We all know the Eagles’ biggest needs are at WR and CB this offseason. In fact, we all know this team has several needs this offseason and that’s why at this time of year it’s easy to dream-up numerous ways to address all of them.
Sign Alshon Jeffery and/or Kenny Stills. Sign Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick. Select Mike Williams, Corey Davis or one of the top Corners in Round 1 of the draft and go for the best option at the opposite position in Round 2.
Hell, sign both Jeffery and Gilmore and draft Dalvin Cook in Round 1! I’m being facetious, of course, but you get my point. There are numerous ways to “skin a cat” with the cat being this Eagles team that needs help at several positions.
But, what is the best way to go about it? What avenues give us the best value? What will the team be able to afford to do in free agency? What should they do?
Most of the talk so far has all focused on receivers, running backs and cornerbacks with an occasional thought about pass rushers. While those are all certainly needs, what about strengthening the offensive line?
With all the talk about surrounding Carson Wentz with talent at the skill positions, we could argue that surrounding him with the best offensive line is even more important for his continued development.
As things stand right now, there are only three sure-fire starters for next season: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. Peters, as you’re well aware, is of the “elderly” status in terms of the typical NFL career.
Questions remain about LG and there has also been some buzz about Jason Kelce being on the chopping block. I like Kelce and his 2016 season appeared to be “okay” overall after recovering from some initial struggles, but why settle for “okay” if you can do better?
I like the idea of moving Seumalo to Center…permanently. He’s bigger, stronger and is said to have a good football IQ. I’d like to see he and Wentz grow together in that regard.
So, if that happened, the next question is what to do at Left Guard. I have never really been an Allen Barbre fan as far as being a starter goes. I like him as a backup. I like Wisniewski better than Barbre and think he would be a passable starter, but I still think we can do better.
If there is a way to make the LG position better, I’m all for it. So, I started checking out the OG market for free agency this year and one name quickly stuck out to me…
He’s the best Guard currently set to hit the market. Would he be an upgrade for the Eagles? Absolutely! A big one. He’ll be 27 in March and has proven to be a quality player since being drafted by the Bengals in the first round of the 2012 draft.
The only issues are that he has played RG since entering the league (and was primary position in college as well) and that he will not come cheap. It’s hard to say how much of a problem it would be to switch from RG to LG, but it isn’t as daunting as switching between RT and LT.
If the Eagles only made one “big” free agent signing and it happened to be Zeitler (or any offensive lineman), I’d be perfectly content with that.
I’m not saying that Zeitler or any free agent offensive lineman would be a better allocation of resources than, say, the top WR or CB on the market, I’m just saying that I would approve of the philosophy of investing in Wentz’ protection.
An offensive line consisting of Peters, Zeitler, Seumalo, Brooks and Johnson sounds very appealing to me. A strong offensive line can make average skill players look good and make a good QB look great.
If the Eagles either can’t, or don’t want to, pay big bucks for Zeitler, here are some other cheaper options that should be available.
Chance Warmack –
Now, here’s a really interesting possibility. Warmack was a very highly rated lineman coming out in the 2013 draft and was selected 10th overall by the Titans. He has been their starter at RG since Day 1.
His career thus far has been average, but apparently not quite good enough for the Titans to exercise their fifth-year option on him. Warmack also seemed to lay blame at the feet of his position coach for some of his struggles (true or not, it’s never good to hear players “make excuses”).
With that said, here’s why I think Warmack could be of interest to the Eagles: He grew into a dominant Guard at Alabama over the last two years in college. His position coach at that time was none other than Jeff Stoutland, the Eagles’ current OL coach.
He also played LG in college under Stoutland. Coming out of Alabama, Warmack was considered a dominant road-grading type of player with just enough athleticism to play in space on pulls and screens.
Warmack will turn just 26 in September and is a player I could certainly see the Eagles being interested in. He won’t be exactly cheap, but also won’t be too expensive either. He could be the Eagles’ overall best option when considering addressing multiple needs via free agency.
Luke Joeckel –
How about having the 2013 No. 2 and No. 3 overall draft picks on the same offensive line? Joeckel has struggled playing the tackle position for Jacksonville since being drafted right before the Eagles took Lane Johnson.
The Jags moved him inside to LG during training camp last summer and the word was that he looked much better in this position. He became the starter at LG and performed well before suffering a knee injury in early October that ended his season.
The injury required surgery to his ACL, MCL and meniscus so it sounds like a major one. So, is signing a guy who struggled at the position he was drafted for and not having much time for evaluation at the Guard position — and whom is coming off a major injury — worth it?
Plus, he may not even be ready for training camp. Much will depend on his medical status and where he’s at in his recovery. If he was on track to be ready by August, I think he could be worth a one-year “prove it” deal for the minimum. At still just 25 years old, Joeckel can still have a solid future at Guard.
Tim Lelito – Former UDFA signed by the Saints, has some starting experience at LG, RG and C (versatile), but has not quite been able to earn and keep a starting role. Will turn 28 in July, would be a cheap option in free agency but it’s questionable if he’d be an upgrade over Wisniewski and/or Barbre.
Larry Warford – Former third round pick of the Lions, has played well overall over the past four seasons as a starter. Still young, but could be too pricey for the Eagles and has only ever played Right Guard. Don’t see them having much interest here.
Ron Leary – Another interesting option who has mostly played well over his five year career with Dallas. And, his primary position is LG. However, I’m somewhat leery of Leary (pun intended) because his perceived success could be a product of playing with a really good offensive line.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the Eagles’ plan is regarding the OL. They could retain Kelce at Center and just put Seumalo at LG.
Again, that would be “okay”, but I would like to see better than just okay. I want to have a young, solid unit that can gel together for the next four to five years and allow Wentz to play his game while having full trust in his line.
Yes, we need at least one or two WRs, one or two CBs, a Running Back and a pass rusher…but let’s not forget about solidifying the offensive line. You can have all the skill players in the world and it wouldn’t matter if the OL isn’t effective.