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11 former AAF players the Eagles can now sign

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Some guys deserve another chance in the NFL.

Arizona Hotshots v San Antonio Commanders Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

Now that the Alliance of American Football is essentially dead, the league officially announced their former players are free to sign contracts with NFL teams. Here are some AAF standouts that could make sense for the Philadelphia Eagles.

QB Luis Perez

We’ll start this list with the player who the Eagles are reportedly set to work out next week. Perez posted some real bad stats in the AAF so it’s not his production that’s enticing Philly. Perhaps the Eagles feel like Perez can improve with proper NFL coaching. The 24-year-old could be a developmental project.

QB John Wolford

Wolford was one of the AAF’s best quarterbacks. The 23-year-old completed 63.1% of his attempts for 1,616 yards (7.8 yard per attempt), 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a 95.9 passer rating. He also ran for 160 yards and one score.

Wolford, a four-year starter at Wake Forest, originally signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He’s on the smaller side at 6-1, 200 pounds so that’s a concern.

The Eagles could bring in Wolford to be this year’s Joe Callahan. Wolford could compete with a rookie Day 3 draft pick/UDFA for a spot either on the roster or the practice squad as a third-string passer behind Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld.

RB D’Ernest Johnson

Johnson was pretty efficient in the AAF. His 65 rushing attempts went for 375 yards (5.8 average) and two touchdowns. He also had 22 receptions for 220 yards and one receiving touchdown. His 3.4 yards after contact per attempt ranked fifth in the league.

Johnson signed with the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He runs hard and his pass-catching experience might interest the Eagles.

RB Ja’Quan Gardner

Gardner finished his AAF career with 64 attempts for 311 yards (4.9 average) and three rushing touchdowns. His 12 receptions went for 107 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Gardner ranked ninth yards after contact per attempt and second in yards after catch per reception.

Gardner is small at just 5-6, 191 pounds. His NFL experience is very limited as he only signed with the 49ers prior to San Francisco’s final preseason game last year.

The Eagles could be interested in Gardner’s ability to “create yardage.” Gardner could try to compete for a fourth running back spot but more likely he’d be a practice squad player, if anything.

WR/PR Greg Ward Jr.

Ward originally signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2017. Philly had him switch to wide receiver following his quarterback career at Houston. Ward spent his rookie season on the practice squad before trying to compete for a roster spot in 2018. He showed some improvement last year but ultimately failed to make the final cut. The Eagles decided not to keep him around on the practice squad for a second year.

Ward could be worth another look, though, after having some success in the AAF. His receiving numbers weren’t overly impressive (22 receptions for 214 yards, zero touchdowns) but he did have nine punt returns for 135 yards and one score. His 15.0 punt return average led the league.

Ward is still only 23 years old. It wouldn’t hurt to bring him back to compete for a fifth or sixth receiver spot.

C/G Jordan McCray

PFF has McCray as the AAF’s highest graded offensive lineman. The 25-year-old has center/guard versatility. With Stefen Wisniewski gone and an injured Brandon Brooks missing time this offseason, it could be nice to bring in some more depth on the interior offensive line. The Eagles previously showed interest in a backup guard in free agency.

DE Damontre Moore

Moore was the AAF’s most productive pass rusher. He had 41 total pressures in 360 snaps played: nine sacks, 18 hits, 14 hurries. He also had three pass deflections.

Moore was originally a third-round pick by the Giants in 2013. New York released him after a locker room altercation. Moore bounced around the league a bit and got hit with a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2017. He’s failed to find a steady landing spot.

The Eagles’ defensive end picture is already crowded (especially if Chris Long DOES come back) but a team can never have too many pass rushers. I think Moore’s past issues could prevent the Eagles from rushing to sign him but he could be a nice add if Long doesn’t come back and Philly somehow misses on getting an edge rusher in the 2019 NFL Draft. Moore is only 26 years old.

LB Demarquis Gates

The 23-year-old Gates led the AAF in total tackles with 59 and run stops with 38. He also had five total pressures (one sack, two hits, two hurries), five forced fumbles (!), and one pass breakup. In other words, he was pretty productive.

Gates isn’t known for his coverage skills but his standout defense as a run defender could make him worth a look in training camp. The Eagles lack a clear-cut starter at middle linebacker with Jordan Hicks gone. Why not take a shot on Gates?

Here’s a college scouting report on Gates from Draft Analyst:

Productive run-defending linebacker with size limitations. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands and scrapes well laterally. Fires up the field to defend the run, willingly throws his pads into the pile and sells out on the blitz. Covers a good amount of area on the field and displays good range. […] Gates was one of the more proficient run-defending linebackers in the SEC but comes with a lack of size and an incomplete game.

LB Terence Garvin

If the Eagles are looking for more of a cover linebacker, Garvin could be their guy. According to PFF, the 28-year-old was targeted 37 times in coverage but only allowed a 45.0 passer rating. Garvin notched three interceptions and three pass breakups.

The 6-3, 235 pound Garvin has appeared in 75 NFL games since 2013 so he has some NFL experience. There’s not an upside play here but Garvin could potentially replace D.J. Alexander or LaRoy Reynolds from last year.

DT Mike Purcell

Purcell might be one of the most logical signings for the Eagles on this list. As it currently stands, Philly only has four defensive tackles under contract: Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Treyvon Hester, and Bruce Hector. It’s very likely the Eagles will add to that group in the 2019 NFL Draft. Still, it could be nice to bring another veteran player at that position.

Purcell, who turns 28 this month, was the AAF’s top graded interior defensive lineman. He had 19 run stops, 14 hurries, seven quarterback hits, four sacks, and four deflected passes.

The Eagles currently lack a bigger, run-stuffing defensive tackle in the mold of Beau Allen or Haloti Ngata. Adding the 6-3, 327 pound Purcell to the roster could plug that hole.

S Derron Smith

Smith was the AAF’s highest graded safety. The 27-year-old logged three interceptions and five passes defensed. The Eagles could afford to bring in more competition behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.

UPDATE: Smith has signed with the Vikings.

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Who do you want the Eagles to sign?