With Super Bowl XLVIII vastly approaching, let’s take a look at all the former Eagle players that will roam the sideline for the big game
DE Chris Clemons (Seattle)
Clemons was an undrafted free agent in the 2003 NFL Draft and bounced around a few teams before signing with the Eagles in 2008. He is best known for his 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown in division-clinching win against the Cowboys in 2008. Clemons ended up earning 2008 NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance in that game (2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery). He is also remembered for body slamming Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson (who is his current teammate in Seattle) in the subsequent playoff game in which the Eagles won 26-14. Clemons notched seven sacks in two seasons with the Birds.
He was traded to the Seahawks in 2010, along with a 4th round pick in exchange for Darryl Tapp. Tapp was no more than a situational pass rusher in Philadelphia (six sacks in three seasons), while Clemons is absolutely thriving in Seattle (38 sacks in four seasons). He led the team with 11 sacks (a career high) in both 2010 and 2011. After suffering a torn ACL in a playoff game last year against the Redskins, Clemons has been more of a situational pass rusher in 2013, playing behind defensive end Cliff Avril.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver)
The Eagles acquired the former Pro Bowler from Arizona along with a 2nd round pick in exchange for quarterback Kevin Kolb. He primarily played in the nickel package in 2011, with cornerback’s Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha manning the outside for Philadelphia. Placing DRC in the slot often drew (fair) criticism, as it was an unfamiliar position to him 4 years into his career.
When the Eagles let go of Samuel, DRC moved outside, which allowed him to maximize his unbelievable athleticism. Although Rodgers-Cromartie played significantly better in 2012, he was a finesse corner that rarely played with any sort of physicality, and relied mostly on his speed. He wanted no part in tackling opposing players. He was cut last offseason when the Eagles brought in Chip Kelly, and signed a 1-year, $5 million contract with the Broncos.
He has quickly become their best cover corner (collecting three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown this year), and even garnered some Pro Bowl consideration. Letting go of DRC was a toss-up, but the Eagles wanted more physical play from their corners. He has often been considered an elite talent with all the tools to succeed, but a cornerback that hadn’t quite put it all together. Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald once said that DRC was “the best athlete I’ve gone against since I’ve played in the NFL.”
A note on trade that brought DRC to Philadelphia — The Eagles traded the Cardinals’ 2nd round pick to the Green Bay Packers for their later 2nd round pick, along with a 4th round pick. The two players the Eagles drafted were defensive end Vinny Curry (the Eagles most productive pass-rusher this season) and cornerback Brandon Boykin (who tied for second in the NFL with 6 interceptions in 2013). Although DRC didn’t work out in Philadelphia, the Eagles clearly ended up benefiting greatly from the acquired draft picks.
C Steve Vallos (Denver)
The former 7th round pick was initially drafted by the Seahawks in 2007, and eventually signed a 1-year contract with Philadelphia on March 19th, 2012. He was then released shortly thereafter on August 31st, and then re-signed 18 days later when center Jason Kelce went down with a season ending knee injury. The journeyman backup center had a brief stint in Jacksonville, and then was signed by the Broncos in July 2013, to replace Dan Koppen (torn ACL). He hasn’t started a game since 2012 with the Jaguars.
OT Winston Justice (Denver)
Justice was the Eagles’ former 2nd round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. In his first career start (2007) he gave up 4 sacks to Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in a 16-3 loss for the Birds. Although he was unfortunately remembered for that for the better part of his early career, Justice turned into a fairly reliable starter along the offensive line for two years.
When Shawn Andrews went down with a season ending injury in 2009, Justice stepped in admirably and became the full time starter. He received a 4-year contract extension in November of 2009, but was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in March 2012, along with the Eagles’ 6th round pick, in exchange for the Colts 6th round pick. The Broncos signed Justice for depth purposes this past September when Pro-Bowler Ryan Clady went on IR with a foot sprain. He has been active a total of four games for the Broncos, and backs up left tackle Chris Clark.
LB Stewart Bradley (Denver)
Bradley, who is currently on IR, was the Eagles’ third round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. In his first NFL game, he almost singlehandedly stopped the Saints 4 straight times at the goal line. Bradley also became the first ever NFL player to record an interception and a sack in his first career start. He was named a 2008 Sports Illustrated All-Pro in his first year as a starter.
Bradley suffered a torn ACL right before the start of the 2009 season in truly unfortunate and almost freak-like fashion. The injury occurred during the Eagles “Flight Night”, an evening where fans can watch the players practice at Lincoln Financial Field. He was placed on injured reserved and missed the entire 2009 season. He came back to start 12 games for the Eagles in 2010, racking up 48 tackles and one interception. The Arizona Cardinals then signed Bradley in July 2011, but he was an unproductive player during his stint there (20 tackles in two years).
He got another chance in 2013, and appeared to be rejuvenated when Denver signed him last March. Throughout training camp and the pre-season, he ran with the first team defense, and was slated to be the starting middle linebacker. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him once again and he was placed on IR on August 29th due to a sprained wrist that required surgery. Bradley looked as though he’d be a stud in the NFL for many years, but injuries continuously plagued his career. It would be pretty neat to see a guy like him get a ring if the Broncos end up winning the Super Bowl.