Last week, I gave you 13 upcoming free agents that you may or not of have been familiar with (Part 1), and who could be pretty sufficient signings for the Eagles, other NFC East teams or any NFL team for that matter. Much like my first post, this article is meant to expand your knowledge about this year’s crop of free agents, who may not make a splash but sure as hell could impact our team in some form in the future.
After posting the first part of this opus last week, I got a lot of great feedback about the players and the article itself (which I do appreciate, so thank you), so I took that into consideration in this go ‘round (I added some players that were suggested, despite that killing the point of the article because people knew who these guys were).
When I first started out planning the two-parter, I wrote down about 22 names. I have since added one more (Matt Shaughnessey, who users felt was necessary to be added, despite the fact that they knew who he was) to make this post an even ten (to go along with the 13 from last week). Enjoy.
Due to reader reaction, the bulldozer from Wisconsin has been added to this list. Matt Shaughnessy is a bit of an enigma still, despite having been in the league for 4 years. Many readers and I think he’d be great in the five-technique but most of his career has been spent as a DE in the 4-3. He has started in several games but being such a tweener, he hasn’t really established himself as a force in the league. Shaughnessey has been utilized in the run and pass games but I wouldn't say he’s dominant at either. He has the ability to rush the quarterback (15.5 career sacks), so he’s not a bad add as a depth signing and his position versatility is interesting because I think he can be impactful as an undertackle but that will depend on who he is signed by.
2. Sean Smith, CB, Miami Dolphins, 25-Years Old, 4-Year Veteran
A top target for me this offseason is Sean Smith. The big dude from Utah stands 6’3" and has really long arms. He can excel in press and also has the speed and athleticism to play off as well. With that said, Smith is better fit to be a number two corner and have him battle with the taller and more possession-like WRs (something we have struggled with for years). Smith is still really young and has a lot to learn, but his resume is full of starts and he has shown the ability to get after the ball. If the Eagles can resign DRC and bring in Smith, they would have a young athletic set of corners with serious size.
Keenan Lewis started all 16 games this year for the Steelers. While he’s more ideal in the slot, Lewis has proven to be a good coverage guy and a good tackler (for a corner). He does come with bumps and bruises as he was burned a few times this year, but with the right coaching (not that Dick Lebeau isn’t a great coach) he could excel as a fourth corner. With the league becoming more spread-oriented, having great depth at CB is vital. I wouldn’t add Lewis as a starter but would bring him in to compete in the slot and definitely give him looks in dime coverage.
Since there are questions at QB, let’s add a hungry veteran to the mix. Drew Stanton has had limited opportunities since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 2nd round in 2007, but when he’s played (despite his TD-INT ratio 5:9) has played relatively well and has given reason to be intrigued. You may know him as the QB who signed with the Jets last year after being promised he would compete with Mark Sanchez, but then the Jets traded for Tim Tebow and sent Stanton to the Colts. Stanton is a very competitive guy and was impressive at Michigan State. He was the Offensive MVP of the Senior Bowl in 2007. Also, his dad’s name is Gaylord, so there’s that.
via www3.pictures.zimbio.com (another Romo pick...)
5. Derek Cox, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-Years Old, 4-Year Veteran
There is a lot to like about Derek Cox. He’s young, has been a starter since he was a rookie, and has an ability to create turnovers (12 career-INTs). The reason why Cox might not be the most appealing of free agent cornerbacks, is because while he is very good when he’s healthy, he has proven to get injured quite frequently since his 2nd year in the league (has missed 17 games over the last 3 years). Cox is a small school guy from William & Mary, so he’s got a chip on his shoulder and has been greatly underpaid throughout his young career, so look for him to ask for a decent pay check.
Kyle Moore is a guy who fits the "long" and "big" dude demographic that Chip Kelly reportedly wants for his defensive lineman and linebackers. Moore stands 6’6" with an extremely athletic frame. His career stats may not be as impressive as you would like, but I attribute that a lot to lack of playing time. Being on the bench behind Mark Anderson and Mario Williams is not a sin. Moore had his first 3 sacks of his career this season, despite being in the league for four years. I also attribute that to being a tweener. He’s been stuck in the 4-3 and really is just a man-child that I believe would be more impactful as a rush linebacker or a 5-technique. I should also add that despite his size, he ran a 4.82 at the Combine, so the speed is there to be an OLB in a 3-4.
With the transition to the 3-4 possibly looming, the Eagles will want to add a guy with position versatility. Enter Alan Branch, who has been impactful with the hybrid defense of the Seahawks, but also as a five-technique earlier in his career with the Arizona Cardinals. Branch isn’t much of a pass rusher (4 sacks in the last two seasons) but is a solid run stopper (something we have struggled with for years). Branch isn’t likely a starter for the Eagles but would be very important in a rotation.
8. Quentin Groves, OLB, Arizona Cardinals, 28-Years Old, 5-Year Veteran
Groves might be my favorite player on this list. He was a 2nd round pick for the Jaguars in 2008, but quickly wore out his welcome in Jacksonville and was traded to the Raiders, where he had an up-and-down stint. Groves spent last year with Ray Horton and the Cardinals and really rejuvenated his career. The reason why Groves is intriguing is because he excelled in 3-4, after coming up short for years in Oakland and Jacksonville with the 4-3 defense. With the Eagles rumored to be making the switch, Groves could be a cheap but effective signing as they transition to the new scheme. Last year, Groves put up 4 sacks, but I think the most impressive thing about him is his ability against the run. He’s also finally been used the right way for the first time in his career.
Nick Roach is the definition of a utility player. Undrafted out of Northwestern University, Roach has been a special teamer and back-up for the Chicago Bears throughout his career. During his time in the Windy City, he has filled in for all three spots at the linebacker position and most recently took over the reins for Brian Urlacher this season, when he was out for most of the year. Having started 14 games this year, where he played quality ball, he is likely looking for a starting gig. At 6’1’’ and 235 lbs, he’s not an ideal SAM but if we stay at 4-3, he could fill that void and move Mychal Kendricks on over to WILL. Roach won the 2012 Brian Piccollo Award, which is given to Bears players who "exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo." So apparently the dude is funny too.
10. DeAndre Levy, ILB/OLB, Detroit Lions, 25-Years Old, 4-Year Veteran
DeAndre Levy is the WILL linebacker for the Detroit Lions. He has experience at all linebacker positions but has thrived at WILL and MIKE over his career. The reason to like Levy, is when the team struggled through the first two years of his career, he was able to stay extremely productive. The Wisconsin grad has been a starter since his rookie season, so he has tons of starting experience. He appeals to all the teams in the NFC East, as he can play either ILB spot in a 3-4 and as previously mentioned, has had positional versatility displayed in the 4-3.