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BGN Roundtable: Eagles Free Agency Preview

The Eagles are gearing up for free agency and BGN writers are dishing their opinions on the process.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Every week during the offseason, a few members of the BGN staff will get together for somewhat of a round table discussion. The writers will answer a few questions pertaining to the offseason, the Eagles and the NFL in general and give their point of view on the hot topics. This week, the BGN writers are talking about the Eagles and the free agency period.

The offseason is set to be pretty long with the draft being delayed a month. There will be tons of speculation as to what the Eagles should do in the draft, but before that is free agency. What one position do the Eagles absolutely need to add a veteran presence too and why is it vital that it is a veteran and not a rookie?

Mike: Safety. It is pretty clear that the Eagles are likely to need two starters in this season. Nate Allen is a free agent and Patrick Chung is likely to be dropped, so it is important to add a veteran presence. The Eagles need a player with experience to be mixed in with the likes of Keelan Johnson, Earl Worlff and a rookie or two.

Dave: Safety. The Eagles can't go into the season with Earl Wolff and a rookie as the starters. It doesn't have to be Jairus Byrd or TJ Ward, retaining Nate Allen would be okay as would signing say, Malcolm Jenkins or Chris Clemons. Every other position other than QB has enough veterans.

Mark: DB. It doesn't have to be a stud safety, could be a corner or hybrid or backup safety. But with a likely draft pick, 2nd year man Earl Wolff, Brandon Boykin and just-blooming Nate Allen, there are a lot of young backs who could use a Demeco Ryans/Jason Avant/Jason Peters type (or yes, I'd say Mike Vick type) of wily veteran leader to be the on-field "quarterback" of that unit. Sorry, but Cary Williams doesn't seem to be that guy. In the Super Bowl, the Seahawks showed the final layer of greatness - the unit cohesion and communication of a well-jelled team -- and it overwhelmed a very talented Denver team that didn't have it.

The Eagles have plenty of cap space and can sign roughly any player to a deal. If you could choose that one pending free agent, who would it be and why them over the entire pool?

Mike: I am not sure I have a preference on one player, but if I had to choose, I would say Everson Griffen. He was a backup with the Vikings for four years at defensive end, but is an athletic beast. If the Eagles think he can stand up and rush, I think he would be a game changer. At 6-foot-4 and 273 pounds (probably needs to lose 10 pounds) to go along with 4.65 forty-time speed, Griffen is a ridiculous specimen. I am interested to see if he makes it to free agency, but either way this is probably a pipe dream.

Dave: Jairus Byrd the player (more on that distinction later). I assume TJ Ward will be franchised, there will be no great pass rusher nor WR available, which makes Byrd, assuming he hits free agency, the only impact player at a position of need for the Eagles. For all their strengths Roseman and the front office have been lousy at finding safeties in the draft and their buy low approach to veterans has yielded terrible results. Adding Byrd should give the team a major upgrade.

Mark: I wrote an entire article about this, and nominated Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers. Kicking was a serious weakness for the Birds last year (notably, in the playoffs and against Minnesota). Gano's field goal percentage last year matched Henery's career-best season (which was his rookie year, unfortunately) but his real advantage is on kickoffs. Gano forced touchbacks on 63 of 79 kicks last year (nearly 80%) vs. Henery's 42%, and opposing teams' average starting position was the 19.7 yard line. He AVERAGED better than a touchback. How is that even possible?

Plus, kickers are among the least expensive free agents ($2-3 million), Carolina will be hard-pressed to outbid Philadelphia for him with 8 free-agent starters, and since the teams play next year, the Eagles can undercut an opponent for at least one game. Gano would bring them more points on the board and better field position every game, for not much money. Last year, he gave up only 347 yards of kickoff returns, and no TD's; Henery allowed 1,229 yards and 2 touchdowns. So that's 900 yards of field position and 14 points, before you even begin counting un-missed FGs.

The Eagles have several free agents of their own. Who should return? Who should be sent packing? Who are you on the fence with? Why would you re-sign or let go of these players?

Mike: I think Donnie Jones is a must to return but outside of him there is no one I am dying to see back. The Eagles should re-sign one of the pair of the free agent wide receivers. Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both replaceable but having to replace both in one offseason could be a unnecessary issue with Jason Avant likely getting shown the door.

Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson, Clifton Geathers and Philip Hunt did nothing this season to prove to me that they belong. I am probably the most on the fence with Nate Allen. I do not want to reward average players but creating a need for two new starting safeties along with losing a veteran at the position may not be the best move. I fully expect another safety to be added in free agency and another in the draft's first three rounds, so signing Allen to a new deal is not a must.

Dave: None of the unrestricted free agents are musts. Well, Donnie Jones, but punters and kickers are fungible. I would re-sign Maclin but I won't be upset if they let him walk because someone else wants to overpay him. Because he missed the whole year in a new offense, re-signing Maclin is essentially the same thing as signing him from another team, it's all bonus. I can take or leave Riley Cooper and Nate Allen, so long as they sign at least one WR and a S in their place. It won't happen but I would be fine with Vick returning as the backup. Coleman, Anderson and Geathers can go.

Mark: My priority re-signs are 1) punter Donnie Jones and 2) special teamer Colt Anderson, who is crucial to that unit. I don't even consider Cedric Thornton up for discussion, since he's an exclusive rights FA (which means not a free agent). But him too. Nate Allen, Maclin and Cooper are excellent pieces but if they get crazy with their demands Philadelphia could replace them. I admire the hell out of Mike Vick, and think he would be a great #2 quarterback, but he wants to start and God bless him for that.

It would also be good to give playing time to Barkley and/or any project QB they draft, instead of Vick. Some people wanted to throw Foles into the deep end of the pool at the start of last year, when training camp (and the Dallas game) showed he clearly wasn't ready. The thinking was that we should play for the long run since Vick won't be the future QB.

I think that was crazy, thinking way too hard. It didn't take Foles long to get up to speed -- he was ready by the Oakland game) -- but these things can't be rushed and sometimes backfire. Starting so many games under bad circumstances his rookie year may actually have set back Foles' development. For a number two QB, it's a different story. Even then, I can imagine a playoff game where Foles goes down, and it would be great to have the well-rested veteran speedster Vick coming off the bench for one last chance at glory. But I don't think money or Vick's desire to play make it realistic to keep him.

Free agency is not a perfect science but players do have game tape and at least four years of playing time when they hit the market. Who is the one high-priced player you want the Eagles to stay away from and why is this guy unappealing to you?

Mike: Eric Decker is a guy that I think will be grossly overpaid this offseason. I am pretty positive that the Eagles will avoid him, but he is the one player I want thoroughly avoid. He is a number four receiver if he is not playing with Peyton Manning. He drops way too many balls. Like I said, I do not see him joining the Eagles but you never know.

Dave: Jairus Byrd's contract. The highest paid players at their positions are generally not worth their contracts and there is always a worry that now that the player has his money he'll stop caring. The aftertaste of 2011 still lingers. And when is the last time a team that "won the off-season" also won in the regular season? While I trust Chip to not acquire that kind of player and Howie with structuring contracts, no one's perfect. A "cover your bases" approach like last year is the way I would go.

Mark: Jairus Byrd. His oversized demands signal an attitude that won't fit into Chip Kelly's Eagles, and his injuries are a big concern. Remember that Chip never coached Byrd; Kelly was still offensive coordinator in 2008, Byrd's last year at Oregon, and we don't know how much contact they had or what Chip thought of him.

Tell us what you think. You can answer the questions or elaborate on our answers below.

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