The Philadelphia Eagles have officially re-signed starting defensive end Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract. Thornton was an exclusive-rights restricted free agent, which meant he couldn't negotiate with any other team. His only options were to re-sign with the Eagles or leave football entirely. This is a result of Thornton having less than three accrued seasons of free agency credit. Thornton will become a "regular" restricted free agent next year.
Thornton originally joined the team in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Arkansas. He has come a long way to prove his worth. Thornton was a pleasant surprise last season having made the successful transition from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end. The strength of his game was defending against the run; only two other 3-4 DEs finished with more tackles than Thornton did. Thornton's individual efforts contributed to an Eagles defense that finished 10th best in rushing yards allowed per game (104.3) and 4th best against rushing yards allowed per play (3.77).
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn't let Thornton's stellar play go unnoticed. At one point last season Kelly took the time to single out Thornton for his efforts. "The one thing you have to realize is Cedric Thornton is probably playing our best defensive football right now," Kelly said. "[Thornton is] playing with great effort. High motor. Great technician. Very rarely is he out of position. He’s putting it all together."
Thornton is part of arguably one of the best starting 3-4 DE combinations in the league. Between Thornton and Fletcher Cox, the Eagles have a lot of talent and youth on the defensive line. Each player brings their own strength to the team, with Cox having more success rushing the passer and Thornton being stout against the run.
Thornton's final 2013 stat line included: 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 17 QB hurries, 2 batted passes, 48 tackles, 10 assisted, 36 stops, 1 forced fumble, and 1 safety.