With free agency set to begin next Tuesday (March 12), I thought this would be a good time to see what certain Eagles fans felt would be the team's best course of action to help replenish a roster with holes all over the place. As Chip Kelly said, and as we all certainly know, free agency is not a panacea. Those scars from the 2011 spending spree are still fresh, and once Nnamdi Asomugha is inevitably cut (traded?), that entire class -- which was a source of immense pride for the franchise and riled fans into a joyous frenzy -- aside from Evan Mathis, who was essentially an afterthought, will have been eradicated from the roster. The Eagles currently have $33,759,419 in cap space, which will balloon to $45,059,419 the moment Asomugha's gone. So, who's ready to spend some money that isn't theirs?!
1) What position do you feel is best/deepest in free agency? What position would you most like the Eagles to focus on in free agency instead of in the draft. Why?
AndersJ (@Mjoedgaard): I think this OL FA class is the best in many years. If you are a team looking for an OT or OG, this is the right time to get one. Two of the top guys in Ryan Clady and William Beatty are off the market, but that still leaves an impressive list of Jake Long, Andre Smith, Sebastian Vollmer and Phil Loadholt as the primary names at OT, and Andy Levitre and Brandon Moore as the two top OGs.
I think DB is the deepest position. With Jairus Byrd tagged, there is a lack of elite players, but you should be able to get some good bargains if you shy away from the big names who simply aren't that good (Dashon Goldson is a guy who is going to demand way too much, considering he isn't a top safety in the NFL). For me there isn't a single position I wouldn't both go after a FA or two and address in the draft.
KJ Brophy (@kjbrophy): With Jairus Byrd getting the franchise tag, I will give an edge to the offensive line over safety; if you want an impact guy, I think you'll have better luck there. Whether it's draft or free agency, the front office will most likely focus on bringing in a few new defensive backs. I know they aren't happy with pretty much everyone back there, minus Brandon Boykin, and we could see four new faces. What I don't know is Chip Kelly and Jeff Stoutland's thoughts on Danny Watkins. While I, to put it kindly, didn't like the Watkins pick at the time, his talents would be best showcased in a run first offense instead of the Andy Reid pass happy offense. If they are down on Watkins, I wouldn't mind going after an offensive lineman in free agency.
2) Who are your top 5 free agent targets for the Eagles? Why? And what's the max contract you'd be willing to offer each of them?
Me: This is a question I wanted to answer myself, as well, especially since Brophy, as you'll see later on, didn't list any contract figures for his five targets. Andy Levitre is one nasty mauler and an underrated athlete who'd be a perfect fit for Chip's run-first attack. We've all been waiting for freak athlete Jared Cook to become a superstar since the moment he was drafted (remember, he killed it at the Combine). Has shown flashes but never anything sustained (save for Weeks 15 and 16 in 2011). Was it more because of the Titans' shitty situation on offense, or Cook's own doing? Possesses unique, raw ability to be a lethal TE/WR hybrid -- could Chip Kelly's offense finally untap that immense potential? How much money would you be willing to fork over to find out?
Dashon Goldson is the most popular name on the FA safety market, but I'm wary of throwing big bucks his way, especially when delving into the nitty gritty of his performance. Do yourself a favor and read this "buyer beware" article about him. I really like Glover Quin, but he's strictly a FS, and I'm of the opinion that Nate Allen can still be a solid FS in this league, provided he's paired with a veteran -- or just super good rookie -- SS. It also depends how much money Quin wants, of course. Same goes for William Moore, who's had his struggles in coverage but made himself into a big-time playmaker for the Falcons. You know who I'd love for the Eagles to sign to fill one of the safety spots? Kenny Phillips. Jimmy Kempski wrote a great piece two months ago that included a telling blurb from an NY Daily News article on Phillips' prowess, but then admitted that soon thereafter sources closes to the Giants said Phillips' mounting injuries likely meant he'd never be the same player again. You know what I think: Can't trust those dirty, rotten Giants "sources"!
Aqib Talib is a desirable talent at CB and transformed the Patriots secondary upon being acquired, but his character history and off-field shenanigans are deeply troublesome. Sean Smith is a player I liked coming out of Utah because of his size, and one of my breakout predictions going into the 2011 season. On the downside: He's maddeningly inconsistent and ranked 51st in this FA CB class by PFF. That's bad. Also, he reportedly wants $24 million over the first three years. Enticing skill set, but his lackluster performance is certainly cause for concern. I'd write about Greg Toler, but Mike Kaye already took care of that. Philadelphia and Shippensburg's own Brent Grimes was among the best yet most underrated CBs in all of football in 2009-2011, but a torn Achilles ended his 2012 during the season opener.
As for a CB whose name I haven't seen mentioned at all, but who intrigues me as a FA target: Bradley Fletcher. I predicted a breakout 2011 (Jared Cook is also in there) for him after he emerged as an up-and-coming player in 2010. Physical, press corner who's solid in coverage and stout in run support; has size, arm length, speed and natural ball skills to excel... problem is, he can't stay healthy. Torn ACL in right knee during practice ruined 2011 season four games in, this after he tore the MCL and same ACL in that right knee during his 2009 rookie season. Lost starting spot to Janoris Jenkins in training camp but still managed to perform well in limited role in 2012, despite committing too many penalties. Turns 27 in June, needs change of scenery and fresh start. Obviously, substantial injury history is red flag. Will come at a bargain price for possible upside, quintessential low risk/high reward candidate. Offer: 1 year, $1.5M, $500K guaranteed.
