After a couple busy days in free agency, it’s time to step back and take stock of where the team is and where it might be going.
First, regardless of where you believe the team’s weaknesses are, the Eagles deserve a very high grade for what they’ve done so far. As I showed after day one, they’ve hit on most of my “wish list” and there are still plenty of players out there and no reason the team will not sign anyone else. I do have a few concerns, but I’ll get to those later.
The surface $ numbers surprised me on a couple of the deals (Barwin and Williams), but the reported guaranteed numbers make a lot more sense. The Eagles haven’t hamstrung themselves with any outrageous deals, which is (or should be) rule #1 for FA.
Now for specifics:
Chip Kelly doesn’t give a fuck about Graham, Cole, Curry, or anyone else on the roster.
After the Barwin signing, a lot of people are worried about how Kelly will fit the DEs into the scheme, which is flawed thinking. Kelly has no ties to these players. Right now he is signing any player he believes will be a good fit for his system, as long as they take reasonable contracts.
If at the end of the day that means Cole and Graham are relegated to the bench, so be it. Kelly’s not going to lose sleep over that.
Overall, I think he’ll enter camp with an open competition for just about every position, and go from there. That was his MO at Oregon, and I see no reason why he’d change his philosophy here. I’m as excited as anyone about how Graham played last year, but Kelly is not going to alter his plan just to keep a guy like that on the field.
I believe you can summarize the Eagles FA philosophy like this: Add depth/talent, breed competition, don’t kill your cap, and let the depth chart shake itself out in camp.
Still need another DT:
The team still needs to add a DT. RJF seemed to be the perfect guy, but the money didn’t make sense. They could (and likely will) add someone in the draft. If it were me, even with a rookie addition, I’d want another low-budget veteran that has some experience in a 3-4.
Don’t get too excited about the safeties:
Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips, when healthy, would be BIG upgrades over what the Eagles had last year. Not sure if I have made this point before, but the Eagles Safeties last year were SO bad, that merely getting league average play from them this year would be a huge improvement.
In light of that, the Eagles really didn’t need to do much to start fixing that area of the team. My problem with Chung and Phillips is that they took on risk when they didn’t need to. I really like the upside of both players, but both are SIGNIFICANT injury risks. That means there’s a distinct possibility that, at some point in the season, the Eagles will be left with the same starting safeties as last year.
Again, I like both signings; they’re the definition of low-risk/medium-reward as far as the numbers go. However, I’d have felt better if they had added an average level veteran that they KNEW was going to be available every game, even if he provided just mediocre play.
I’d be shocked if Eagles don’t add a S in the draft (they may do so as high as the 2nd round), so perhaps that’s where the additional player comes in.
In any case, don’t get too excited about the secondary being “fixed”. Odds are one of the guys they signed (if not more) is going to either get injured or not pan out. That’s why you have to throw a lot of shit at the wall; not everything’s gonna stick.
For the record, Connor Barwin did have a down year last season. However, he is just 26 years old, and even off his peak from two years ago is far better than most of the LBs we have. He also has a LOT of 3-4 experience. This was a great signing, even if he doesn’t get close to double-digit sacks.
The starting CBs?
This is a similar story. I like each player the Eagles signed individually, but it’d be silly to pretend there isn’t a lot of risk here.
Cary Williams appears to be the clear leader for #1 CB….I’m not sure he’s that good. He certainly has the talent, but to date has been inconsistent. The good news is he plays with a lot of “attitude”, which I sincerely believe was a big factor in the signing. Kelly/Roseman must have watched tape last year and seen the team roll over. Williams is not wired that way, he’ll fight (sometimes literally) regardless of the time/score/record. He’s also very physical and not afraid to tackle, which will be a nice change of pace from what Eagles fans have seen the last few years.
Bradley Fletcher, as I’ve already explained, is a great risk/reward signing. He’ll compete for the second starting CB job. If he’s healthy he gets it.
The big thing to remember here is the ceiling we are looking at. Previously, the Eagles somewhat consistently had, on paper, the best CB pairing in the league (or one of them). Going back to Vincent/Taylor through Brown/Sheppard (for a time) to Asante/Nnamdi/DRC (remember I said “on paper”). We are no longer looking for that, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Even at full health, a Williams/Fletcher combo is not going to be among the best CB tandems in the league (it’s possible but very unlikely). The Eagles are now looking for reliability, not excellence. After last year, though, average will look like excellent.
This is the elephant in the Eagles FA room. Everyone expected the team to address this group, either by adding a starting OT or, at the very least, adding a young player to provide depth. So far we’ve got….crickets… I’ve got a couple of theories on this.
A) The Eagles have tracked the medical progress of their starters and are convinced all of them will be ready for day 1 of the season. As a result, no need to pay big money for a starter. Maybe add a low-priced depth guy after the rest of FA shakes out or draft a couple of players late to compete for back-up spots.
B) The Eagles new regime has watched tape of Danny Watkins and truly believes he can be a viable starter. This is like adding another starter, so no need to find a big name OT in FA. Herremans remains on the right side. Youth and depth will be added in the middle of the draft.
C) The Eagles have already decided that they love Joeckel/Fisher and are set to take him with #4 overall. Obviously, if they plan on selecting a starting OT in the draft (with the #4 pick), there’s no reason to sign a FA to fill that role.
No idea which theory is accurate (there are certainly others to consider as well). I hope it’s not C though, and I don’t believe it is. Which leads me to…
A lot of people have mentioned that the Eagles moves have “freed” the team to do whatever they want in the draft. This is a mistake. The Eagles were free to do what they wanted regardless of who they signed. Roseman has made it VERY clear that his picks will not be dictated by positional need. My reading of the situation is that Reid forced the Watkins pick on Howie, and that backfired spectacularly. Hence, Howie will not choose for need in the first couple rounds.
That is obviously good news for Eagles fans. Other good news for Eagles fans is the increasing hype for Geno Smith.
Remember folks, I made this point a long time ago. Smith is very athletic, had a great college career, and completed 70% of his passes last year. This guy has 1st round written all over him. Also, PVM has him ranked as the #8 OVERALL prospect.
A while ago I mentioned that the Eagles may be holding the best pick for any team that wants to trade up. Kansas City isn’t trading its pick. Oakland and Jax could conceivably each select Geno Smith, but I think the odds of that are low. Seems too rational for Oakland, and Jacksonville has so many holes that I’m not sure they can afford to give up on Gabbert just yet. After that, a team like the Cardinals is a prime suspect to get scared and make the jump.
For the record, I do believe there is some legitimate interest in Geno on the Eagles part. However, I don’t think there’s any way they take him at #4.
I think the most likely scenario is that they make every effort possible to trade down within the top ten, select the BPA (probably an OT or DT) and pick up an extra 2nd round pick. Then they can use one of those 2nd rounders on defense and the other on whichever QB prospect they secretly like (EJ Manuel? Nassib if he’s there?).
Regardless, the fact that Geno is now getting serious love increases the value of the Eagles pick.
That’s all for now, I’m at over 1500 words and half the audience (if not more) has probably already left…
Hopefully we’ll have another signing or two to talk about soon.