Kelley Washington wanted more than teams were willing to pay him, and for that reason, he was still on the streets when NFL training camps began. After seeing him for the last 10 days, it is obvious that he belonged somewhere, anywhere, and that the Eagles are darn fortunate to have him. Think about it: They added a player after training camp started, and if Washington is as good as he has looked since he signed here, the Eagles are a better team for the move.
Similar to adding Juqua Parker years ago, and Jason Babin last summer, the Eagles made a no-risk move signing Washington and throwing him into the mix in a very, very deep wide receiver corps.
"It started with Andy Reid and the idea is to create competition on the roster, no matter whether it is the eighth or the 80th roster spot," said general manager Howie Roseman. "We talked about Kelley some time ago. We couldn't get a deal done then, but the time was right and the situation presented itself after camp opened and he has come in and done a nice job."
How a player like Washington, who established career bests with 34 receptions and 431 yards last season with the Ravens, didn't have a job prior to July 31 is a mystery. The contract issues were thorny, obviously, but geez. Who wouldn't want a player with great size, coming off a fine season, and a guy who is known to be an elite special teams player?
"It was a matter of salary, being a veteran, being 30 years old. I had a productive year last year, but these things happen," said Washington. "There were other players in the same position, like T.O. (Terrell Owens) and other veteran receivers who had good years and who were still looking for jobs. I always knew something would come up, that it was just a matter of time. I wanted to put myself in the best situation.
"My agent and I talked about waiting and seeing what happened into August, into training camp, but we felt it would be better based on the opportunity that came about. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt I could contribute to the team, and I feel good about being here and competing with the guys. I'm still in the league and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here."
Washington has been outstanding since he signed on July 31, and his presence certainly creates a battle for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots. Hank Baskett and Riley Cooper seemed entrenched until Washington entered the picture. At 6 feet 3, 217 pounds, Washington offers tremendous size and his hands are strong. He has been a reliable target in this offense during his short time here.
Where Washington has made his bones in an eight-year NFL career is on special teams. He is, they say, a star special teams player. It is how he has survived with Cincinnati, with New England and with Baltimore. It is how he intends to remain an Eagle.
"I really think I thrive on special teams. When I played with the Patriots I felt I was a game changer. I played gunner, I played on kickoff and I made a lot of plays just like a great receiver does, just like a defensive player does," he said. "I take a lot of pride in special teams. There are a lot of plays to be made there -- big-time tackles, blocked punts -- and there are ways to change games on special teams.
"I'm excited for the opportunity get out there on special teams."
Wide receiver is a position of depth and talent for the Eagles. Boy, is that something that Eagles fans would have never considered years ago. Now, though, the Eagles are loaded. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are standout talents. Jason Avant, too, in a third-receiver role. Then there is Cooper, a fifth-round draft choice who has wowed the Eagles in training camp.
Baskett is a proven NFL receiver and special-teams ace, and now there is Washington to make a serious push. Jordan Norwood, the smooth receiver from Penn State, has been outstanding in the last week, and Dobson Collins has quietly made a bunch of plays. Chad Hall has rebounded from a mid-camp hiccup and he will get a chance to show his stuff in the preseason against Jacksonville.
Washington, the new kid on the block, is still feeling his way around a little bit. But if he can be a big-time player on special teams, and add quality depth to the receiving corps, well, it could be a truly significant -- and unseen -- late-summer addition to the roster.
"I'm picking things up, making progress, but it's hard," said Washington. "The terminology is different, the system is different and the quarterback is different. There is a lot to learn. I concentrate on running my routes correctly, catching the football and doing my job. I'm very motivated. I want to be in the league. I feel I deserve to be out there. I've been overlooked by a lot of teams and I want to show them that I can compete and show them what they are missing.
"I don't concern myself with the depth chart or the numbers. I compete. I look to make plays. I'm a ballplayer who is going to go out there and make plays on special teams or as a receiver. That's what you are going to get from me. That is my track record. I've always been a good athlete and I pick up things quickly. I'm here, and I'm going to give you my best every day. That is my focus every day."
Washington has never been in Philadelphia as a tourist, has never experienced a cheese steak in the city and knows that he has a chance to win a roster spot if he does all the right things.
"I can't look ahead, but, yeah, that would be nice," said Washington. "Right now, I want to have a good practice and then another one and get ready for a preseason game. Step by step, you know. I'm a veteran. I know how it works in the preseason. You don't look past what is right in front of you."