Trotter chooses Eagles over more money
There is no denying that middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter plays with great heart. Apparently, he negotiates with his heart, as well.
The three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, whose insertion into the starting lineup midway through the 2004 season galvanized a previously shoddy Philadelphia Eagles run defense, will return to the team.
Trotter tested the unrestricted free agent market for three days, visited with the Kansas City Chiefs and drew interest from at least two other teams, and then Friday afternoon rejected a more lucrative proposal to go back to the Eagles, a team for which he has a strong passion.
"It was going to take a lot to get me out of Philly," Trotter said. "Somebody had to overwhelm me. Traveling to those teams made me nervous. You want a team to overwhelm you, but in a way, you don't want them to."
The seven-year veteran signed a five-year contract worth $15 million that includes a signing bonus of $4 million.
Trotter, 28, is coming off an '04 season in which he resurrected a flagging career. Cut by the Washington Redskins in the spring, he essentially had to talk Reid into re-signing him, and he agreed to a one-year deal at a minimum salary of $535,000.
With the Eagles struggling to stop the run, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson elevated Trotter to the starting lineup in November, and he responded by posting 61 tackles in just nine starts. He also provided a passion that had been lacking in the Philadelphia defense. For his efforts, Trotter was named to the Pro Bowl for a third time.
"I love it here. This city loves me," Trotter said. "This is where I'm supposed to be. I didn't want to go through a situation like two years ago. Philly is home. This is where I wanted to retire. My heart is in Philly."
The former Stephen F. Austin star began his career in Philadelphia in 1998, moved into the lineup a year later, and established himself as one of the NFL's best defenders versus the run. But in the spring of 2002, he engaged in a nasty contract dispute when the Eagles designated him a franchise player.
Philadelphia subsequently rescinded the franchise marker and Trotter signed a seven-year, $35.6 million contract with Washington.
The Redskins released him after two seasons for salary cap reasons and because they believed that past knee problems were eroding his productivity. Trotter demonstrated in 2004, both during the regular season and particularly in the playoffs, that he remained a stout defender and that his knees were plenty sound enough.
"Every doctor that I talk to can't believe I'm still playing," Trotter said. "It doesn't look good on paper. But I can still run."
The Eagles, who divine a player's contract value in a kind of actuarial style that takes into account position and age, do not necessarily place a high premium on the middle linebacker position, but club officials certainly wanted Trotter back. Their options at the middle linebacker spot, one Philadelphia coach allowed, were not strong.
A priority for the Chiefs was middle linebacker, where the underrated Mike Maslowski missed most of the year with a knee injury and youngster Kawika Mitchell struggled to fill the starting spot. The Chiefs also coveted Trotter's leadership skills and locker room presence and negotiated for two days with agent Jimmy Sexton before the talks ended on Thursday night.
Trotter was actually visiting with Cincinnati Bengals officials on Friday when he made up his mind to accept the Philadelphia offer. The Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks also showed interest. The Falcons' staff became enamored of Trotter when it coached him in the Pro Bowl game, but Atlanta never made a contract proposal.
For his career, Trotter has 627 tackles, 11½ sacks and seven interceptions, and he has appeared in 100 games, with 85 starts.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.