The sugary scent of springtime clashed with the stench of sweat-soaked pads at rookie minicamp on May 6-7. Each year, the first flash of midnight green stirs euphoric optimism among the Eagles’ fanbase – but there is a tendency to get slightly overexcited about undrafted underdogs in Philadelphia. Not every UDFA has his day. So here’s what happened to some much-hyped hopefuls from the last three years.
2019: Taking the Bates
The Eagles picked a handful of diamonds from the rough three years ago. The crown jewel was T.J. Edwards, who led Wisconsin in tackles for three of his four college seasons and earned a one-year extension from the Eagles in 2021. Sua Opeta is also still in town. Anthony Rush recently signed a one-year contract with the Falcons, his seventh NFL team. And sadly, Nate Herbig got snapped up by the Jets.
At the time, however, Ryan Bates was hotly tipped as the best of the bunch. A local boy and Penn State grad, the versatile offensive lineman seemed a perfect candidate for Jeff Stoutland’s group. Instead, Bates got traded to the Bills in exchange for defensive end Eli Harold. The Eagles then cut Harold at the end of training camp before enduring a season plagued by injuries – especially on the offensive line. In April 2022, Bates signed a four-year deal worth $17 million for Buffalo.
2020: Wishing for Warren
A bumper crop of UDFAs emerged in 2020, including several players who stuck around the roster and are still active in the NFL. Raequan Williams is a Jaguar. Grayland Arnold is a Texan. Elijah Riley is a Jet. Adrian Killins was a Bronco and is now a free agent, while Michael Jacquet is seeking a new team after a stint in Jacksonville. Khalil Tate plays for the Edmonton Elks. Noah Togiai is the only remaining UDFA from 2020 in the City of Brotherly Love.
Many fans pinned their hopes on Michael Warren to be the cream of the crop. The stocky running back out of Cincinnati offered a potential bowling ball to complement Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Philly still yearned for a bruiser to play the LeGarrette Blount role. But Warren never quite hit his stride. Carolina, Washington and Detroit have kicked his tires. Right now, he’s a free agent.
2021: Grime Time
The Eagles scaled back their haul of UDFAs in 2021. Kayode Awosika (OT), a first-team All-MAC selection out of Buffalo, is still with the Eagles. Jack Stoll remains in Philly too. Jamie Newman failed to grab the QB3 spot and is plying his trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Edge rusher JaQuan Bailey plays in the USFL, Harry Crider (G) is a free agent and Jhamon Ausbon (WR) is selling handbags made of hemp online.
The big excitement last year? Trevon Grimes. The 6’4 Florida product was touted as the much-needed big-body receiver to replace Alshon Jeffery. Reuben Frank called him “this year’s Eagles training camp darling”. Sports Illustrated announced that he “could be a steal”. In the end, knee surgery curtailed his spell in Philly. He’s now a free agent… Maybe it’s the right time for Grime Time again?
When the drama of the NFL Draft cools off, fans naturally look for a new source of adrenaline. Undrafted free agents offer potentially epic narratives of struggle and success that capture the imagination – and this year’s intake features some promising youngsters. Will they still be raising pulses in Philadelphia three years from now? Nothing is impossible…
Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire