When Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie arrived in Philadelphia two years ago, along with a package of highly touted free agents, the Eagles were anointed a dream team.
The dream, unfortunately, turned into a nightmare with longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid getting fired and Mike Vick looking more like an albatross than a franchise quarterback.
The Philly dream machine has been dismantled, and Rodgers-Cromartie moved west, signing a free-agent contract last month with the Denver Broncos.
No one is calling Denver a dream team, but DRC is in a situation that could boost his career and get him that big, long-term contract he and the other top free-agent cornerbacks missed out on this year.
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The 26-year-old Lakewood Ranch product gets to work with two of the greatest NFL quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Broncos executive and Hall of Fame signal-caller John Elway. In practice, he will go against newly acquired Wes Welker, one of the NFL's premier receivers.
"I am very excited about playing there. You've got a guy who can throw a ball right where it needs to be, and it makes you better to see that every day in practice," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Not everybody in the
NFL is Peyton Manning and now he has the weapons, so there is going to be competition and that always brings the best out of anybody."
Rodgers-Cromartie also is glad to get away from the media circus the Eagles often encountered in Philadelphia, where everything gets magnified and expectations are often unrealistic. It's part of the reason he signed with Denver.
"I chose Denver because it's a place where you don't have that real big media market and don't have too much going on in the city," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It's a city for football, and you can go there get focused and just play football. John Elway is a great football person. I followed him when I was growing up, watching him win those two Super Bowls. You always remember his legacy."
They tried to build a legacy at Philadelphia for a team that wasn't ready, and it created a situation that proved counterproductive.
"Being the dream team, the expectation was very high and, just like the Miami Heat, when you step on the field or the court you are going to get everybody's best shot," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It took us a little time to understand that. From a team standpoint, it might have taken a toll, but not from an individual standpoint for me. My goal right now is to play consistently, and that is all they ask you to do."
When free agency began, the anticipated market for the top cornerback was in the $10 million range. However the top free-agent cornerbacks, including Rodgers-Cromartie, wound up signing one-year deals for between $5 million and $6 million. DRC hopes to turn that into a positive.
"It doesn't have anything to do with anybody's play. The market is just not good right now," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "The main thing is to just grind it out. For me, I feel blessed. I am still in the NFL and continue to get the opportunity to go out there and play on Sundays and better myself as a player. The main thing for me is to play consistently."
No one has ever doubted DRC's talent, though in some circles he is described as a finesse cornerback.
"They say that because I am tall, very athletic, and I can run fast," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I can understand that, but at the same time I can do all the other things that a corner is supposed to do. It doesn't bother me because I have an opportunity with Denver, and I am going to take advantage of it."
The only cornerback demanding the big money is the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis, who reports say could wind up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a long0term contract that would pay him around $14 million a season.
"For the things he did in the NFL, I can understand why he is asking for that. He is a shut-down guy and one of the best. He deserves what he is asking for," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
DRC will have an opportunity to say thanks to those who have helped him and help others this weekend with his celebrity basketball game that will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Palmetto High as part of a special weekend to raise money for his DRC Foundation that helps underprivileged kids.
The weekend festivities tip off Friday evening with a fashion show at the Renaissance on 9th.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.