Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles will have a plan ready for the start of the 2014 free agency period. Unfortunately, we have to wait 25 more days to start seeing what that plan entails.
For the time being, I’ve decided to take a stab at both what I think the Eagles should do as well as what I think they will do. Many times fans get wrapped into thinking about what the team should do, no matter how realistic or unrealistic that may be.
Therefore, when coming up with a plan, here are some things to consider:
- 1. How much money the team has to spend.
- 2. How much of that money do they need to allocate to extending their own players?
- 3. Can they afford to spend X amount of money on one premier free agent and still take care of other needs?
- 4. Will shelling out big money to one player put them in a future salary cap bind?
- 5. Value of players available at positions of need versus salary demand of those players (i.e., are they worth it?)
- 6. What does the draft look like and can they feasibly fill spots with similarly talented players for a fraction of the cost?
- 7. How will signing player X impact the team atmosphere?
- 8. Supply and demand.
- 9. Age and potential of player going forward
There are still several other factors to consider when formulating a plan, but those are the basics. Roseman has indicated on multiple occasions so far this offseason that they don’t want to overspend and will take a similar approach as they did last offseason (target mid-level players).
So, we can either take what Roseman says at face value and expect nothing but a few mid-tier type of guys, or, still think that there is a chance the team will go after a blue-chip free agent.
Certainly we should not expect them to land any more than one blue chip free agent. For example, don’t expect Brian Orakpo and Jairus Byrd to become Eagles in March. But, as of right now before anyone has re-signed or been tagged, there are some players in all money tiers that can help this team win in 2014.
With all of that stated, here is my best initial guess as to what players the Eagles could do based on the following formula: team need, talent of player, cost of player and factoring in possible draft targets.
Again, this is a combination of what I think they should do and what I think they will do.
1. Re-sign Maclin or Cooper. Frankly, whomever will count less against the cap should be the choice as I don’t see either of these guys being head and shoulders above the other.
2. Extend Jason Kelce
3. Re-sign Donnie Jones
4. Re-sign Colt Anderson (special teams ace)
5. Sign DT/NT Paul Soliai. The Eagles need to get stronger up front, especially in the middle. Soliai is 6′ 4″, 344 lbs and is extremely stout in the middle. He played the 3-4 nose tackle position for four years before Miami switched to a 4-3 in 2012.
The only downside to Soliai is that he’ll be 31 in December so he doesn’t quite fit the “go young” mindset. But, he shouldn’t command big money and could prove to be an invaluable piece to a defense that will want to contend for a title in 2014.
I have given thought to someone like Linval Joseph as well. Joseph is much younger and has the size but not the experience in the scheme. He was widely projected as a 3-4 NT coming out of college but has spent his four year NFL career as a 4-3 DT playing mostly the one-technique.
Although the one-technique is somewhat similar to a zero technique 3-4 NT in that they take on double-teams, they’re different in that the Eagles use a two-gap DL scheme whereas Joseph has played one-gap.
With that said, if Bill Davis thinks Joseph’s learning curve wouldn’t be too steep, he might be the way to go only because of his age and longer future ahead.
B.J. Raji is another possibility if the team feels he can get back to his production level when he played NT with Green Bay. However, I’d certainly prefer the above two players to Raji.
6. Sign S Mike Mitchell. Would Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward be preferred? Absolutely! But, there is growing speculation that Ward will be tagged and Byrd could still be tagged as well.
This is certainly more along the lines of what they will do rather than should do. If they have a chance to get Byrd or Ward, that is what they should do. However, Mitchell would be the next best alternative.
I like him over someone like Chris Clemons because he’s two years younger and has a reputation as being a smart, physical, intense and emotional leader. Combining someone like him with Cary Williams will start to give our secondary some serious attitude.
*Note: Detroit released S Louis Delmas yesterday. I still like Mitchell better overall, but if they could get Delmas on a highly incentive laden deal (he’s a serious injury risk) he could be a low risk high reward type of player.
