The round table is back! Every week the BGN staff will tackle (or I guess just talk about) a subject related to the Eagles offseason. While topics will range throughout the summer from draft, free agency and the roster, we will also discuss hot issues that are being examined and entertained throughout the league. This week, I am joined by the newly-minted contributor and long-time BGN member Dave Mangels, James Keane and Mark Saltveit. This time around we will look into the wide receiver and tight end positions heading into the offseason.
Brent Celek has a lot of money coming his way over the next few seasons and is only getting older. Along with Celek, James Casey has a somewhat-undefined role in the offense and could be cut because of his large salary. Is drafting a tight end a good idea and if so, how early would you go after the new guy?
Mike: I am a bit indifferent to adding a tight end in the offseason. I certainly would not entertain drafting one in the first two days of the draft nor in free agency if I were in the Eagles front office. However, I am believer in that every depth position can be upgraded. I think Celek and Ertz are keepers, but I would have no issue with drafting competition or a replacement for Casey in the fifth or sixth round.
Dave: TE is very low priority. Ertz had a good season and and Celek still has tread on the tire. If they cut Casey and replace him with a day three pick, okay fine. But they've got bigger needs to address in the first half of the draft.
James: The Eagles have way too many other needs to focus much on the tight end position. Celek is getting older, but he's still 29 (hasn't hit that 30 year-old threshold yet!) and Ertz has shown a ton of promise with his effective rookie season. Casey may not be here next season, or he might. He was such a good player for the Texans I'd love to see Chip utilize him more. But if Roseman and Kelly decide not to keep him, then I wouldn't mind taking a flyer on a tight end in the draft (or a UFA); maybe Colt Lyerla from Oregon.
Mark: As with any draft pick, take exceptional value if it's surprisingly available, but I don't see this as a particular need. I think Chip has a particular vision of what he wants, which he isn't sharing with us. I trust him, so if he sees his perfect piece he should grab it.
The Eagles rarely used 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) last season, do you think that was a mistake? Should they use more of this look moving forward and why?
Mike: I love 12 personnel and called for it every week, but clearly the Eagles thrived without using it. I think the Eagles will need to add wide receiver talent to solely rely on 11 personnel (one back, one tight end). That said, I think a good mix is worth a look for Chip Kelly and Co. but it is not necessary.
Dave: No, Ertz admitted he was bad early in the year. Not going to two TEs early in the season wasn't the reason they started 3-5, so I don't see what it would have changed if they did. I loved that that offense evolved like that over the course of the season--that was a fairly significant change, along with changing QBs, and it's a good thing to see Chip change adapt his offense on the fly and do it successfully. I had and have the utmost confidence in Chip, but confidence based on expectations isn't as good as confidence based on experience, and now we have the latter. Chip's going to use whatever works best, if that's 2 TEs, then so be it. If it's 3 WR, great. I have no particular preference.
James: I would love to see more two tight end sets. But here is the primary problem with it that I see (exceptional TE talent aside): space. Chip loves to use his players to spread the field, maximizing matchup advantages in order to create one-on-one opportunities in space. A 12 personnel package bunches more players around the hash marks, and I think that Chip wouldn't want to do that too often, and hasn't.
Mark: Players not positions. One reason Ertz rated a 2nd round pick was the hope that he can play a hybrid TE/WR, split wide or on the line or slot. Ultimately I think Chip would love to have 11 hybrid players on the field at all times, so he could create multiple matchup problems on every play.
I was surprised and sometimes frustrated by the amount of 11 last year but the results were good. When Foles took over from Vick the calls didn't change much but the results did and all the 11 seemed suddenly smarter. Perhaps in the red zone we could see more 12, and we did as the year progressed and Ertz grew (or gained the coaches' confidence).
Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both free agents. Is there a strategy to signing one over the other? Do you have a preference and if so why?
Mike: I think the strategy in signing either, both or none of them is really just what you think you can get in the draft and how much you think you can upgrade over them. I am a fan of both players but I kind of have a feeling Cooper is worth more to the Eagles than anyone else and vice versa, so it is probably in both of their best interests to work out a deal. Maclin is a bit rough because he may have a high suitor, who is willing to spend on him, despite the ACL injury. I am not sure it is safe to sign him and ignore the position on the first two days of the draft. If Maclin is willing to play in the slot than he would be my preference if I had one.
Dave: No strategy to signing one over the other, they are very different receivers. If they're only going to sign one, I'd prefer to re-sign Maclin because he's the superior player, it's easier to upgrade from Cooper than Maclin. That said, this was one of the best offenses in the league without Maclin, so if they don't re-sign him it's not like they are losing anything.
James: I like Cooper's size but Maclin has more to offer. Regardless, re-sign both (I think Cooper's market value should be relatively cheap), and bring in a few more via draft and/or free agency for competition. May the best WRs win.
Mark: Riley is more different than DeSean, which is good, and seems to have a special chemistry with Foles. But I don't know Maclin's game that well, he is pre-Chip Eagles. Ancient history, bro....
Do the Eagles need to draft wide receiver early even if they re-sign either Cooper or Maclin or both? Who would be your ideal targets and why?
Mike: I am all for upgrading. I am of the belief that the Eagles will re-sign one of the two wide receivers and will fill the third receiver spot in the lineup with a Day 1 or 2 pick. My main target for the Eagles as a wide receiver in the first round is Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, who I think is easily the most talented pass-catcher in the draft (eat your heart out, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins). If they decide to wait until the second round, I would not mind Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews or Penn State's Allen Robinson. The late-round guys for me would be Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders and Coastal Carolina's Matt Hazel.
Dave: If they re-sign both, no. If they re-sign only one, I'm coming around to the idea of drafting a WR as high as the 1st round. I can easily see a OLB not worth taking there and S would be a reach, but say Kelvin Benjamin might be the best fit on the board.
James: No, even if they don't re-sign both (unlikely), I don't think it's necessary to draft wide receiver early. I actually think they'll re-sign both, and still bring in more. They do need to improve the slot. I'd like them to address this in the draft, maybe with Bruce Ellington from South Carolina, or Donte Montcrief from Ole Miss (more size, can block downfield). It will be cool to see how this team evolves when Chip brings in "his" players on offense.
Mark: I think Chip wants as many different tools as possible. He has a straight line speedster in DeSean, a big and clutch wideout in Cooper, seems like the next blade on the Swiss Army Knife ideally would be a tall, fast WR with good separation for the sideline first down plays. I wouldn't want to see the needs at OLB, safety, corner and kicker neglected for this, but if Mike Evans falls to #22 and there are no strong prospects at those positions......
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