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Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Did Eagles break an oft-broken draft rule?

By Dan Graziano

Interesting case here of a young man's mouth maybe getting the Philadelphia Eagles into some trouble. LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard, signed as an undrafted free agent by the Eagles after the draft, gave a radio interview in which he claimed that he and the Eagles had reached agreement on a contract while the sixth round of the draft was still ongoing. This would, of course, be a violation of the rule that prohibits such agreements from being reached until after the draft is completed, and according to Tim McManus, the NFL is looking into the matter. The Eagles say Shepard has his facts wrong:
The Eagles, through a statement, said Shepard’s account is off the mark.

“Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, we did come to terms on a contract with he and his agent after the draft was completed. We anticipate he, like all of the rookie free agents we have agreed to terms with, will take a physical examination upon arriving in Philadelphia prior to next week’s rookie mini-camp and then sign a contract.”

Right. This is the way it's legally supposed to work. However, we're all kidding ourselves if we believe teams don't reach out to prospects while the draft is still ongoing and work out agreements to sign them after it's over. This is clearly one of those NFL rules that's broken all the time but not really enforced, like free-agent tampering, or offensive holding. The issue here is that Shepard went on the radio and blabbed about it, and now the Eagles could face some sort of discipline if they're found to have broken a rule.

But I doubt they will. This is a victimless crime, right? If a team really wanted Shepard, even after the Eagles called and told him they planned to sign him post-draft, that team could have just selected him in the seventh round and there would have been nothing the Eagles could have done about it. What are they going to say, "No! You can't draft him! We just signed him to an illegal contract!"

Much ado about very little, though I imagine that Shepard this morning isn't the Eagles' absolute favorite undrafted free agent they signed over the weekend.