MIKE KAYE: The James Casey signing in a word is intriguing. While he played primarily fullback in Houston, his speed and catching prowess along with his college experience at multiple positions, makes him an ideal fit for Chip Kelly. Everyone loves to talk about how innovative Chip is, but I think Casey has the ability to make him look like an NFL genius (he will be the sour cream to Chip's potato skins). Chip mentioned Aaron Hernandez when introducing Casey to the media, but I think if you look into James' background, you'll see he is a more complete football player than AH and could be even more useful.
DAN KLAUSNER: Yeah, I've written about how much I like this James Casey fellow.
MiKE KAYE: To me, Issac Sopoaga is the equivalent of most nose tackles that get signed by teams transitioning to a 3-4. He isn't good enough to be re-signed by his old team, he's older and looking to make one more big plunge after being successful on a good team. He's the type of guy that you hire to mentor the 4th or 5th round nose tackle you take in the draft. I think he will be solid but not spectacular, which I can deal with. Hopefully, he will be a leader for what may be the youngest defensive line in the NFC next year.
DAN KLAUSNER: While I like the Isaac Sopoaga signing in theory (and love the way it played out with Howard Eskin on Twitter), I'm not sure how I feel about the player himself. Turning 32 next season, and it's more likely that he's closer to the 2012 version (poorly-rated by Pro Football Focus) than the 2011 version and trending downward. PFF was not shy nor kind in its analysis. As a veteran influence and plugger to help fill the NT spot, I like him, but let's not pretend he's a marquee signing when this is essentially a one-year deal. I want Sopoaga in there to compete and push Antonio Dixon to be the best player he can be. Ultimately a useful veteran interior lineman who can make some plays, perhaps some huge momentum-changing ones. By the way, as PFF noted, Sopoaga benefited from talented players around him in San Francisco. Well, the Eagles do have some pretty talented front seven personnel on the roster. As for his quote, which was actually (emphasis mine): "I believe and I promise that we are going to shock the world." It's better he said the words this way. It
jives jibes with what Chip and Howie are trying to bring to the, ahem, program. It implies this team is actually going to, you know, try. That's been lacking around here for two seasons now. Soap should be confident, and I'm glad he made the pledge. Rest of the players need to feel the same way. By the way, really like this article from Jordan Ranaan about transforming team culture -- Chip Kelly's Eagles are all about forging an identity, something that's been missing from our football team.
MiKE KAYE: Bradley Fletcher was a guy I spotlighted on the night before free agency on the most recent DB Watch profile. He is the type of guy that you want because he's talented, physically gifted, hungry and wasn't re-signed by his old team because the fit wasn't right. Fletcher had the 2nd best "Coverage Per Snap Count" by Pro Football Focus last year before being benched and he has quite a bit of starting experience (20-plus games), but he hasn't really been given the full go ahead to make the starting role "his." Two-year deal is safe and smart work by both him and the team.
DAN KLAUSNER: I first wrote about Bradley Fletcher back in my breakout players for 2011 article (look who's right above him in the link). In free agency, he's who I felt was an ideal low risk/high reward candidate. I threw my hat in the ring for Fletcher in the first Free Agency Round Table article. I'm a believer in his talent, I'm a believer in his character. Yeah, the Eagles and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to this player's value. A player with upside, a potential steal. Shrewd move. Now, about those pesky knees of his. We need them not to explode. A natural in coverage and tough, reliable, sure tackler. Remember the horror show of tackling we've seen from our corners? Yeah, the complete opposite of that. Hope Fletcher stays healthy enough to make it work out best for both parties. Really easy guy to like in his introductory interview, too. Rooting for him.
MIKE KAYE: The Pat Chung signing initially bothered me because Glover Quinn was still on the market, but I have warmed up immensely to the signing over the last 48 hours (much like the Chip Kelly signing). I was a huge fan of his in college when he played both safety spots. I am not sure his body can handle being in the box (5'11" 212 lbs) in the NFL, which is why I think he's been injured so much. He is an intelligent, quality player with tons of potential if he can remain healthy. At only 25, he has little tread on his tires, but the issue will always be whether or not he can avoid the injury bug. I think he's a "Chip Guy" which makes me think he will put him in the right play to succeed. Think he's a lock to starter at strong safety.
