If you study the makeup of the Eagles roster, you'll notice a surprising number of players who have entered the league as rookie free agents, passed over multiple times by every team in the league during the draft. Four of those players, Quintin Mikell, Jamaal Jackson, Nick Cole and Akeem Jordan, joined the Eagles as undrafted rookies and eventually turned out to become consistent starters for the team. Ten other veterans on the roster, including Pro-Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver, cornerback Joselio Hanson, defensive end Juqua Parker and running back Mike Bell, joined the league as undrafted rookies with other teams.
So even though the Eagles are bringing in an astounding 13 draft picks this year, the most in the league, don't discount the possibility that one of the many rookie free agents will end up making an impact for the Eagles either this season or in the future. And as the massive rookie class hits the practice field this week, make sure to follow the progress of some of the undrafted guys.
One such player to keep an eye on is cornerback David Pender, a three-year starter in the Big Ten at Purdue. Pender, 6-foot, 180 pounds, is one of three undrafted cornerbacks who joined the Eagles following this year's draft, along with Arizona's Devin Ross and Weber State's Josh Morris.
"I did expect to get drafted," Pender said, reflecting on his draft weekend experience. "But of course it didn't work out that way. I'm here now and I'm going to make the best of my situation.
"It was pretty much a real simple decision for me. Philly was the one trip that I took through the course of the pre-draft (process). I didn't end up getting drafted, and I had Philadelphia, Tampa Bay or Miami (interested). I felt a lot more comfortable coming back to Philadelphia where I was already accustomed with this system and a lot of the guys here, so Philly was the best fit for me."
Pender joins a position on the Eagles roster where there is room for an unheralded player to make an impact. Aside from entrenched starter Asante Samuel, nothing is certain at cornerback for the Eagles right now. Ellis Hobbs is certainly a capable starting cornerback - don't forget he started all 16 games for a team that went undefeated in the regular season. Behind them, veterans Dimitri Patterson and Geoffrey Pope join Hanson as players who can make an impact, along with the three aforementioned rookie free agents and fourth-round draft choice Trevard Lindley. Plus, three players currently listed as safeties, rookie Nate Allen, Macho Harris and Marlin Jackson, all have the versatility to play cornerback in a pinch.
So Pender is realistic, but still confident. He doesn't necessarily expect to start as a rookie, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to make an impact on a winning team, and he knows that one way to make an impact will opening the eyes of Bobby April.
"First off, I'm going to get in good with the special teams coach," he said. "Asante, you know he has a spot pretty much locked down. A lot of the other veterans are competing for the other starting spot. So I'm just going to get in wherever I fit in."
So what were the question marks surrounding Pender as a prospect? It certainly wasn't his physical attributes, because Pender was fourth among cornerbacks at the combine in both the 40-yard dash (4.47 seconds) and the vertical jump (39 inches). But Pender has an idea of why his name wasn't called during the draft.
"Size," he said. "A lot of teams didn't think I had the ability to tackle. They didn't think I was physical enough to play in this league."
But Pender has a message for those teams that passed on him.
"They missed out on a great player," he said, "and they're going to have to deal with it."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:50 p.m., May 18