Receiving-depleted Eagles get Stallworth from Saints
Filling their need for a lead receiver, the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday acquired fifth-year veteran and former first-round draft choice Donte' Stallworth from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for six-year veteran linebacker Mark Simoneau and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2007.
The Donte' Stallworth trade is much smarter for Philadelphia than giving up a No. 1 or higher for Deion Branch of the Patriots. And, it's now safe to say that the Saints are in a complete rebuilding mode under first-year head coach Sean Payton.
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"We're bringing in an experienced receiver that's coming off of a great year with the New Orleans Saints and he'll fit in nicely into our receiving corps," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's got tremendous speed and quickness and he catches the ball very well. He's good with the yards after the catch."
On face, the departure of Stallworth might seem a bit surprising, given that he is coming off a career year in 2005, and that the Saints could use his big-play dimension in their offense. But the new coaching staff, led by Sean Payton, was not enamored of the former University of Tennessee star.
There have been rumblings that the Saints would have some surprises when they reduced their roster to the regular-season limit, and that Stallworth might be a player they would seek to move. There were rumors earlier in the spring that Stallworth was on the trading block, but New Orleans officials dismissed them.
"We've got some depth at [wide receiver] right now," Saints coach Sean Payton told The Associated Press, pointing out that seventh-round draft choice Marques Colston's progress made Stallworth expendable. "It's a good opportunity for Donte' to start fresh somewhere and it's an opportunity for us to acquire a pick as well as a player."
"He didn't practice that much. I guess he didn't show enough to merit him staying here," Saints wideout Joe Horn told AP. "I'm not saying Coach Reid and Donovan [McNabb] can't pull Donte' aside and sprinkle some magic on him and make him a 1,500-yard receiver.
"He has some talent and it wouldn't shock me at all to see Donte' catching 10 or 15 passes a game from Donovan McNabb, but it didn't happen here in New Orleans and that's the sad part."
Horn took some responsibility for his good friend's missed opportunity.
"I felt a little bad about Donte' being traded because I felt it was a little my fault I didn't instill more professionalism in him," Horn told AP. "If they thought he had more professionalism, he'd still be here now."
During mini-camp in June, Stallworth was sent home for a day for missing a team meeting. He then missed a number of practices early in training camp while nursing a sore hamstring and usually practiced with the second string receivers from then on.
Stallworth did not appear resentful or upset about the move, Horn said.
"Donte's been in the NFL long enough to understand the business, and for whatever reason he knows in his heart why he got traded, so he has to take that with him to Philadelphia and be a better person, be a better receiver, be better than he was last year," Horn said.
With the Saints expected to struggle in 2006, and Payton not beholden to any of the holdover veterans, Stallworth may not be the last of New Orleans' high-profile players to exit the team.
The swap, which came as speculation mounted that the Eagles might be interested in trying to acquire New England wide receiver Deion Branch, who has been granted permission to seek trade possibilities, seems to fill needs for both franchises.
While his progress in the league has been stunted at times by injuries, particularly by nagging hamstring problems, Stallworth was able to stay healthy in 2005, and posted career-best numbers, with 70 receptions for 945 yards and seven touchdowns.
Stallworth, 25, has tremendous deep speed and is a very fluid athlete, capable of authoring game-altering plays. The 13th player chosen overall in the 2002 draft, Stallworth has 195 career catches for 2,791 yards and 23 touchdowns. His average of a touchdown catch every 8.5 receptions is one of the best in the NFL among active players. He has appeared in 56 games, with 33 starts.
"Donte' is an explosive player who has had a very productive career with the Saints," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "I've said many times earlier that I like the skill position players on our roster, but realize that you can never have enough playmakers."
In going to the Eagles, Stallworth certainly will have an opportunity to become a No. 1 receiver after years of being behind Horn in New Orleans. Philadelphia is banking on youngsters such as second-year pro Reggie Brown and rookies Jason Avant and Hank Baskett at wide receiver, and the addition of Stallworth adds not only experience but a proven playmaker, when healthy.
The big beneficiary of the Stallworth trade in New Orleans, it appears, will be rookie Marques Colston.
Payton liked what he saw of the Division I-AA Hostra product in training camp.
"I like the progress Marques Colston's made a lot," Payton told AP. "That had a lot to do with why we traded Donte."
Simoneau, 29, had slipped down the Eagles' linebacker depth chart in recent years, and was projected as a backup again this season. With the linebacker-desperate Saints, who may have one of the shoddiest corps in the NFL, the former Kansas State standout should have a chance to start.
In 91 games, including 38 starts, Simoneau has 355 tackles, four sacks, 10 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two recoveries. Originally a third-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, Simoneau was traded to Philadelphia in 2003. He started 29 games in his first two seasons with the Eagles, including all 16 games in 2003, but then dropped into a backup role as the club developed more depth.
Simoneau can play all three linebacker positions and he has been a special teams standout. The Saints last week acquired linebacker Scott Shanle from Dallas for a fourth-round draft choice as New Orleans officials continue to seek help at an obviously deficient position.
"Mark was one of my favorite guys,'' Reid said. "He was a great person and tremendous player for us, on special teams and at linebacker. We just appreciate everything he did for this organization."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here . The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
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