21st July 00:31
Staley To be Traded?
Who could we get from Chicago?
Team management feels he has burned bridges
By Len Pasquarelli
Barring a change of heart by Philadelphia Eagles officials and coaches,
holdout starting tailback Duce Staley has likely played his last game with
the team, and could be traded once he finally reports to training camp after
what is already a three-week absence.
The first half of the equation, with Staley ending his camp hiatus, could
occur this week. The other half -- sending Staley to one of the two or three
teams seriously pursuing the six-year veteran -- could then quickly follow.
No deal is imminent, however, and none will occur until Staley reports. Team
sources told ESPN.com Saturday night that they don't want to create a
perception that Staley "won" his holdout gambit by sitting out. Accordingly,
they have informed Staley, through intermediaries, that he must first report
if he wants to eventually end his relationship with the team that brought
him into the league as a third-round choice in the 1997 draft.
"The feeling around here," said one Eagles source, "is that the bridges are
burned. It will be hard for him to come back and play."
That said, no trade is likely to be consummated unless the team acquiring
Staley gets him to agree to a contract extension in advance. Staley, 28, is
in the final year of his current contract and no club would deal for him to
have him for just one season. The tipoff that a trade isn't yet close: None
of the teams interested in adding Staley have yet gained permission from the
Eagles to initiate extension negotiations with the tailback.
One team prominently mentioned in most trade rumors is Chicago, which is
concerned about the performance of 2001 league rookie of the year Anthony
Thomas, who slumped in 2002 and has not improved much in camp this summer.
The Eagles might also want to add a veteran backup tailback before swapping
Staley, which could slow any trade discussions as well. Third-year veteran
Correll Buckhalter is all but set to supplant Staley in the lineup, but he
is coming off a knee injury sustained in a 2002 mini-camp that sidelined him
for the entire season.
Second-year veteran Brian Westbrook, projected as the Eagles' third-down
tailback, suffered a bruised knee last week. Undrafted free agent rookie
Reno Mahe has looked good in preseason play, and had a very solid game
Saturday night at Pittsburgh in a victory, but isn't ready yet to assume a
significant role. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Eagles will
want to cover all bases before dealing Staley summarily.
Yet two sources reiterated Saturday night that Staley, scheduled to earn a
base salary of $2.2 million this year, is no longer in the team's plans.
The former South Carolina star has rushed for over 1,000 yards in three of
his six years in the league, including 1,029 yards in 2002. His best season
came in 1999, when Staley had 1,273 yards, but the following year, he
suffered a mid-foot fracture that slowed his career.
Staley has 4,344 yards and 17 touchdowns on 1,104 career carries. He has
started in 61 of his 82 regular-season appearances.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com