Before the NFL Draft takes place, there’s this crazy time period between March 10th and mid-April called “free agency.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a time when mediocre players get paid like studs and studs get paid like Gods.
Much of the attention right now is on the NFL Combine, the upcoming draft and whether or not the Eagles will (or should) trade up for Marcus Mariota. The Mariota debate will continue to dominate headlines for the next 10 weeks.
However, free agency is just under three weeks away and it will be the first opportunity for the Eagles to improve their team. The problem is, and has been for quite some time, that just how good is player X if he actually makes it to the open market?
Rarely do you ever see difference-making players make it to free agency so most times we’re left with middle-of-the-road players with some being slightly better than others. The trick is identifying which of these players can flourish in your scheme.
The other trick is trying not to grossly overpay for a player who becomes a “hot commodity” due to the scarcity of talent and overwhelming demand at his position, but is really just average starter material.
Sure, that player can come in and start for you, but when you measure their productivity against their paycheck, there may be some serious discrepancies.
In any case, this isn’t to say that a team can’t make themselves better by adding some quality free agents. And this year may be the most important year for Chip Kelly and his Eagles.
Kelly will be entering Year 3 with two 10-win seasons and one playoff appearance under his belt. There are still several question marks on the roster at high profile positions. He needs to start definitively answering them and that begins on March 10th.
We all know that defense is the biggest need for this team. So, the expectation is that’s where most of the attention will be come free agency. However, there could be some offensive guys of interest as well depending on any changes the coaches decide to make.
All of these players could be of interest to the Eagles should they be available when the clock strikes 4pm on March 10th…
CB Chris Culliver, 6′ 199 lbs, 26 years old, San Fran
Four INTs and one FF in 2014. Was a college safety and converted to corner. Has experience in both man and zone coverage. Sparked wide criticism with what was perceived as “anti-gay remarks” back in 2013 (Michael Sam) but hey, we have Riley Cooper.
He fits the bill as far as size and offers some versatility. The main question is if he can hold up in man coverage most of the time since that is Bill Davis’ preference.
CB Davon House, 6′ 195 lbs, 25 years old, Green Bay
One INT, one FF and 10 passes defensed in 2014. Has been primarily a backup in Green Bay with only 14 starts in four seasons. Has size, speed and loves to be physical with receivers in man coverage. Could be seen as an up-and-comer who needs a chance to start.
Could also be a cheaper option since he hasn’t been a starter. Also plays on special teams, which you know Kelly will love. I’d really watch for this guy if he hits the open market.
CB Byron Maxwell, 6′ 1″ 207 lbs, turns 27 next week, Seattle
This is everyone’s premier free agent cornerback and is probably the guy most Eagles fans are hoping for. He does have the qualities the Eagles look for, no doubt, but I can’t help but question exactly how much he benefitted from his mates in the secondary.
Maxwell will be highly sought-after in free agency and I’m not sure the Eagles will engage in a bidding war for him. I think they’ll have interest, but once his price goes up too far they will bow out.
S Rahim Moore, 6′ 1″ 195 lbs, just turned 25 years old, Denver
Four INTs, two FFs and five passes defensed in 2014. Moore has been a key piece in Denver’s improved secondary and is a player still on the rise. He is a smart player with an excellent work ethic, two qualities that will endear him to Kelly and Davis.
S Da’Norris Searcy, 5′ 11″ 207 lbs, 26 years old, Buffalo
Three INTs, two FFs and five passes defensed in 2014. Took over a starting position after Jairus Byrd left last offseason. Is more of a strong safety type, which might limit the Eagles’ interest, but does have cover skills and versatility as he has been used as a quasi-linebacker in sub packages.
OLB Jason Worilds, 6′ 2″ 262 lbs, turns 27 in March, Pittsburgh
7.5 sacks, one FF, one INT and two passes defensed in 2014. Worilds was apparently high on the Eagles’ list of FA targets last offseason before he decided to re-sign with the Steelers before the start of free agency.
