Of the 90 players on the Eagles’ current roster, 21 will be free agents at the end of the upcoming season. Many of them are the normal back-of-the-roster players (and Tim Tebow), but a few are impact players, including several starters. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few free agents-to-be who will be looking to lock up new deals with the Eagles.
When the Eagles traded for Kiko Alonso in the offseason, it was easy to envision he and Kendricks creating havoc on defense. But that vision became a little more cloudy when, less than three weeks after making the trade, the Eagles re-signed veteran inside linebacker (and resident Mufasa) DeMeco Ryans. And as if that weren't enough, the Eagles then selected Texas inside linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
While the coaching staff continues to publicly support Kendricks, and though he acknowledged this week that he understands the business side of the NFL, the tea leaves appear pretty easy to read. The Eagles didn't re-sign Ryans and trade LeSean McCoy for Alonso to bench either of them. And while it is true that defensive coordinator Billy Davis could make a three-man rotation work, it doesn't seem like a great use of Kendricks' abilities. Barring an unforseen injury this summer, it's very possible that Kendricks will be playing for a new contract in another uniform this year.
Perhaps no player was hurt more by the Eagles' defensive alignment shift than Vinny Curry. Drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Curry seemed like the heir apparent to Trent Cole as a 4-3 defensive end. But with the end of the Andy Reid era brought Chip Kelly and the 3-4 defense, which made Curry something of a man without a country. Instead of being able to play a more traditional role, Curry was asked to bulk up to stay at defensive end.
To his credit, Curry has embraced his role and has performed well. Despite playing fewer than 400 snaps last season, he finished the year with nine sacks, good for second on the team.
Because he is playing out of position, Curry's ceiling in the Eagles' defense will likely always be limited. As a result, Curry's outlook is much the same as fellow 2012 second round draftee Kendricks - if he's not traded, odds seem good that he'll get his second contract in another city. If that does happen, it'll be a shame for a player who grew up an Eagles fan.
Like Curry and Kendricks, Boykin is another member of the 2012 draft class whose future in Philadelphia is something of a mystery. Earlier in the week, Boykin spoke to the media and said that Chip Kelly promised him a chance to win the available starting cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell.
Despite having a slightly smaller frame than the Eagles' coaches may like, his playmaking ability is undeniable. If he does indeed get a fair shake at the starting job, it's very possible that he lines up on the outside against the Falconsin Week 1. And if he doesn't get the gig? Provided he isn't traded, Boykin has said he's committed to being the best slot corner in the game, which is still a pretty good deal for Eagles fans.
The shift in defensive alignment may have hurt other players, but it created an opportunity for Thornton. An undrafted rookie who made the Eagles' practice squad in 2011, Thornton has proven to be an excellent fit at defensive end opposite Fletcher Cox (who is also up for a new deal at the end of the year, and is a virtual lock to get one). Together, these two and Bennie Logan form a defensive line that is among the most talented position group on the team.
Earlier in the offseason, Thornton signed his one-year, $2.356 million dollar restricted free agent tender. This means he's eligible for a new deal at the end of the upcoming season. While Thornton may have some competition from Taylor Hart during training camp, it seems likely that Thornton and the Eagles will agree to a long-term extension.
Walter Thurmond III
The Eagles have several open competitions in the secondary, including one starting outside cornerback and one starting safety spot. At this admittedly early juncture, newly-signed Walter Thurmond III appears to be getting the first crack at the safety spot next to Malcolm Jenkins.
Versatility is one of Thurmond's strengths. In his time with the Giants and Seahawks he's played outside and in the slot, and has performed well in both. However, safety is a new one for him, and earlier this week he acknowledged that he'd only ever played safety on the scout team.
In order to win the job, Thurmond will need to stay healthy, something that's unfortunately been a challenge thus far in his career. He played in 14 games over the last two years, only two of which came last season. But if he's able to stay healthy, his positional versatility could very well earn him a place on the roster next year.
It remains to be seen if this experiment at safety will end up working out. But even if it doesn't, at least it got Giants fans all riled up. And isn't that really what it's all about?
No player has been scrutinized more heavily this offseason than the Bradford, the presumptive starting quarterback. Bradford is still recovering from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season, but his rehab appears to be on track, and the coaching staff expects him to be ready for action when the games start counting.
It remains to be seen what the former Ram will be able to do under the tutelage of Chip Kelly. Both Bradford and the Eagles are hoping a change of scenery (and a Pro Bowl backfield) are just what Bradford needs to have a successful season. And if Bradford, a former first overall pick, can put it all together? Well, he'll be looking at a payday that might come close to the one Cam Newton got earlier this week.