This FA class of DL is really where I feel the Eagles should allocate monetary resources. Israel Idonije has long been a favorite of mine, and I'd love to sign him as a veteran presence and rotational lineman. Speaking of veteran presences and rotational lineman, does Richard Seymour still have anything left in the tank? Jason Jones is someone I've advocated for in the past, but he hasn't evolved beyond being more than a flash player -- although those flashes are quite good. I'm very much in favor of pursuing Ricky Jean-Francois (peep what Greg Cosell says about him), who seemingly always made plays when on the field for the 49ers. Scheme-versatile, can line up all along the line and profiles as someone who could flourish in an expanded role. Offer: 4 years, $17M, $8M guaranteed.
Roy Miller, a 1-tech space-eater/run-stuffer and important cog in the Buccaneers' #1-ranked rush defense, is also on my wish list. Tommy Lawlor has been driving this bandwagon, and I'm 100% on board. Offer: 3 years, $8.5M, $3.75M guaranteed.
Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois prior to the start of Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
AndersJ (@Mjoedgaard): I think most people know at least a few of the players to put in my top 5 as I have expressed my feelings for them several times. My top 5 guys are:
Desmond Bryant - He is my top target despite his recent run-in with the law. If nothing else, this epic mugshot might even drive up his value (Editor's note: It most certainly did not), for just been totally awesome (Editor's note: It most certainly was). Bryant played primarily as a 3-tech or 2-tech, but I can easily see him fit as a 5-tech in Eagles new system, and rumors are that DC Billy Davis prefers his players to be scheme-versatile so that there isn't really a strong or weak side, but just left and right. Bryant only started 8 games because he was the backup to Richard Seymour, who went down with an injury in Week 8. Bryant is an impressive specimen at 6-6 and 311 pounds. He is equally good against the run and the pass, so he is no liability. I would give him a deal very similar to what we gave Cullen Jenkins two years ago, 5 years and $25 million (Editor's note: Will likely have to guarantee $10+ million of that).
Terrance Knighton - He lost his starting job after 4 games to C.J. Mosley. Wondering why a player who lost his starting job after just 4 games is worth as a target? Well, first we lack a NT to challenge Antonio Dixon, and second it's not because of a lack of talent that Knighton (Editor's note: aka Pot Roast) got benched, he was simply just inconsistent. Knighton is at his best against the run, but he is no slouch rushing the passer either. Because of his inconsistency, I would not shell out top money, but 3-4 years for around $3 million per year.
Geoff Schwartz - Another benched player, but this time it just does not make sense. Schwartz (Editor's note: Sweet, he was raised in a Conservative Jewish household, I'm on board) is a bit like Evan Mathis to me in that despite playing well in limited action, he got lost in the shuffle. He has experience at both RT and RG, but seems to be at his best at RG. Schwartz is a good run blocker and also very solid in pass pro. There is also a Chip Kelly connection, as he played at Oregon during Kelly's first season as OC in 2007. I think Schwartz would be very open to come here and compete for a job, perhaps on a "prove it" deal like Mathis did in 2011.
Keenan Lewis - A very solid cover corner who rarely gets beat. Lewis is not a playmaker, but he shuts his guy down. I dont have much to say about him that hasn't already been said by Mike Kaye. I would offer Lewis a 6-year deal at $6 million per year but with some escalators that can bring it up to $8 million per year (if he meets the escalators, it would look like this: $6-6-6-6-12-12 million per year, otherwise it would just be $6 million per year across the board).
William Moore - As with Lewis, just about all there is to say about Moore has already been published by Mike Kaye on this site. I would sign him to a 4-year deal (he's 28) at around $6-7 mill per year.
KJ Brophy (@kjbrophy): 1) Glover Quin 2) William Moore 3) Sean Smith 4) Jared Cook 5) Andy Levitre
Since the Eagles are rebuilding, I wanted my targets to be on the younger side, and none of these players would be older than 30 when they get to the third year of the contracts they'll sign this offseason.
3) A) What's your BEST case scenario for free agency, as it relates to the Eagles? B) What's your WORST case scenario for free agency, as it relates to the Eagles?
AndersJ (@Mjoedgaard): My best case scenario is if the Eagles get all 5 targets listed above and are also able to find 1 additional CB (like Derek Cox), 1 SAM to either be a stopgap solution if nobody is drafted (highly doubt that), but to at least bring some training camp competition. Worst case for me is if Eagles don't get any of the above mentioned and for some reason overpay an overrated player at the money he is going to demand. I dont want an Andre Smith at $9 million, or a Dashon Goldson at $8+ million.
KJ Brophy (@kjbrophy): My BEST case scenario is the Eagles sign one of Glover Quin/William Moore and Jared Cook. The Eagles have to get a safety in free agency since they've supposedly soured on Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman is probably getting fooled by play action as you are reading this. With the reports of Chip wanting to stock up on tight ends, I'm intrigued to see how he would use a player like Cook. My WORST case scenario is a repeat of the "dream team" off-season -- signing players/mercenaries that are all around 30 years old and don't really know or care about what it means to be a Philadelphia Eagle.