While the move was more of a formality than some of the Eagles other transactions this offseason, they continued to take care of their own locking up defensive end Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 3, 2014
As an exclusive rights free agent, Thornton could have become an unrestricted free agent if the Eagles decided not to offer any sort of contract extension. By locking up Thornton for 2014, the team is no longer at risk of losing a player that they drafted without any sort of compensatory picks coming back their way.
Thornton’s story is an inspiring one. The undrafted free agent out of Southern Arkansas, a division II school, spent the better part of his first season in Philadelphia on the practice squad. Since then, he has seen his role on the team increase from rotational lineman on the 53-man roster, to starting defensive end in 2013.
As one of the lynchpins on the defense’s most impressive units, its line, Thornton had a breakout season for the 10-6 Eagles. He started all 16 games, recorded a sack, forced a fumble, batted down two passes, and notched 50 total tackles. Thornton also provided one of the highlights of the season, recording the Eagles’ first safety since 2011 against the Bears.
The remarkable feat of individual strength was just a sampling of the type of talent that made the Eagles tab Thornton as part of their long-term plans. Thornton will be 26 by the start of the 2014 campaign, and still appears to be tapping into his potential. Along with a few other members of the defense, Thornton’s emergence as a player that could flourish in Billy Davis’ 3-4 hybrid scheme softened the blow of what was expected to be a long, arduous transition out of the 4-3.