DAN KLAUSNER: Gotta be honest, I'm surprised no one saw this coming. I didn't see many, if any, Patrick Chung suggestions. Then when the announcement was made... duh. Of course! Oregon! Funny how that happens, just doesn't jump out at you when obviously it should. Chip knows Chung from his time with the Ducks, although only as an offensive coordinator. Solid signing here, one I can get on board with as long as he's used correctly. Chung looked like an emerging superstar in 2010 (I even pretty much convinced my Patriots fan friend to get his jersey), an athletic, dynamic type of safety in classic seek and destroy mode. Makes some huge, highlight hits. Here's the ghost of Jimmy K's contribution. Should be used more as a blitzer and has history as playmaker; although, surprisingly, it's with seven interceptions and zero forced fumbles. Problem is, the past two seasons Chung has regressed considerably, struggling as a center fielder and getting toasted in coverage, drawing the ire of Patriots coaches and fans alike. Still, there's definite talent here to be unlocked, and he turns 26 in August. Change of scenery type. The kind of player who, when on, can serve as a tone-setter and spark plug for the defense.
MIKE KAYE: I think the Jason Phillips signing will go under the radar and rightfully so. He has been in the league for a handful of seasons but really didn't play much until last year. He has little experience in the 3-4 but will be nice competition for Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews as a backup ILB and special teamer. I think you are looking at the Eagles' new Akeem Jordan. He's a role player that will likely be a Kelly favorite.
DAN KLAUSNER: Here's what I know what Jason Phillips. He's a special teamer who's bounced around a bit and is coming here as a depth linebacker. Also, he randomly partied with a friend of mine in Vegas a few months ago. So there's that.
MIKE KAYE: Cary Williams rubs people the wrong way (to be frank, he comes off as an ass). That being said, he is the type of nasty guy you love on your team and hate on anyone else's (think Jay Cutler, Jeremy Shockey, Deion Sanders). Williams may have gotten paid (3 years, $17 million) but he's a small-school guy (Editor's note: FROM? Washburn!) that plays with a chip on his shoulder (no pun intended) and serious aggression. He's the anti-Nnamdi and likely goes into training camp as the number one cornerback with Fletcher likely competing with a rookie for the number two role. Williams is a very good tackler at CB and uses his hands really well on jams. His scary edge is part of the reason why I will dub the defensive backfield "The Raptor Cage" this season. If you don't get the reference, check out this video:
Jurassic Park 1993 - Raptor Feeding Scene HD (via erve1986)
DAN KLAUSNER: Scrappy Dappy Do. Cary Williams sure is a scrapper, so if the nickname sticks, dap me up, PTI-style. He's got that unmistakably lanky and wiry build. It was impossible not to notice Williams during the Ravens playoff run, for reasons good and then one bad. Corey Graham, long a personal favorite, emerged as the folk hero for his game against Denver, but Cary too took his game to another level as a consistent player in all four games. Pro Football Focus had him as one of the less efficient CB on aggregate, but Twitter chatter after the signing was that, despite four interceptions in the first half of the season and none in the second, he actually played better coverage in the latter. Then, as previously mentioned, Williams' play took off in the postseason (two more interceptions). Perhaps he was taking less chances and playing more physically, maybe he just started trusting his instincts and reacting instead of thinking? I'd have to go back and watch the tape to find out, which I won't at this moment. One thing about Williams that really jumped out at me: After getting picked on by Tim Brady in Week 2, he came back and played one of his best games in the AFC Championship. A seventh-round pick who has a long memory and something to prove. Always.
Yes, Cary Williams is also the guy who should've gotten ejected from the Super Bowl for mistakenly -- doesn't matter -- pushing a ref during an on-field altercation. There were also reports some troubling reports about what he allegedly said during the frackas, if I remember the Twitter hubbub correctly. Anyway, what we have here is a feisty, chippy type who isn't afraid of contact/tackling and represents a stark contrast from the previous two starting cornerbacks. Noticing a trend? Speaking of trends: I know the Eagles bringing in players from winners was a main goal and is getting pub, but just look at the type of players being signed. At least we won't have a candy ass secondary anymore.
MIKE KAYE: I live in South Florida, so I get to see "The U" quite a bit. Coming out, I loved Kenny Phillips and wanted the Eagles to take him (of course, they passed). He's super-athletic and can be the ultimate centerfielder if healthy. Health is the trend with the "Raptor Cage" signings, which is fine considering everyone is two years past a serious injury (better than one). What I like most about the Phillips signing is that he will compete against Nate Allen, who will no doubt HAVE to take this move as a direct challenge. Nate needed a fresh competition to make him take his game to the next level and Kenny is no doubt hungry like a hippo. No matter who wins in this contest, both guys will step up their games and the backup will be able to spare the other if the starter is injured or lacking in the productivity department. Also...suck it, Giants!
