How active the Eagles can or will be once the 2017 free agency period kicks off will largely depend on what kind of room under the salary cap they will ultimately have. There will be cuts and possibly some contract restructures to help, and Howie Roseman can find creative ways to manage the cap.
With that said, it’s also worth wondering how active the Eagles will want to be.
In his end-of-year press conference, Roseman spoke (negatively) about the use of bandaids at certain positions (he specifically mentioned the CB position) and wanting to build a young nucleus.
He talked about being patient and building for the long haul while also recognizing needs at multiple positions. It seemed as though he was trying to give the impression that he intends to build primarily through the draft, target younger players and to avoid “bandaids” and/or over-priced veterans.
However, it’s not as if the Eagles will be doing nothing come free agency. The question is whether or not they will go after any of the more expensive free agents or just stick to fishing in the small pond.
So, let’s place some odds on each big name free agent that could interest the Eagles. These odds may not be as good as the ones you’d find with NFL betting odds at William Hill, but they’ll have to do for now.
For this exercise, we’re just going to assume that all of the below players actually make it to the open market. And if so, who might the Eagles be most interested in.
Also, I’m only focusing on the two biggest positions of need (WR and CB). Yes, they have other needs such as RB and OL depth, but those are more likely to be addressed via the draft.
WR DeSean Jackson – Odds of signing him: 15-1.
I think the interest from the Eagles’ side will be lukewarm, mainly because of how many more years of high-level play can be expected from a guy whose game is about speed and will turn 31 next season.
Jackson is still churning out big plays and did so plenty of times this past season. I think he’d be a decent bet to keep doing his thing next season, but what about the season after that?
Jackson’s eventual decline will come, and it won’t be a gradual one. It will be more of the sudden variety in that one year he still looks decent and the next year be a total non-factor.
This doesn’t exactly fit the mold that Roseman claims to be looking for.
But, I cannot totally rule out a DJax reunion. I just think he would be more of a backup plan versus Plan A.
WR Terrelle Pryor – Odds of signing him: 12-1.
Pryor will be an intriguing player to watch if he becomes available. I think the Eagles would have interest, but they might not be willing to gamble on a guy that just finished his only year playing the WR position.
He put up pretty good numbers this year (77-1,007-4) for a player transitioning positions in an offense that was highly dysfunctional due to a constant QB carousel. But, what do you pay a guy like him?
Paying him big money will be a sizable gamble. And for a team that will likely be tight against the cap, I’m not sure they’d feel good about taking that kind of risk with what little money they may have.
WR Alshon Jeffery – Odds of signing him: 10-1.
Here’s a guy that seemed to be well on his way to stardom after two great seasons in 2013 and 2014. Now, he seems like much less of a sure thing after struggling with injuries and a suspension over the course of the last two seasons.
I can really see Jeffery as being in the top two of the Eagles’ wish list this offseason. He’s still young, has had quality production and would immediately give the offense a weapon that defenses would have to respect next year.
This one will come down to money and Howie would have to work his cap magic to make it happen. Jeffery will be the top WR on the market and thus will be looking to get PAID.
Questions are, can the Eagles afford it and would he be worth it?
WR Kendall Wright – Odds of signing him: 10-1.
I wouldn’t really say Wright is a “big name” free agent but he could be one of the more realistic targets for the Eagles. He certainly won’t command a large contract, but there’s a reason for that.
The reason is that the former first-round pick has been, at best, inconsistent throughout his five year career. After his first two seasons, he looked to be establishing himself as a quality receiver who can play the part of the safe possession guy but could also get the occasional big play.
There is one correlation though. The head coach who drafted Wright was Mike Munchak. Wright’s best seasons were his first two with Munchak, but then started his fade after Munchak was fired.
Between injuries, three total coaching changes and a QB change, it’s possible Wright just hasn’t been able to settle in. He has shown flashes of ability, but has obviously had his struggles.
I don’t see Wright as Plan A, but I can see him being on the radar. I give him the same odds as Jeffery, but for different reasons.
WR Kenny Stills – Odds of signing him: 5-1.
I give the best odds to Stills among the WRs because of age, cost and fit. He’s basically a younger version of Jackson, just not as talented. Tim McManus had a good piece about a week ago explaining why Stills could be the target of choice for the Birds.
I’d like the addition of Stills as long as it wasn’t the only addition. As in, signing him wouldn’t deter me from drafting a WR in Round 1 of the upcoming draft. However, having Stills would definitely help open things up underneath for Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz.
CB A.J. Bouye – Odds of signing him: 20-1.
Bouye has enjoyed a breakout year at the best time possible for him (contract year). He’s a former UDFA and has spent all four years of his career in Houston. The question is, is he a one-year wonder?
Even with his limited resume, Bouye will likely be considered the best CB on the open market. Somewhat similar to the Terrelle Pryor situation, what do you pay a guy who’s had one good year?
Again, it’s a big gamble and probably too big for a player who won’t be a sure thing for a team with as many needs as the Eagles.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick – Odds of signing him: 15-1.
The Eagles would likely have a decent level of interest in Kirkpatrick. He’s entering his prime and is a solid player, if unspectacular. Unfortunately, as is the case in free agency, “solid” players get paid like studs.
With that said, I think he’d be a better investment than was Byron Maxwell. I’d give him better odds of being a top Eagles target if, say, he had previously played for a certain defensive coordinator.
Speaking of that…
CB Stephon Gilmore – Odds of signing him: 7-1.
Gilmore will most likely be the top target at CB. I mean, just like McKelvin, Brooks and Bradham, he played for Jim Schwartz at one point. That’s the prerequisite for a defender to be a free agent signee for the Eagles.
In all seriousness, I do think there will be a good level of interest in Gilmore. He’s still young so he doesn’t exactly fit the “bandaid” description. We would just have to hope he would get back to playing at the level he did under Schwartz before.
Obviously, who is available come free agency will determine the Eagles’ level of interest. Here is what I’m hoping…
I think the best case scenario would be to find a way to land Gilmore and Stills. That would allow for better flexibility in the draft and allow their first pick to truly be the BPA (which I’m hoping would be Corey Davis or Mike Williams!).
How realistic it is to think that the Eagles will be able to afford Gilmore and Stills is unknown. As things stand at this moment, it wouldn’t be realistic at all.
However, I fully expect the Eagles’ cap situation to look dramatically different come March 9th. And we can never underestimate what Howie Roseman can do, this is the area where he really shines.