Two Newest Eagles Prove Final Cuts Aren't Always Final

Lou DiPietroAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 02:  Alex Smith #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on during the NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 2, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Buccaneers won 30 to 27 in overtime. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The phrase “final cutdown day” is definitely a misnomer in the NFL. It’s really more like “number cutdown day,” because every year, there’s an inevitable flurry of roster moves after rosters are allegedly “set.”

And it’s why I, both as a fan and a journalist, never really worry about pressing needs until the season actually begins.

Backup tight end is an issue? Too many quarterbacks? Only three true defensive tackles on the roster?

No worries, as the Eagles fixed all those issues after their roster was "set."

So meet the two newest Eagles: DT Antonio Dixon and TE Alex Smith.

While last year’s lone post-cutdown addition, LB Tracy White, was really only limited to special teams action (he didn’t record a tackle), both Dixon and Smith should have a much bigger impact.

In Smith, the Eagles get a quality backup tight end who is an excellent receiver, adequate blocker and, most importantly, a veteran of the West Coast offense.

Basically, he perfectly fills the role that Brent Celek had last year and rookie Cornelius Ingram was due to take before a knee injury.

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In four years in Tampa, Smith caught 129 balls for 1,252 yards and 11 TD. Those numbers speak for themselves.

Coming to Philly, he finally has something he never really experienced in Tampa: a stable quarterback situation and a top-flight running back.

In four seasons, Smith played with six different starting quarterbacks—including two stints by Brian Griese—and blocked for about a dozen different rushers.

Not easy to get into a groove either way.

But as much as Tony Curtis showed in the preseason, Smith is definitely an upgrade at the backup TE position. Whether or not he remains on the roster after this season—which, assuming Cornelius Ingram is healthy, is admittedly a long shot—remains to be seen, but he will give 100 percent every Sunday until then.

Dixon, meanwhile, could become a fixture inside.

Originally signed by Washington as a rookie free agent, the Miami product was let go by the Redskins in final cutdowns. The Eagles, who kept only three DTs after cutdown day, snapped him up almost immediately.

And with good reason, as Dixon perfectly fits the mold of what the Eagles look for in a DT. Namely, he’s a 6'3", 322-pound two-gap tackle who has a quick first step and can collapse the pocket in a hurry.

Not only that, but he’s the type of hard-working, blue-collar guy Philadelphia loves.

As a child, Dixon had no home, no father (his is serving time in a federal prison in Georgia for drug trafficking) and had to overcome a severe speech impediment and a learning disability that left him illiterate as late as high school.

Make any joke you want about the University of Miami’s enrollment standards, but most people stuck in that quagmire never even bother to try to get out of it.

But Dixon did. He showed flashes of brilliance at “The U,” but injuries and inconsistency left him undrafted this spring.

Still, he worked hard, and was grudgingly one of the final cuts from a team that lists $100-million man Albert Haynesworth, stalwart Cornelius Griffin and former starters Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery on its defensive tackle depth chart.

Now, he’ll have his chance in Philly.

Of course, the downside of his signing was the somewhat inevitable release of fan-favorite AJ Feeley. While the signing (and eventual reinstatement) of Michael Vick was the beginning of the end for Feeley’s second tenure in South Philly, it didn’t make Sunday’s call any easier.

As team president Joe Banner said, the Birds wanted to give Feeley a chance to find work and not keep him hanging on for a few weeks. A tough choice for sure, but hey, that’s final cutdowns for you.

Just ask Bobby Wade, who was released by Minnesota on Thursday despite leading the team in receptions last year and being the only healthy top-flight receiver on the roster.

His replacement? Former Eagle Greg Lewis, who was released by New England earlier in the week.

The circle of life, indeed.


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