7. Sign WR/RS Jacoby Ford. The Eagles need a serious upgrade in the return game and that is the main reason for signing Ford. This, in essence, would mean the end of the line for Damaris Johnson.
Ford is only 5′ 9″, but is a compact 190 lbs. He is also really, really fast. He ran a blazing 4.28 40 at the combine in 2010.
Ford made a splash as a deep threat receiver in his rookie season but has only collected a total of 57 catches for 848 yards and 3 TDs in three NFL seasons. He missed the entire 2012 season with a Lis Franc injury to his foot.
While Chip Kelly may think of ways to utilize him on offense, his impact would be in the return game. In three seasons he’s played, he has a 25 yard average on 75 kickoff returns and returned four for touchdowns.
He didn’t start returning punts until last year with nine for 77 yards.
8. Sign OLB O’Brien Schofield. Would Brian Orakpo be nice? Sure. Realistic? Nope. So why Schofield? Main reason is for depth and familiarity with Bill Davis’ scheme.
Schofield was drafted by Arizona when Davis was the DC there. He played both OLB positions in the Cardinals’ defense and posted 10.5 sacks and 2 FFs in his three years there.
However the real key behind signing someone like Schofield comes down to this…
Trent Cole is still on this team. If the Eagles go for a big name, high-priced OLB in free agency, you basically are saying that player is going to be the starter. I can’t see the Eagles bringing in a big ticket guy and demoting Cole.
Unless the plan was to trade him. If they did plan on shipping Cole off to another team, I would see Jason Worilds as a prime target. However, if the Eagles trade any OLB this offseason, the more likely candidate will be Brandon Graham.
If not Schofield, I could see the Eagles being interested in Redskins OLB Rob Jackson. He filled in admirably for Orakpo in 2012 and posted 4.5 sacks, 2 FFs and 1 INT. Obviously, both he and Schofield would be mid-level depth signings.
However, Schofield is younger and more versatile than Jackson.
9. Sign DE Tyson Jackson. Another big man to add some power and stoutness at the point of attack and be a part of the rotation.
Pro Football Focus has him as the 14th ranked overall 3-4 DE in 2013 and in the top 10 against the run. Last season he had four sacks, four batted passes and 23 “stops” (a PFF stat that means “tackles that constitue an offensive failure”).
While there will always be several low level acquisitions as well as possible trades and cuts, I see the above as being the “meat” of the free agency process.
Those are five free agents that both make sense and are of the mid-level tier. The only question to which I can’t answer is how each would fit in with the team chemistry aspect, but none of them have any known question marks in regards to character.
This also gives them the flexibility in the draft that Howie Roseman wants in order to take the best player available approach.
It doesn’t completely answer the team’s needs at safety and OLB, but it allows for the team to draft young players to groom and potentially take over in a year or two. My bet is that OLB and safety will be addressed within the first four rounds of the draft, possibly within the first three.
Would I love a free agency that included signing players like Worilds or Orakpo and Byrd or Ward? Absolutely. However, getting one of each of them is simply not realistic.
Getting one of those four is still possible, but the chances could be slim for the following reasons:
Orakpo – Redskins will either tag him or re-sign him. I just can’t see them letting him go.
Ward – Since the question of whether he or Alex Mack would be tagged is probably answered by the fact that tagging Mack, a center, would cost the Browns “left tackle” money since all offensive linemen are lumped together in regards to the franchise tag figure.
Therefore, if the Browns are going to place the tag on anyone, it’ll most likely be Ward (even though I think Mack would be the more valuable player for them going forward).
Worilds – He would require starter money and I just can’t see it with Cole still on board.
Byrd – Candidate for a second consecutive franchise tag. He will also command the most money on the open market if he makes it. Would the Eagles pay it?
In any case, the above free agency plan was designed based on Roseman’s statements as well as keeping an eye towards the draft, as you will see in my first mock in the near future.