As we approach both the NFL free agency period (4 days) and the draft (May 8) everyone is trying to figure out what the Eagles will do to take the team to the next level. There are three ways they can improve: trade, free agents, and the draft.
It’s always tough to predict the moves a team will make because you don’t know their personal assessment of the roster and how they value free agents and potential draft picks. For the Eagles one thing is clear and that is they need to improve the pass rush and the secondary is in need of help. The Eagles will look at free agents with a couple of things in mind: salary and how that player fits the scheme. While doing that the Eagles are also trying to evaluate the depth of the draft, project where players will fall or be picked early, and who they have rated as the best player available. This way they aren’t left with a hole at a position because they banked on a player being available for them. Every move the Eagles make will be a cause and effect type of situation.
Let’s start with free agency. The biggest need for the Eagles is safety. There are a two top-tier safeties available in Jarius Byrd and TJ Ward but team GM Howie Roseman is conscience of the teams spending spree a couple off seasons ago and doesn’t want the same reckless spending debacle to happen again. Other lesser name players who are available March 11, at 4pm are Chris Clemons, Donte Whitner, Malcolm Jenkins, Antoine Bethea, Louis Delmas, and even Taylor Mays.
Both Byrd and Ward expect to demand large sums of money. This isn’t a problem for the Eagles right, since they have $24+ million in projected cap space? You’re right, but if the Eagles are able to get another player, “type B”, who fits the scheme and for way lesser money then I’d fully expect them to go for them instead.
Whitner and Mays should receive serious consideration and here’s why. Whitner has played on a dominant defense for the past three years in San Francisco. He has the experience and not to mention that hard-hitting force that all Eagles fans are craving ever since the days of Brian Dawkins. Whitner wouldn’t command nearly the amount of dollars that Byrd or Ward would but probably around $5 million.
Mays intrigues me the most because of his size and athletic ability. Standing at 6’3″ 230+ lbs and runs a 4.30-40 is something that should intrigue everybody. Mays hits just as hard as any other safety in the league and has played well in Cincinnati after a shaky start to his career in San Fransisco. He’d be a versatile player which the Eagles have stressed as an important quality they look for when evaluating players. With his size you can put him up in the box as basically a linebacker while having the speed to drop into coverage and he can contribute on special teams. Obviously he is a risk and would need working on his technique but I’m confident that the Eagles would be able to make him better. Mays is coming off his rookie contract but he will not go for any more than $2.5 million.
To address the lack of a pass rush the Eagles should consider some of these outside linebackers who wont break the bank either. Parys Haralson, Rob Jackson, and O’Brien Schofield. All of whom already have experience playing in a 3-4. None of these guys jumps out at you and makes you want them but for the right price they could add depth to our outside linebacker unit which even without the proper personnel is thin. Had the Steelers not transition tendered Jason Worilds I would’ve had him on this list and fully supported the idea of signing him.
As for the rest of the defense and free agent targets keep a look out for (WR/KR/RB)Dexter McCluster, (NT)Terrence Cody, and (CB)Sam Shields.
Basing the free agency to play out like I just said, we can now go into the draft with a better idea who we’d select. The Eagles still have a hole at outside linebacker with a pass rush, need depth at corner, safety, offensive line depth, and defensive line depth.
There is the rumor that the Miami Dolphins are entertaining the idea of trading their first pick last year, DE/OLB Dion Jordan. If this is true then the Eagles should jump on this opportunity for a couple of reasons. One being that Jordan has played under Chip Kelly at Oregon, Jordan is better fit for the 3-4 than the 4-3, it wouldn’t take as much as people think to acquire him, and in my opinion he’s better than the players available in this years draft for the outside linebacker position. However, Miami has reasons not to trade him. For instance, he started last year coming off shoulder surgery, they didn’t use him right, and his cap hit would be enormous if they were to trade him. This would be a sweet deal for the Eagles and I’d have to believe almost every Eagles fan would be on board with it. With that being said the odds of this trade happening are slim.
So at pick 22 what do the Eagles do? Well Howie Roseman has stood by the idea that the Eagles will, 9-times-out-of-10, select the best player available. In ESPN’s latest MockDraft3.0 they have both Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix well off the board by the time the Eagles pick which is likely to happen. Now who do they select? Do they go with the pass rusher they need or do they add depth at corner? If one of the top two safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, are available at 22 then the Eagles will likely go with them even if they do sign some free agent safeties which changes up the draft board.
For me the pick is Dee Ford out of Auburn. Although I don’t like any of the 3-4 pass rushers that will be around by the time we’re on the clock, he’s still the best player available. Ford possesses great athletic ability and instincts as a pass rusher. He wouldn’t be called on right away to start and likely would be a pass rushing specialist kind of like what the Seahawks did with Bruce Irvin.
In the second round there will be some excellent corners to pick from as well as safeties. But here comes that pick that every year fans don’t see coming. Xavier Su’a-Filo a guard from UCLA has quick feet ad can move in space which is what Chip Kelly looks for in his lineman. If you hadn’t noticed, last year Todd Herremans struggled a lot at guard for one reason or another and he’s getting old.
Third round we address the depth at cornerback. Stanley Jean-Baptiste has the size that we’d love to see here and he wouldn’t be needed to make an immediate impact coming in as the teams fourth corner on the depth chart which will give him time to develop.
In the fourth round we draft added depth to our safeties by selecting Terrence Brooks from Florida State. Brooks displays a decent all-around game kind of reminding me of Earl Wolff when coming out last year.
Round number five we find Nick Foles backup and Matt Barkley’s competition, Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Thomas isn’t here at this point in the draft so if he isn’t I still have the Eagles picking a quarterback but instead it’s either Taj Boyd or James Franklin.
Round five: Prince Shembo, OLB
Round seven: Mister Cobble, NT
To recap, we sign Donte Whitner, Taylor Mays, Parys Haralson, and Dexter McCluster. Draft Dee Ford, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrence Brooks, Logan Thomas, Prince Shembo, and Mister Cobble.