The 2014 NFL offseason has begun for the Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2013 roster. While the team was able to manage a 10-6 record along with an NFC East crown, there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 11, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the punter position.
Stats: 1 tackle, 82 punts, 44.9 avg, 70 Long, 3681 yards, 1 punt blocked, 5 touchbacks, 6.1 TB%, 33 IN20, 40.2 IN20%, 40.5 Net punting average
Review: The man, the myth, the legend. The MVP of the Universe. Donnie "Longball" Jones. Donnie J'owns. How could you not love Donnie Football? The 33 year old veteran punter signed with the Eagles early in the 2013 free agency period. Jones went on to beat out rookie punter Brad Wing over the summer with ease in order to win the once-heated punter battle.
Jones doesn't have the strongest leg in the NFL, but what he lacks in sheer power he makes up for in accuracy and precision. Jones made a habit of pinning opponents deep in their own territory. This isn't by accident. Jones has mastered his craft with the combination of putting the right spin on the ball and/or angling the punt perfectly. He was also clutch: in the Week 11 Eagles-Redskins match-up, Jones nailed a 70 yarder that forced Washington to travel the length of the field to score. That Redskins drive ended up gorgeously for the Eagles in the form of a Brandon Boykin game-sealing interception on a desperation heave from Robert Griffin III.
Jones won the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award two straight weeks in a row in the middle of the season, making him the 4th punter to win Player of Week in consecutive games in a single season and the 1st since 1999.
And just when you think Jones couldn't get any more awesome, he went and broke two team records. Jones' 40.5 net punting average set a franchise record that was previously held by Sav Rocca (39.0) in 2010. His 33 punts downed inside the 20 set a team record previously by Jeff Feagles (31) in 1993.
The Eagles have long lacked a worthwhile punter. Jones is the best they have had in awhile.
Who Could Leave
Jones is set to be a free agent. The Eagles will surely have interest in bringing Jones back. If the two sides can't work out a deal, the Eagles could always just apply the franchise tag on Jones in order to retain his services. It's hard not to see Jones returning.
Who Could Sign
I'm assuming Jones stays. The Eagles could sign an undrafted rookie free agent punter to split punting repetitions with Jones during the off-season, but that's it.