The Eagles have had a crazy offseason for sure, but one of their most curious moves was the signing of veteran wide receiver Miles Austin. Why did Philadelphia feel the need to sign the injury-riddled 30-year-old pass catcher to a contract worth $2.3 million with $1 million guaranteed?
Allow Jordan Matthews to explain:
"Oh yeah, man, 19, he’s a baller. He’s played a long time so he’s got some miles on him — y’all get that [pun] later — but yeah, great player. Dude, the second him and DeMarco [Murray] have walked into this locker room, nothing but positive energy. Great guys.
With Miles, it’s like having another coach in that meeting room. He’s not just able to tell me things like [wide receiver coach Bob Bicknell] is, he’s able to actually come out here and show me how to do them consistently. The main thing he’s been teaching me this whole time is patience. When you’re a free agent guy [like Miles was], you know you have to have patience on the field and off. He’s shown me some new things as far as release moves. He’s my weight room partner. He’s one of those guys I can really lean on now that [Jeremy] Maclin is gone. I’m in a really blessed situation to have him here."
For better or worse, the Eagles place a high value on leadership. Look no further than the contract extension for an aging DeMeco Ryans as another example. For Matthews, Austin is helping to replace the void left by Maclin, whom Matthews referred to his "big brother" earlier this week.
But it's not just Matthews raving about the veteran. Check out what Austin had to say about Philadelphia's promising young receiver.
"He’s an unbelievable worker in the weight room and on the field. A story about him is when I was in Cleveland last year, a guy who played with him at Vanderbilt, who was actually undrafted, was speaking so highly — I didn’t even bring up [Jordan’s] name or anything — he just randomly spoke about his years at Vanderbilt and said how hard Jordan worked from freshman year all the way to senior year. I thought about that even when I came here. The fact that you would have a friend, a peer of yours speak so highly of you unprompted, you know? It just speaks volumes to the character he has. He’s just been that way since I’ve gotten here and I told him what his teammate thought of him. He’s just an extremely hard worker."
Austin also talked a little bit about mentoring some of the young players, such as Matthews.
"I think we’re all pushing each other in the weight room, on the field. Obviously I’m going to give them anything that comes up from examples or experiences in my life. If it comes up, I’ll talk about it. If anything comes up on their end that I might need, we’ll talk about it. So it’s nothing I feel like a weighted burden or anything like that as far as leadership wise. It’s something that we’re all kind of doing together. I consider myself with the new guys coming in, you know, an undrafted free agent. That’s the mind set that I take coming in. Wide eyed, ready to learn, and also ready to give my experiences as I’ve gone through them through my career. "
While Austin's leadership role is apparent, it's still unclear how he might fit on the 53-man roster. It's already a lock that the Eagles will keep Matthews, first round pick Nelson Agholor, and 2014 third round pick Josh Huff. Riley Cooper is coming off a really bad year but he's still running with the first team in OTA practices and he costs more to cut than to keep. Seyi Ajirotutu will make a strong push for a roster spot as special teams ace. That's five players. Austin won't be a starter, so it seems natural he would be expected to contribute on special teams as well. He hasn't been used in that role in recent years, but Austin said he's willing to do anything it takes to make the team. Anything.
"If they ask me to come out here with the lawnmower and mow this field, then that’s what I have to do."