Undrafted Reaves is a Promising Fit for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If you're looking for the next Corey Clement when it comes to the 2018 batch of Eagles' undrafted free agents the best course of action may be to temper the expectations.
The assumption that there is always going to be a meaningful contributor in every undrafted class is a flawed one but that doesn't mean some don't have a clearer path to a potential roster spot than others.
When it comes to the current crop of undrafted free agents trying to catch the eye of Doug Pederson there are probably three names to keep an eye on: former Notre Dame Heisman candidate Josh Adams, South Florida defensive tackle Bruce Hector, who got $60,000 in guarantees to sign with Philadelphia, and versatile South Alabama defensive back Jeremy Reaves.
The latter might be the best for this Eagles team, however.
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds Reaves is undersized for a safety but he has a hitter's mentality and a background that is interesting to the Eagles for a number of reasons.
Jim Schwartz like safeties with some experience playing cornerback on their resume best indicated by the fact the team's top three from the Super Bowl LII season: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, and Corey Graham all played outside at one time in their careers with Jenkins and Graham having done it at the professional level.
Reaves started as a CB before moving to safety after proving he had the mindset to help in run support despite the lack of ideal physical dimensions.
Because of his ability to move around and the fact that he played in a pro-style defense at South Alabama, a system Reaves likened to a Seattle Cover-3 when talking to 973espn.com, the Eagles developed a keen interest in him early in the draft process and even had Reaves in for a top-30 visit.
The belief around the league was strong that the Pensacola native would be earmarked for Philadelphia late on Day 3 in the draft but with only five total picks and the comfort of knowing Southeast Area Scout Alan Wolking had developed a very good relationship with Reaves the Eagles felt comfortable that he would be there as a priority free agent.
It was a calculated gamble and Reaves admitted that the "phone was going crazy" as teams jockeyed for a draftable commodity but from his perspective the relationship he developed with Wolking was the tipping point, as well as the understanding that the Eagles were in the market for a third safety with Graham a free agent and set to turn 33 in late July.
Ultimately, Philadelphia got the Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year for $30K in guarantees.
"This is a great place for me," Reaves said. "From the scheme and the what they want at the position to guys like that [Jenkins and McLeod] who can really help [the young players]."
Add a couples inches and 20 pounds to Reaves and take away the L5 lumbar fracture that forced him away from the game for a bit as a senior in high school and you're probably talking about a Day 2 pick.
"I've been doubted my whole life," he said. "Everybody says that I'm too small, I'm too slow, I don't have the size to play in this league. I think about that every time I hit somebody."
That chip on Reaves' undersized shoulder figures to be valuable motivator moving forward.
Both Reaves and Tre Sullivan, who spent last season on the practice squad, will be given every opportunity in the offseason. If neither impresses, however, Graham could be brought back for another go-round in training camp.
To date, the Eagles have not given out Graham's No. 24 and he may end up being the August safety net for a second straight season. Reaves, however, wants to make sure that kind of thinking is unnecessary.
"I'm a winner," Reaves said. "That's something I believe is inside me."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on Paxton Lynch's "relaxing" days in Denver being over at GetMoreSports.com