Defensive end Bryan Smith, the Eagles' third-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft out of McNeese State, was signed to a four-year deal Tuesday.
The 6-2, 245-pound Smith was a two-time All-American selection and was named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2006. In the same seasons, Smith was also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award (which was won by linebacker Chris Gocong) after recording career highs in sacks (13.5), tackles (84) and tackles for a loss (23). He finished his senior season with 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss en route to his second consecutive All-American nomination. Smith appeared in 31 games during his collegiate career, and recorded 31 sacks, 187 tackles and 56.5 tackles for a loss.
Smith is part of the Eagles' plan to improve the pass rush in 2008. The Eagles did have 37 sacks, but were not able to generate a consistent enough pass rush. Now, the defensive end position is one of the deepest on the roster. Pro Bowl right end Trent Cole had 12.5 sacks in 2007. Juqua Parker and 2007 second-round pick Victor Abiamiri are battling for the starting left end job. Free-agent signee Chris Clemons is a pass-rush specialist who had eight sacks a year ago in Oakland. Darren Howard can slide inside and provide pressure from the tackle spot and veteran Jerome McDougle is the longest tenured Eagle among all the defensive ends.
During the pre-draft process, it was unknown whether Smith would be a 4-3 end or an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Smith's quickness has drawn comparisons to Cole, who was roughly the same size when drafted out of Cincinnati in 2005 but is now 270 pounds. Smith said that the scholarship money at McNesse State didn't provide him with a lot of extra money to spend on food, so he opted for healthier meals rather than more filling, but less nutritious meals. Since he was drafted, Smith has added 10 pounds to his 6-2 frame.
The Eagles have eight of their 10 draft picks under contract. The only draft picks left to be signed are defensive tackle Trevor Laws and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who were both selected in the second round. Rookies report to Lehigh University for the start of training camp July 21.