Healthy L.J. Smith gets Eagles' franchise tag

Updated: February 7, 2008, 9:06 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Tight end L.J. Smith, who was scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the month, was given the franchise tag by the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.

L.J. Smith

Smith

Thursday marked the first day of the offseason that teams could use the tag. Although Smith can receive offers from other teams, the tag gives the Eagles seven days to match. A team signing him would have to give up two first-round picks as compensation.

"Any player wants a long-term deal -- that's what you want, to feel secure in your job and also your family's position, but I'm OK with it right now," Smith said. "I definitely would have preferred a long-term deal but, hey, my agent, he's going to want to talk with the team, and who knows? I didn't even think I was going to get this. Maybe they can get something worked out later on."

If he signs with the Eagles, Smith will receive a one-year deal worth the average of the top five highest salaries earned by tight ends.

"L.J. Smith has been a very productive tight end in our offense," coach Andy Reid said in a statement. "He is healthy and working his tail off so he can have a very successful 2008 season."

Injuries hampered the 27-year-old, five-year veteran throughout last season. He underwent surgery for a sports hernia in May, injured his groin in training camp in August and missed the final three games of the regular season with a sprained knee.

Smith finished with 22 catches for 236 yards and only one touchdown in 10 games after a combined 111 receptions for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in the previous two seasons.

"Going into the season, I guess they wanted to see me another full season healthy and they'll make their decision, and I wasn't healthy," Smith said. "I wasn't able to perform at a high level for a majority of the season and I didn't even finish the season healthy."

That isn't the case now, Smith said.

"I feel great right now," he said. "I'm healthy."

Had they let Smith go, the Eagles would have had to acquire another tight end. The only other tight ends on the roster are Brent Celek, who had a promising rookie season, and veteran backup Matt Schobel.

Although Smith still has to sign the contract, he is unlikely to end up elsewhere because teams aren't likely to part with two first-round picks to sign him.

"After the season, I said goodbye to my teammates, and I really thought I wasn't going to be back," Smith said. "So today, I feel weird -- just them giving me the franchise tag. But I mean, hey, I've always wanted to be here. I just think it's another opportunity for me to showcase my stuff."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press