DAN KLAUSNER: Well, talk about a guy who in particular is thrilled more than others that he doesn't have to try to attempt to tackle LeSean McCoy for at least this upcoming season. His MCLs must be thrilled, at least. Tweets were out late Wednesday night/wee early hours of Thursday morning about Kenny Phillips drawing interest from another team in the division. I know for Eagles fans, the immediate reaction was: IS IT US?!?!!? Phillips, especially on just a one-year "prove it" deal, represents another perfect type of low risk/high reward signing. When he's on the field, he's among the best safeties in all of pro football. The problem is, despite healthy and productive 2010 and 2011 seasons, when he truly established himself, injury plagued Phillips in 2012 and limited him to seven games. Rumblings have persisted that he'll never be the same, and reinforcing of those rumors came in the form of inactivity. The Giants made nary a serious effort to retain Phillips. and that there wasn't much demand for his services on the open market. Is there a degenerative condition we're unaware of? Shit, there is, and we're now aware of it. Regardless, at just one year, KP is well worth the investment. And if he can manage to stay healthy? Stabilizing, All-Pro force in the secondary at FS -- the steal of free agency, and it won't be close. Makes me giddy just thinking about it.
November '86 birthday. Still very much in his prime age-wise, just a matter of if the body wants to cooperate. Here's to hoping Phillips can defy the odds and shoves it in the face of all who think he's done, especially the Giants. We'll take the Kenny-for-Cullen swap, poach you very much. May Phillips be the anti Steve Smith for us!
MIKE KAYE: Connor Barwin is a very interesting signing because we really don't know how he will be used. I know he had a drop off in production but his experience in coverage and the 3-4 should not be overlooked. I wonder what this move means for Vinny Curry, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, but I hope it leads to a full-time 3-4 (but probably not going to happen this year). Barwin has shown the ability to pass rush and has great size (6'4") and speed (4.56 40-yard dash). His $8 million in GAR money is fantastic when you consider Paul Kruger's extremely "lacking-in-perspective" deal with the Cleveland Banners (Browns). I also heard Barwin trash the Browns in an interview with Sirius a week ago, so I like him even more. He's got versatility and will be another "Chip Guy."
DAN KLAUSNER: First, I couldn't help myself and once again trolled Howard Eskin for his maybe-it's-now-on-purpose auto correct faux pas, this time announcing the signing of Conner Baldwin. A head-scratching, polarizing signing, for sure. Barwin, a seeming luxury good to begin with, is almost something of a mortal enemy to the good folks over at Pro Football Focus (graded out ranked 32 of 34 pass rush OLB in 2012). Though PFF hates him, it also must be mentioned that he recorded 11.5 sacks in 2011 and in 2012 dropped into coverage as many times after Week 11 as he did combined before then. So there's your versatility buzzword again. I was confused and perturbed over the contract figures at first, but somewhat mollified when word came out that the $36M over 6 years only includes $8M in bonuses and $13.5M over the first three years. In other words, this is one of those misleading deals on a superficial level because it's so hilariously backloaded (c/o @Southern_Philly). A Howie Roseman Special.
Barwin is a vibrant and engaging character who'll become a staple personality in the locker room. But here's the issue: Are we getting 11.5-sack, 2011 Connor Barwin or 2012 Connor Barwin, the guy who had trouble making plays despite playing with J.J. Watt and sported an embarrassingly low production output for his number of snaps? Was the 2011 Connor Barwin's production a function of Brooks Reed's stellar rookie play? Did it fall off with Reed injured? Speaking of injuries, this will mark Barwin's third full season back from a gruesome ankle injury that robbed him of the entire 2010 season. Dave "Dance" Mangels, aka @Southern_Philly, chimes in here with his "Unfun Fact," which should become a daily feature, that Connor Barwin has only forced one turnover in his four-season career. Unfun, indeed.
Listen, Barwin's a gifted athlete (with an exquisite Kramer 'do) who can play a bunch of roles within the front seven, but it's all about how the Eagles plan to use him. Don't just have him floating around as this novelty athlete. I don't know if that means he will be SAM or pass rusher in the Predator role -- which doesn't make sense when you consider Brandon Graham should be filling that spot. So will Barwin play both the SAM and Predator interchangeably? We'll see what Billy Davis has in mind for him. Amorphous blob defense, engage! Oh, and, of course... Barwin is another Cincinnati Bearcat! Brent Celek and Jason Kelce's old teammate. We are so drafting Travis Kelce, by the way. We'll see what happens with Trent Cole, although I won't believe he's not in the team's immediate plans until I see it.
So... will that be it?