Why Taylor Mays or Mike Mitchell Could Be Eagles Targets in Free Agency | Eagles Addict

Eagles GM Howie Roseman was interviewed recently by CSNPhilly’s Reuben Frank on 94 WIP.  Naturally, the topic of safety was brought up since it’s the Eagles’ biggest need as we head into this offseason.

Roseman’s comments, as provided by Frank right here, left me feeling a mixture of optimistic and frustrated.

Optimistic because the team seems to understand that safety is a glaring hole that they need to fill, but frustrated because they seem to indicate they will go bargain shopping again so they don’t waste money or have to use a high draft pick at that position.

Frank got the feeling from Roseman that “indicated that the Eagles plan to address their safety issue in free agency and not rely solely on the draft to upgrade their position of greatest need.”

That summation is likely due to Roseman’s comments in response to questions about addressing the need at safety:

“I think, ideally, you don’t want to go into the draft with a huge hole, because that puts you more susceptible to forcing things or kind of pushing guys up,” Roseman said.

“Even if you’re not doing it naturally, it just happens because you look at the depth chart and you go, ‘I don’t have someone at that position. Who’s in the draft?’

“I don’t think that’s what we’d like to do, ideally. I think we’d like to go into the draft like we have the last two years, with a clean slate [and an] open mind. Whoever’s going to be there, we’re gonna stick to our board, and even if it’s a position where it looks like we have a lot of depth, in a year or two it may not be the same way.”

“We want to be careful of going into the draft and just having a big hole there,” Roseman said. “And I think there are things you can do at any position that are short-term stopgaps to get you through the moment if you had to, if you didn’t find someone in the draft.”

“I think we’ve all been spoiled … with the play of Brian Dawkins and just what kind of player he was and being around him and watching him play in big games,” Roseman said.

“You’re trying to find that next guy, and those are big shoes to fill. And so for us … we’re spending a lot of time at that spot, among other spots, and just wanting to do the right thing.

“Not wanting to go out and reach and make a decision that puts us in a hole a couple years from now. Or maybe we don’t have a good player because we pushed someone up the draft board or we spend too much money on a safety that our evaluation of him is a pretty good player but not great, and then not able to sign other guys or really draft other guys.

“We’ve got to get better but we also want to be smart about it.”

Translated: Roseman and the Eagles know they need to address that position and will most likely look to add a mid-level free agent (or two) that would be good enough to fill in for a year or two.

Reuben did mention that Roseman didn’t rule out going after a high-priced safety if available (obviously Byrd and/or Ward).  However, between the above comments and having already talked about approaching free agency the same way they did last year, it would seem that Byrd or Ward are all but out of the picture (even if they do become available).

I would be fine with not going after Byrd or Ward if the plan all along was to be aggressive in the draft and make sure you do what you have to do to land one of the top safeties (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor).

But, that doesn’t appear to be the case either.  The Eagles want the flexibility to take the best player on the board approach.  That’s not a bad philosophy, it’s just that I find it frustrating because the safety position is such a sore spot with me.

Maybe I value the position more than most people, or at least it seems I definitely value it more than the Eagles…which irks me.

In any case, unless they pull a fast one, it seems we can expect the Eagles to focus on the mid-level guys.  So, say goodbye to Byrd and Ward and start getting yourselves familiar with the likes of these guys…

Taylor Mays

Photo: bengals.com

Taylor Mays, 6′ 3″ 220 lbs, turns 26 today.  Many of you are probably already thinking I’m smoking crack for considering Mays here.  He had just as much hype as questions surrounding him heading into the draft back in 2010 and many consider him a bust these days.

He was drafted in the second round by San Fran, then traded to the Bengals after just one season for a measly seventh-rounder in 2013 (two years later).  You can’t get any lower trade value than a 7th round pick in a draft that is 2 years away.

The only clue as to why they would trade him away so soon after spending a high pick on him was that he just fell out of favor by Jim Harbaugh and the new coaching staff in 2011.

Mays’ career since then has been as mostly a backup and special-teamer.  Last season, before landing on IR with a shoulder injury, he was getting more snaps on defense and played multiple positions (including time at linebacker) and seemed to fare “okay.”

The fact that he hasn’t played well enough to lock-down a starting job is cause for concern.  However, he’s young and has the measurables and athletic ability to be used in a variety of ways in Bill Davis’ defense.

Versatility is always key.  And it doesn’t hurt that he’s huge safety that can run a 4.3 40-yard dash (not that it matters if he can’t actually play).

