Breaking down the Eagles FA contracts:
I have to preface this by saying that I'm thrilled with the way the Eagles have started their FA agenda.
Free agency typically requires overpaying players that have almost inevitably already reached their peak. So teams frequently end-up paying for past success instead of projected future performance.
I think the Browns FA acquisitions are a fairly good example of this thus far, paying the championship tax for Kruger (although giving themselves the flexibility to get out of the deal a couple years down the line).
The Eagles instead have kept themselves to low-profile acquisitions that are good fits for the roles they are being brought in for. Fit is paramount to me in free agency and each of the Eagles target fill specific needs or desired versatility. Moreover, the Eagles were able to do so on relatively cheap deals. With that said here’s what we know (or think we know) about the Eagles new contracts.
Patrick Chung: 3 yrs/ $10M with $4.25M in guarantees across 2013 and 2014. FS/SS
A young safety (will be 26 this season) that still has some upside on a deal under $3.5M per year? Sign me up. You’ve gotta think that Kelly has some knowledge on how to best utilize him given their overlapping time at Oregon. He certainly has some liabilities, hence the Patriots willingness to let him walk, but he brings a physical presence to an Eagles secondary that has lacked one since the departure of Dawk. Hopefully WRs going across the middle won’t have it so easy with Chung back there. I don’t think he’s a sure-fire plus starter but he’s certainly an upgrade over the pieces we’ve currently got back there. He’s set to make $3M in 2013 according to Eaglescap.com.
James Casey: 3 yrs/ $14.5M FB/TE/WR/Everything (can even throw the ball as wrinkle to the offense)
A steep price to pay for a FB, the Eagles announced him as a TE, indicating Kelly’s intention to use him much more heavily in the passing game than at FB. Has more upside than his 28 years of age would lead you to believe due to his late crossover into pro football after a stint in baseball. A very versatile athletic offensive weapon, he is an ideal fit in Kelly’s perceived NFL offense. He can catch the ball in traffic, get separation on longer developing routes, and has a FB’s ability to drive the legs and move the chains. I like him a lot as 3rd down target and think he will be an excellent addition to the Eagles offense. Contract is a little larger than I would’ve liked but the interest in Casey allegedly involved up to 15 teams, so this price seems a little more reasonable. A bigger get than we may realize.
Issac Spoaga: 3 yrs/ $11M NT
A classic NT, he’s a 2-down player but an invaluable asset in limited playing time. Ate up blocks in SF to clear things up for the playmaking linebackers. You can be sure Ryans and Kendricks are happy about this one. While he won’t be on the field on most 3rd down situations, I look forward to what he brings the team in goal-line situations. While an average yearly salary of close to $4M is more than I’d have liked to pay for a 2-down player on the wrong side of 30, the Eagles have excess cap room and shored up the NT slot while they develop a younger player (presumably from the draft). According to Eaglescap.com, he’ll be making $3.75M in 2013. According to Chip, he's also capable of playing inside in a 4 man front. I'm very curious to see if this does indeed occur. If it does I like this contract even more.
Bradley Fletcher: 2 yrs/ undisclosed
Still waiting on contract details but I love this pickup as long as the price was right. A young player with a lot of upside, this deal doesn’t come with a lot of risk. A 2 year contract for a player his age indicates we likely signed him to a very team-friendly deal. Purely an outside cover guy, he has great coverage skills, and despite his injury issues hasn’t missed a ton of time in the NFL. Lost his starting spot in St Louis but not a huge indictment of his abilities due to circumstance. I wouldn’t be shocked if he flopped in Philly but I think it is more likely that he emerges as one of the starting CB in 2013.
Jason Phillips LB/ STs Undisclosed terms
I still haven’t seen the contract details of linebacker Jason Phillips but I think I can safely say the contract won’t be an onerous one for the Eagles moving forward. A very solid special teamer, I think he's a bit more than a camp body but won't likely be in starting contention anytime soon.
All in all, the five contracts given out yesterday were likely only a slight increase over what they would’ve owed Nnamdi in 2013. Good start to free agency.
If you have the time, also check out Dorenbos and Akers going against each other long-snapping, Akers puts on a ridiculous show. Hyperlinks included above.
Update: Bill Barnwell does a good job succinctly articulating why the Eagles moves are the types to laud early in free agency:
"Let's finish with the Eagles, who started a quietly busy day by releasing Nnamdi Asomugha, the most notable vestige of the failed "Dream Team" era and a signifier for how badly free-agent spending can go wrong when the pieces don't fit the team. The Eagles signed five players Tuesday, but none of them received particularly large deals. The biggest contract went to Texans jack-of-all-trades James Casey, who could become a matchup nightmare as a runner and receiver in Chip Kelly's offense at the cost of $14.5 million over three years. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga came over from San Francisco to play that same role in Philly's new 3-4 defense, and after investing in big names throughout their secondary for years, the Eagles began their new era softly by acquiring some buy-low candidates for the back end. They added Bradley Fletcher from the Rams and Patrick Chung from the Patriots on relatively small deals, signing players who were out of favor in their old organizations but exhibited some signs of above-average play in the recent past. The sort of logic that went into those moves — buying low on a low-risk, medium-reward player — seemed absurdly out of place on the dumbest day of the NFL year. Some of the teams that made headlines Tuesday by following a now-infamous Eagles plan that didn't work might have done well to follow the new Philadelphia brain trust's lead."