Sorry, I always wanted to put "get real" into a headline… and I guess Arrelious Benn is as close as I will ever get.
I had hoped Ed Reed's returning from his visit to Houston without a deal might have been the big story in Philly— and I suppose there's still a chance it might be— as a rumor of Reed's interest in finishing his career by helping the Eagles secondary re-define greatness has surfaced— but instead it's about getting Arrelious.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, became the ninth player to join the team in the last four days.
The Eagles got Benn and a seventh-round selection in next month's NFL draft from the Buccaneers in exchange for a sixth-round pick this year and a conditional pick in 2014.
Benn, 24, follows linebacker Connor Barwin, tight end/fullback James Casey, safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, linebacker James Phillips, safety Kenny Phillips, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and cornerback Cary Williams as players who have joined the Eagles since Tuesday. The other players were all signed as free agents.
"We're going into this as a family," Cary Williams said Friday at the NovaCare Complex. "We all want to be successful. That's the one thing I got from just seven, eight, however many guys that signed here. I think Coach (Chip) Kelly sees that in each and every one of us, and that's why we're here today."
Benn is considered a risk because of injury issues.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has the potential to bring some much-needed size to the Eagles' receiving corps but played in just eight games last season. He spent the second half of the season on injured reserve with his second knee injury since the Bucs made him a second-round draft pick out of Illinois in 2010.
Benn, who is also a kickoff returner, has 59 career receptions for 852 yards and five touchdowns. He had his best season in 2011, catching 30 passes for 441 yards and three TDs.
Reactions to becoming Eagles were captured by Atlantic City Press writer David Weinberg as he sat down with several of the new signees:
Of all the new players, Kenny Phillips could have the toughest time making the adjustment to playing for the Eagles. He spent the previous five seasons with the New York Giants and considered the Eagles to be among the Giants' most bitter rivals.
"I never thought I'd be sitting here as an Eagle," Phillips said Friday with a laugh. "It's definitely weird. When I was with the Giants, I kind of disliked the Eagles. That's what you were taught as a Giant. But even though I didn't like them, I respected them and enjoyed playing against them."
Cary Williams also has a brief history with the Eagles. Last season, during the Eagles' 24-23 victory over the Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field, Williams got into a heated exchange with Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
"It's football," Williams said Friday. "That was about two guys who were trying to help their team win. We were frustrated at the time. It was a close game. It was a battle. And it was a hard-fought game between us two. But I think that situation is behind me. I think DeSean will welcome me with open arms. I think this organization believes in me, and I look forward to building relationships with my teammates."
Building a relationship with the fans may prove to be a little tougher.
While some of the new players will need more time to get to know their teammates, Connor Barwin shouldn't have much trouble fitting right in.
While with the Houston Texans, he was teammates with James Casey and current Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans. He also played with Eagles tight end Brent Celek and center Jason Kelce at the University of Cincinnati. Eagles defensive end Trent Cole also played for the Bobcats.
"Jason kind of recruited me over the summer and I was Brent's backup at tight end for two years before they moved me to defense," Barwin said Friday. "It's very strange because there are probably only one or two other guys from Cincinnati in the entire NFL and we have a bunch here now."
"I'm looking forward to it. I thought I was going to be back with Houston, but Philadelphia is the right place for me to be. I know they have a huge fan base, and with all the weapons Coach Kelly has here, I'm very excited."
Getting back to Arrelious Benn— this is one of those reclamation projects that has "Cornelius Ingram" written all over it. That's why I am tempering my enthusiasm over trading for him. Benn never has played up to his 2nd-round draft-pick potential. Mike Williams, a fourth-round pick in the same draft, has emerged as Tampa Bay’s No. 2 receiver. Benn had only four catches in eight games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. He also dealt with injuries as a rookie in 2010.
Arrelious Benn is owed a salary of $630,000 for 2013, for which the Eagles will now assume responsibility. But the real bargain in this deal may turn out to be the extra 7th-round pick the Birds now receive in this April's upcoming draft. The Bucs pick at #13 in the scheduled draft order, so the Eagles now have a total of three picks in the 7th round— a #4, a #6 and a #13.
Benn has been a contributor on special teams, both on the return and cover teams. He averaged 23.5 yards on 13 kick returns and was credited with five special teams tackles last season. He has also received high grades for his downfield blocking on offense.
The Buccaneers recently signed former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree to a two-year, $2.6 million deal, which made Benn expendable. While Benn is now gone, Tampa Bay is also still shopping running back LeGarrette Blount, whose production significantly dropped last season. There is some interest in Blount, but it is unknown which teams are involved.
Also on Friday, the Bucs agreed to terms on a two-year deal with wide receiver Tom Crabtree, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. This move makes sense, given the Arrelious Benn trade.