Furthermore, there are two things that could connect him to Philly: Tom Gamble and Chip Kelly.

Gamble was the Director of Pro Personnel when San Fran drafted Mays so he surely had scouted him and/or has some type of input.  Mays also played his college ball at USC and faced Kelly once per year during his time there.

Therefore, Gamble and Kelly should both have a good idea of what he brings to the table…or what de doesn’t bring to the table.  The question is whether or not they think he could flourish under Bill Davis or at least be “good enough” to be a stop-gap with potential upside.

So, while not overly exciting, there is reason to at least think that the Eagles may have some interest.

Chris Clemons

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle

Chris Clemons, 6′ 1″ 214 lbs, will be 29 in September.  Clemons was a free agent last year and there was some speculation that he could have been a player that interested the Eagles.  That obviously proved not to be the case and he ended up signing a one-year deal to remain in Miami.

Clemons absolutely screams Eagles target this time around.  He’s been a solid, yet unspectacular starter and will not command big money.  Pro Football Focus has him as their 19th rated safety in 2013.

He’s not exactly a playmaker as he only has four INTs and two forced fumbles in his five year career.  While I don’t think he’d be that much of an upgrade over just re-signing Nate Allen, he certainly fits the description that Roseman seems to be looking for.

Mike Mitchell

AP Photo/Bob Leverone

Mike Mitchell, 6′ 1″ 220 lbs, will turn 27 in June.  Keep an eye on this guy as well.  Mitchell is a former second-round pick by the Raiders in 2009 but was primarily a backup during his four years there.

He signed a one-year deal with Carolina last year and became their starting strong safety at the beginning of the season.  He was moved to free safety after about a month and ended up having the best season of his career (1st as a starter).

Though he’s just PFF’s 35th ranked safety in 2013, he still posted four INTs, four sacks and two forced fumbles.  He’s also a guy that quickly became the leader of Carolina’s defense and plays aggressively…sometimes too aggressive as he’s prone to get some penalties of the “physical” nature.

Mitchell is also the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks. This past season he made headlines by telling Drew Brees to stop being soft, that Roger Goodell is pocketing money from player fines, and that the refs in the Panthers/49ers playoff game made a few terrible calls.

I’m sure the media and fans would love this guy in Philly.  In addition to being a quote machine, Mitchell is also a smart and physical player that could bring some much-needed intensity to the secondary.

I’ve previously talked about Donte Whitner and he could still be a target that falls in line with Roseman’s mid-level philosophy.  However, like Clemons, he’ll be 29 at the start of the season.  Not that 29 is “old”, I just think the Eagles will want to go as young as possible.

There are some other mid-level safeties (and low-level ones) but none that I find worthwhile to mention here.  The idea is to acquire an upgrade over Nate Allen if we want to “fix” the safety problem.

The only safeties slated to be a free agent that I would consider to be a clear upgrade over Allen are Byrd, Ward and Whitner.  Mitchell is pretty close to being on that list as well and would be if we had a larger body of work to assess.

Clemons, to me, might be a slight upgrade but is someone that would elicit a “meh” reaction.  Mays wouldn’t be a clear upgrade solely at safety, but his combination of size, athleticism and versatility would actually intrigue me more than Clemons.

If the Eagles can’t add any of the above mentioned players, they may as well just re-sign Allen.  Then the hope would be to select a safety within the first two round of the draft.

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3 Responses to Eagles Could Target Mike Mitchell, Taylor Mays or Another Mid-Tier Safety

  1. Walter Threadgill says:

    You aren’t smoking crack over Mays. In fact I feel the same way.

    I like him as a coverage LB/weakside blitzer. The idea of a 4.3 missile into QB’s blindside gives me goosebumps. The very idea of a “bust” who changes an entire blocking scheme just by virtue of where he lines up, tickles me. He’d impact downs just by coming off the sideline.

    I think the guy is a pretty wretched Safety. Fact is, it was telegraphed that he would be. He was protected in college by playing deep centerfield (NFL Singlehigh) most of the time. He got by on sheer athletic talent, and NEVER learned how to play as a true Safety.

    Due to expectations, he was in over his head the second he hit an NFL camp

    • Agreed about never learning to be a true safety. He seems to be better suited to playing in the box or deep coverage in a zone scheme. I’d hate for him to get matched up one on one in coverage against anyone. I’m sure Davis can get creative with him and I’d be intrigued if they signed him, but hopefully they land a true safety rather than a “jack of a couple trades”.

  2. Fine shirt says:

    I think Mays has vastly improved. Play him like kam chancellor and we are in the playoffs

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