The Eagles enter Year 2 of the Chip Kelly era with a team that is mostly familiar with his way of thinking. With a year under their belt, players are expected to see a jump in production in their second season with the head coach. This experience should help several players with expiring contracts this season.
The organization will have to make decisions on several members of the current roster before they hit free agency next summer. Those players will all have to prove their worth in order to stick around long term. Next offseason is the year that contracts for 2011 NFL Draft picks taken on Day 2 and Day 3 are set to expire, but due to an extension for Jason Kelce and a mass exodus by the team's draft class that year, the Eagles have very few homegrown talents facing free agency.
Here are seven players facing free agency next offseason:
Who would have guessed that Graham would still be on the roster at this point? The guy has overcome an ACL injury, Jim Washburn, several alignment changes, Juan Castillo and a plethora of trade rumors to make it to the fifth and final season of his contract while staying on the Eagles roster. Say what you want about Graham, but he's a survivor. The issue is that the Eagles don't need a survivor, they need sacks in bunches. Graham needs to become a worthwhile member of the rotation at outside linebacker. He will have to take snaps away from Marcus Smith and Trent Cole in order to do so.
The Eagles wanted to sign Maclin to a long-term deal, but he wanted to bet on himself and get a richer contract next summer. Maclin will have every opportunity to prove he deserves "big money" this season and he has to show that he can stay healthy. He has only played 16 games in a season once in his career and missed all of last year with an ACL injury. His time is now!
Fletcher is poised to be a starting cornerback for the second straight season, but he is coming off a year where he missed games due to injuries and was never really better than average during his initial run with the team. He will be challenged by Nolan Carroll throughout the season, but if Fletcher can improve in his second season in Philadelphia, he could be brought back. He needs to make plays on the ball with consistency and he has shown the ability to be a playmaker, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see him improve.
Being a kicker isn't easy, especially in a town where fans actually pay attention to when you miss. Henery has to improve his consistency on both field goals and kickoffs. The team obviously wants him to win the competition against Carey Spear, but to keep him beyond 2014, he needs to prove that he can improve his leg strength.
As I have brought up before, Thornton is really the one guy on the roster that is worthy of a long-term extension right now. While he is mostly a run-stopper, Thornton is working on his hands by boxing this offseason, which should help him improve his numbers and the defense. He is likely the biggest diamond in the rough of Howie Roseman's tenure as general manager and the 3-4 defense is a perfect fit for his skill set.
Allen made the most of his first contract year and proved he was at least worth keeping around to compete. Still, Allen is facing way more competition than he has since joining the team. Earl Wolff seems like a legit starter waiting in the wings. The two will compete for the starting job opposite Malcolm Jenkins, which should be prime real estate for Allen. He needs to prove that he is more than just a capable starter.
Matthews has somehow made it through three years of his rookie contract. If he lasts through Year 4, he will need to prove he is worth more than special teams snaps moving forward. Matthews had coaching staff familiarity on his side last season, but this year most of his teammates have that luxury. The Eagles used him as a backup outside linebacker last season, but this year he will probably move inside and compete with Emmanuel Acho and Jason Phillips for playing time as a backup. DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode are clearly in front of him on the depth chart. It will be an uphill battle to even enter his contract year.