The Philadelphia Eagles have reached agreement in principle with free agent cornerback Will Peterson, who at one point was one of the NFL's emerging young standouts at the position, but who has not played in a game in nearly 14 months because of back problems.
Peterson, who was released by the New York Giants early this spring, must first pass a physical exam before signing a contract that runs through the balance of this season. The deal, if consummated, will give Peterson an opportunity to demonstrate to teams that he is healthy again, and then he will be able to go into the unrestricted free agent market in the spring.
After months of treatments and rehabilitation, Peterson, 27, was cleared by specialists in late September to return to the football field and began auditioning for teams a few weeks ago. Several teams demonstrated interest in Peterson, a physical cornerback with good coverage skills. Philadelphia, which has suffered through injuries in the secondary, was avid in its pursuit of him.
A third-round selection of the Giants in the 2001 draft, Peterson missed 11 games in 2003 after suffering a stress fracture to the right transverse process, a small bone in the lower back. He returned to camp the following summer and was so highly regarded that the Giants signed him to a five-year, $27 million contract extension.
Peterson responded by playing in all 16 games in 2004, arguably the best season of his career. But then last season, the back problems flared up in camp, worsened early in the season, and eventually forced Peterson onto injured reserve. The diagnosis: An old displaced fracture and so-called "hot spots," an auguring of a potential stress fracture to the left transverse process.
Unlike the 2003 injury, this one wasn't a full-blown fracture.
"Basically, they told him it would be better if it had been broken all the way," agent Ron Slavin said at the time. "So one of the things that they suggested was that he do some hard running, hoping to break the bone. Instead, with all the running he did, the area around the bone got stronger."
Surgery was out of the question, because it would have ended Peterson's career. But through hard work, his back is stronger now, and he's prepared to resume a career that stalled when the Giants released him in May, after a two-day battery of tests.
The former Western Illinois standout has played in just 23 games since 2003, but, in a league where no one ever seems to have enough cornerbacks, he is certainly an intriguing player. In 51 games, he has 199 tackles, five interceptions and 32 passes defensed.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.