waivers this offseason and all of a sudden, there’s a ‘safety scrap’.
The importance of this offseason then, cannot be overstated.
After a year on the practice squad led to a role on special teams and 21% of snaps on defense, the next logical step would be for Sullivan to take on a role that usually averages around 30-40% of snaps. Graham’s larger defensive role last year came as a result of the McLeod injury and the Eagles having to switch up on the fly.
Sullivan does have a very slight edge over Sendejo and Countess in one regard. He’s been around the team for two years now. He already knows the scheme, the responsibilities, and the players involved. If he can use that experience to help enhance what’s becoming a well-rounded skill set of secure tackling, positioning, and play-speed (a 4.5 40-yard dash), then there’s every chance that Sullivan’s NFL journey continues in the right direction. A big offseason and a strong preseason will be needed, but he’s been there before, twice…and has delivered on both occasions.
It’s all up in the air at the moment, but Tre Sullivan figures to play a key role in the battle for safety supremacy.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Matt Patterson via AP