Dream Team 2.0 this is not. The Philadelphia Eagles have signed five players in free agency so far, none of which has any of the “wow factor” that we initially thought the class of 2011 did.
Of course, if we were to say this was the second coming of the Dream Team, that would be a negative thing.
So far, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman have addressed the positions we all thought they would, just not with the players most of us hoped for.
However, does that mean they are bad signings? Of course not. But, depending on whether you’re an optimist or pessimist, you’ll see the glass of free agent signings as half full or half empty.
Our No. 1 need heading into this offseason is in the secondary. Instead of Kenny Phillips, Dashon Goldson (who I didn’t really want anyway, but many did), LaRon Landry, Chris Clemons, Greg Toler, Chris Houston, or Keenan Lewis, we get…
S Patrick Chung and CB Bradley Fletcher.
Glass half full or half empty? Good players in bad situations or simply mediocre players who fell out of favor with their former team?
Fletcher, 6′ 196 lbs, was a third-round pick in 2009 by St. Louis. He went from starter, to nickel CB, to barely playing at all over the course of his four years there. He also tore his ACL and missed most of the 2011 season.
He fell out of favor with Jeff Fisher after getting called for continuous penalties, with the last straw coming after committing three pass interference penalties in a game against the Patriots last season. After that game, Fletcher would only play 55 more snaps over the last eight weeks of the season.
The good news is, the only real knock against him is the penalties.
The word on him about his coverage abilities is pretty good, plus he’s a physical player and rarely misses a tackle (six missed tackles in four years per PFF). You’ll also hear things like him having the best completion percentage against him per targets.
Besides the penalties and lack of ball-hawking skills (five career INTs), he seems like a pretty nice player. However, at the end of the day, Fletcher is still a question mark.
Maybe he’ll end up being a steal or maybe he’ll end up just being another guy passing through.
Patrick Chung, 5’11” 212 lbs, is very similar to Fletcher in that he was drafted in 2009 (second round), worked his way into a starting role, then ultimately lost his job. He has been hampered by injuries in three out of his four seasons, which likely led to his inconsistent play and loss of trust from his coach.
The upside is that he’s a good in-the-box safety who can blitz, play the run well and likes to get physical. He appears to be merely average in coverage, but makes up for some of his deficiencies with good instincts.
So again, what do you see when you look at him? A decent player when healthy who will be a nice improvement over what we have? Or is he just an average player who can’t stay healthy and won’t provide much of an upgrade?
As far as our need for a nose tackle, I was hoping for someone like Terrance Knighton. However, we ended up with former 49er Isaac Sopoaga, a 6’2” 330 lbs, 31-year old part-time player whom PFF had rated as their fourth worst NT/DT in the NFL this past year.
You’ll hear the positives in that he’s an experienced guy who will provide leadership and is able to clog the middle as the nose tackle. He also offers some versatility in that he can play both the 5-technique and 0-technique.
For the past three seasons, Sopoaga’s total snap count percentage has decreased from 53% to 42% to 32%, respectively (also per PFF). He will be a part-time stop-gap player here that will likely serve as a mentor for a rookie draft pick.
All in all, he’s not a bad signing, but is also not “the answer” at nose tackle. My main question about his signing is why we would sign a descending player? It seems we’re going with a youth movement but we sign a guy who is on the downside of his career.
LB Jason Phillips was signed just to provide depth, and more accurately, a boost to the special teams. In other words, while special teams play is very important, this isn’t a signing to get excited about.
Lastly, is TE/FB James Casey. I actually like this signing because he will be a great fit for Kelly’s offense. I would have preferred Jared Cook, but apparently he was too expensive.
Casey, though, is a good alternative to Cook in regards to the role he will fill. He will not supplant Brent Celek as the starter, but should contribute a lot in certain offensive packages. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how they use him in the red zone.
He’s a versatile player and when asked about how they’ll use him, Kelly referenced Aaron Hernandez in New England. If he can get Hernandez-like production from him, Casey would be quite the free agent coup for the Eagles.
Casey is viewed as a good signing in part because he is more of a luxury rather than a need and will provide an added dimension to the offense. However, Sopoaga, Chung and Fletcher can be viewed as underwhelming or “meh” mostly because we need impact players at these positions.
It’s all about perspective.
Philly is a city that loves football and that particularly takes pride in defense. The defense we’ve seen on the field in recent years has been anywhere from slightly above average to downright terrible. Right now, they’re like an eye sore that needs to be fixed, and fast.
And when you view something as a major need, but address it in a somewhat mundane way, it may cause people to be just a tad more disappointed…even if the moves weren’t that bad.
On the flip side, the Eagles are addressing the problem areas. Maybe Fletcher and Chung are diamonds in the rough who will help turn-around the secondary and Sopoaga will do a good job anchoring the line.
Plus, free agency is not over as there are still some good players to be had. Then, there is still the draft to be able to add some core pieces to the new foundation Kelly is trying to build.
Right now, I’m remaining neutral on the free agent moves so far. I’m not high on them (collectively) nor am I down on them. Do I think they could have done at least a little better? Yes. Could they have done worse? Probably.
The better question is…will they be adding any more significant pieces before the draft?