Monday, March 17, 2014

Look Ahead At Free Agency Week Two

It's been about a week since free agency started and countless transactions have been faxed to the NFL office. On paper, the Eagles have had a very smart, productive week. Nobody will know for sure until the players take the field, but the buzz is warranted.

Nate Allen re-signed this morning to a one-year $2 million deal. I think it's a wise decision. Allen played solid football down the stretch last season and he knows the defense. It's a small deal so it doesn't strap the organization financially.

With Nate Allen in the fold, the Eagles are likely done signing safeties in free agency. There are still many areas of need that should be addressed prior to the draft. I've narrowed it down to four priorities:

  1. Defensive line depth
  2. OLB depth
  3. Kicker competition
  4. Lack of draft picks
The defensive line is a promising unit for Philadelphia. Starters Cedric Thorton, Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox are young and ascending. However, after the starting unit there's too many question marks.

Joe Kruger, Damion Square, and Vinny Curry are the line reserves. While Curry has promise, Square didn't manage to make an impact in his rookie season and Kruger never played a down. Sure, this position group will likely gain a player after the NFL Draft. But free agency still holds a few players who could fill this need now.
  • Alex Carrington is a big, versatile player. At only 26, he's flashed pass-rush ability. There are injury concerns and the Eagles haven't shown interest yet.
  • Corey Wootton could be an impact player in 2014. At 6-6 270 lbs, he's shown serious pass-rush potential. Playing as a 4-3 DE in Chicago, he didn't have the speed to be a consistent force. But many scouts view his true potential as a 3-4 DE.
  • Pat Sims is a strong NT prospect from Oakland. Starting 16 games last season, he graded out very highly by ProFootballFocus at +14.7. He might be looking for a team who will give him the starting job, but he could compete for playing time in Philly.
  • Adam Carriker was cut from division rival Washington. Carriker is only on this list assuming he's earned a clean bill of health. He's 30 years old and doesn't fit the ascending player theme Howie Roseman has implemented. Having said that, he's 6-6 300 lbs and would be effective in a rotational role if healthy.
Wootton has rare upside in a depleted market.
The Eagles missed out on all the impact edge-rushers in free agency, but wisely did so. The money commanded by run-down veterans with name recognition was preposterous. I don't think the Eagles need to address this position via free agency, but I think it would be wise to do so.

There are two names I'm watching as solid insurance policies for Howie to consider:
  • Rob Jackson makes so much sense to me. He's young, just reaching his prime, and has coveted comfort as a 3-4 OLB. He's filled in for Brian Orakpo in Washington when injuries arose, and has good size at 6-4 266. He's visiting Oakland and Philadelphia hasn't shown interest yet, but he should be very affordable.
  • O'Brien Schofield had his deal taken off the table from the Giants when he failed a physical. That sounds unattractive, but he played a good amount of snaps in the Super Bowl, so what happened between then and now? Schofield has proven to be productive when given playing time. If his health checks out, he would be an asset to the defense.
Alex Henery must be pushed this off-season. But in a deep draft class, I don't want a draft pick allocated to kicker. There aren't really any quality kickers available on the market. After missing out on Steven Hauschka, the market consists of David Akers, Lawrence Tynes and Rian Lindell. All above 36 and not wanted by their old teams.

Here are a couple promising kickers who could go undrafted this May:
  • Nate Freese had a great year at Boston College. He connected on all 20 of his field-goal attempts in '13 and has made 38 out of 40 over the past two seasons. He was 2-2 from 50+ and 4-4 from 40+ last season.
  • Anthony Fera from Texas is a very promising kicker. He went 20-22 last season for the Longhorns, showing plenty of leg to translate to the NFL.
The last area of need is to accumulate more draft picks. Many fans just say, "Call up a team and get a fourth-round pick for Bryce Brown." But it's not very easy to convince teams to give up draft picks. Here's a hint, the other 31 teams realize this is an extremely deep draft as well.

I see Bryce Brown and Vinny Curry having legitimate interest on the market. They are on club-friendly deals and are very young players. The RB position doesn't carry much value any more these days, but I could see a team willing to give up a late-5th or early-6th round pick. Curry could command a fourth-round pick.
Curry is a valuable piece, is a 4th round pick enough compensation?
Brandon Graham would be harder to part with. He's due $1.7 million in 2014 and then he's a free agent. Would a team be willing to pay that money for an unproven player, give up a draft pick, then risk him leaving after the season? I have my doubts.

DeSean Jackson is interesting. I don't think he fits the atmosphere Chip Kelly is trying to implement. He does have a diva attitude, and he can be a hot head. However, he is flat out dynamic on the field. Chip Kelly has the best arsenal of weapons in football, would he really give up his most explosive asset?

Kelly had a chance to shoot down speculation when he was asked the question, but he dodged it. According to, a reliable agent said he heard "there's no way" Jackson is back with Philadelphia.

I still have doubts Jackson is traded. But everyday is makes more and more sense. He would likely bring back the highest draft pick, despite his enlarged cap number. It's definitely something that must be monitored over the weeks leading up to the draft.

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