The Philadelphia Eagles have had a few controversial players over the years, and managed to handle them just fine. In fact, the Eagles may be the model for others to deal with Michael Sam if they draft the first openly gay NFL prospect, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan on Feb. 10. However, does this mean Philadelphia is the ideal team to draft Sam itself?
Sheridan wrote on Feb. 10 that Sam's potential as a distraction is "hyperbole" citing how the Eagles dealt with some big distractions of their own over the years. Michael Vick was the ultimate distraction when Philadelphia signed him after he got out of prison for dog fighting, yet it worked like a goldmine -- for the first two years, at least. Nevertheless, Vick got to reinvent himself as a changed man, even as his play ultimately went downhill.
The Eagles also withstood a firestorm just last year when receiver Riley Cooper was caught using the n-word on tape at a concert. Philadelphia had every reason to suspend or release him, yet he stayed in spite of fears that it would tear apart the locker room. Instead, the Eagles kept their locker room harmony intact, while Cooper went on to become one of Nick Foles' most dependable targets.
If the Eagles could get results on and off the field from Vick and Cooper, despite their public backlash, drafting Sam and dealing with the massive attention -- good and bad -- shouldn't be a problem. In fact, the organization would be hypocritical if it was scared off by it. As such, when an Eagles' spokesman was asked by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Feb. 10 if Sam's announcement changed any potential plans to draft him, he answered, "Why would it change anything?"
Sam is projected to go as high as the third round, in which the Eagles have the 86'th overall pick. However, he could also go anywhere in the fourth or fifth round, assuming there isn't enough backlash to drop him down any lower.
Should the Eagles get to pick him in the lower rounds, it still won't overshadow questions on why he went that far down. But if Philadelphia does take him, it will be more because it needs someone like the SEC defensive player of the year to help out a questionable defense, not because it needed to make another social statement.