Versatile defender that would give Davis more flexibility with which OLB to drop into coverage.
OLB Brooks Reed, 6′ 3″ 254 lbs, turns 28 this month, Houston
Three sacks, one INT and four passes defensed in 2014. Given how much the Eagles are enamored with former Texans, Reed is basically a lock to be an Eagle next month. I kid, of course, but it’s still a decent possibility.
Reed hasn’t had an overly productive career and was actually slated to move to ILB this past season after Houston drafted Clowney. However, he’s shown some versatility, will be a cheaper option and would be a decent fit for the Eagles’ defense.
OLB Sam Acho, 6′ 3″ 257 lbs, 26 years old, Arizona
One sack, one INT and three passes defensed in 2014. Older brother of current Eagles LB Emmanuel Acho, he could be an under-the-radar target of the Eagles. However, I’d view him as more of a Brandon Graham replacement rather than being brought in as a starter (unless the pickings get slim).
OLB Pernell McPhee, 6′ 3″ 280 lbs, 26 years old, Baltimore
7.5 sacks, one FF and four passes defensed in 2014. If the Eagles let Trent Cole go, I could see them looking at McPhee as a replacement. Like Cole, though, coverage is not a big part of McPhee’s game as he was rarely asked to do so in the Ravens’ defense.
Rather, he excels more as a pass rusher and is solid against the run. He is capable of rushing from the outside as well as the inside which gives him some versatility in other ways.
RB C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
The Eagles reportedly attempted to trade for Spiller last offseason and were still rumored to be interested prior to the trade deadline during the season. The attempted trade was prior to acquiring Darren Sproles but if the Eagles have any intention of trading LeSean McCoy, Spiller could be viewed as a replacement.
RB Mark Ingram, Saints
I could see the Eagles being interested in Ingram, but only if they trade McCoy (same reasoning here as the interest in Spiller). Ingram looked pretty good this past year when given a chance to be a feature back and he’d fit nicely with Kelly’s scheme.
He’s still young, not much wear and tear, and has a 4.2 yard per carry average over his four year career with the Saints. Power runner and has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
WR Torrey Smith, Ravens
I’ve been eyeing-up Smith for a while now. However, I’d like him much more if he was in addition to (not a replacement for) Jeremy Maclin.
Smith’s average of 16.9 yards per catch over his four year career isn’t that big of a difference when compared to DeSean Jackson’s 17.7. And that’s how I view Smith…as someone who can revive Jackson’s old role in Kelly’s offense.
Smith is still young (just turned 26), has good speed and is a decent deep threat. He’s also a better red zone threat than Jackson was. He shouldn’t break the bank in terms of money either.
OL Orlando Franklin, Denver
The only way I see the Eagles being interested in any starting caliber offensive lineman in free agency is if they decide to cut ties with Todd Herremans. If that were to happen, Franklin would be a key guy to look at.
He’s proven to be one of the more versatile linemen in that he played LT and LG in college, then played his first three seasons in Denver at RT before moving to LG last year. He’s played well in every position and could easily slide in at RG and provide flexibility along the OL.
He’s five years younger than Herremans and would provide some beef to the interior (Franklin is listed at 6′ 7″, 320 lbs). OL is an area the Eagles need to address with some youth so I’m more expecting them to attack this area in the draft.
There are a few popular perspective free agents I left off the list such as Devin McCourty and Kareem Jackson. I expect McCourty to re-sign with the Patriots and while Jackson could be a target, he doesn’t fit their physical profile for outside corners.
I also tried to keep my list to younger players who are just entering their primes. So, players like Tramon Williams, Charles Tillman or Brandon Flowers were disregarded.
In an ideal world, I’d love the Eagles to land Maxwell, House, Moore, Worilds and Franklin. That’s probably not realistic though as that will require significant money.
Perhaps more realistically we could expect House, Culliver and Worilds. In any case, I hope they get at least one of the defensive backs from the above list.