With the end of each season comes the inevitable roster turnover of the offseason. Between expiring contracts, veterans again, and general malaise, there’s always bound to be a number changes to a team’s makeup. Free agency, then, sees those changes enacted.
Per the NFL’s website, here’s how the beginning of free agency will be handled this year:
During the period beginning at 12 noon, New York time, on March 7th and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 9th, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2016 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9.
The Eagles have 13 players whose contracts don’t extend to the next league year. Here’s a breakdown of each player’s situation, with analysis, and an explanation of each of the three categories under which they fall. We’ll updated the list if and when players are signed or allowed to go free.
Unrestricted Free Agents
A player whose contract has expired and has four or more tenured years in the league. He may sign with any other team with no restrictions. If a team loses more UFAs than it signs, they will be awarded "Compensatory Draft Picks" from the league. The value of the pick is determined by the difference of the contracts signed by the players lost and those acquired. If a team has signed an equal number or more UFAs than it has lost, no "Compensatory Picks" will be awarded.
- DT Bennie Logan
Logan, 27, spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Eagles, including three as a starting defensive tackle. He piled up 2.5 sacks in 13 games this season, but his job as a defensive tackle goes beyond bringing the opposing quarterback down for a loss. He excels in run defense, both filling the A-gaps and breaking through blocks to disrupt runs. Logan had a great 2015 and a good 2016, and he’ll likely command good money this offseason. After the Eagles committed $102 million to defensive tackle Fletcher Cox last year, will they spend big again at the same position?
- CB Nolan Carroll
Carroll, 29, has spent the past three seasons with the Eagles, including two as their starting left cornerback. He snagged just one interception in 16 games this season, while finishing the year first in the league in defensive pass interference calls. He had a good 2014, and looked good if not exceptional before ending 2015 with an injury, but Carroll’s 2016 was rough. He was beat off the line by receivers often, and with the veteran turning 30 in January, his best days are likely behind him. What kind of money is a player who’s a CB3 worth? Not very much.
- OL Stefen Wisniewksi
Wisniewski, 27, spent just one of his six years in the league with the Eagles. He was a backup offensive lineman this year. Wisniewski saw spot work at left and right guard, and was available for work at center as well. He’s a utility offensive lineman, which makes him a great backup OL to have. In relief Wisniewski played solid football this year, strong enough in both run and pass blocking. The Eagles, however, have plenty of young offensive linemen in the chamber, which makes re-signing a veteran backup less than likely.
- LB Stephen Tulloch
Tulloch, 32, spent the last year of his 11 years in the league with the Eagles. He didn’t see very much action outside of spot work as a backup linebacker, piling up seven tackles in 10 games in which he was active. He looked useful enough when he was on the field, but as a man completing his first dozen years in the NFL next season, his value is low. He might be a solid backup to retain for one more year, if only because the Eagles aren’t flush with linebackers and could try to cut Mychal Kendricks loose. But that is the extent of Tulloch’s worth in 2017.
- LB Bryan Braman
Braman, 29, has spent the last three years with the Eagles, all three as a crucial special teams player. He’s a linebacker in the loosest sense. Braman was part of Chip Kelly’s initiative to bring in special teams specialists when he arrived in Philadelphia in order to bolster Dave Fipp’s special teams unit, and it’s worked. Braman is relatively cheap; this season, he cost the Eagles $975,000. He’s a hard worker and a good special teams player. If Braman can be had for somewhere near $2 million over two more years, the Eagles would probably like to keep him.
- CB Dwayne Gratz
Gratz, 26, signed with the team in December. He’s spent four years in the league. Gratz was inactive for every game he was on the roster this season, so we didn’t get to see him play in Jim Schwartz’s defense. While there might be something salvageable, the Eagles have little incentive to bring him back other than as an offseason/training camp body.
Restricted Free Agents
A player whose contract has expired and has fewer than four tenured years in the league. He may sign an "Offer Sheet" with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team. The round and quantity of picks are determined by the "Qualifying Offer" made by the player's original team. If a RFA is tendered a minimum qualifying offer the compensation is the equivalent of the round in which that player was originally selected. If that player was originally a rookie free agent, no compensation is awarded.
- TE Trey Burton
Burton, 25, has spent the first three years of his career with the Eagles, all three as the team’s No. 3 tight end. He was a bargain-bin deal this year, making $600,000 while catching 37 passes for 327 yards and a touchdown. He and Carson Wentz established chemistry in the preseason and worked from there. Burton has shown time and again, when afforded the playing time, that he’s a playmaker. He catches reliably, has good tackle-breaking ability, and is a top-two tight end playing as the Eagles’ TE3. The team will want him back.
- S Jaylen Watkins
Watkins, 24, has spent the majority of his first three years in the NFL with the Eagles. He’s a safety who can play slot corner in a pinch. He’s got a slight build and a quiet personality, and his play on the field can be equally timid. He doesn’t often show up with big plays, but he was beat for more than a few this season while being asked to do too much in a depleted secondary. Watkins might be a serviceable backup safety defensive back next year, but beyond that, he’s not a terribly desirable piece.
- RB Kenjon Barner
Barner, 27, has spent the bulk of the last three years with the Eagles, including the last two on the team’s active roster. In those two years he has 55 carries for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He is a perennial backup running back, a RB3 at best and a practice squad-level player at worst. With two running backs committed to the roster for next year, and the position itself in great need of improvement for the Eagles in 2017, Barner’s eminently replaceable skill set is not worth a roster spot.
- LB Najee Goode
Goode, 27, has spent chunks of the last four years with the Eagles, including all 16 games this year. He’s a good special teams player and an acceptable deep-backup linebacker, with the caveat that if Goode is in the game for extended periods of time, you team is likely not in a good place. He’s strong, but hasn’t shown coaches enough over the last few years to warrant any kind of action. He could be back as a backup linebacker and special teams contributor again, but not much more.
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
A player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing ERFAs.
- CB C.J. Smith
Smith, 23, spent his rookie season with the Eagles. He was active for some games, but wasn’t used in nearly any capacity. The rookie showed enough to the team’s coaching staff last summer to convince them to keep him around, but he didn’t show them enough during the season to get any playing time in a cornerback corps that lacked real talent. He’ll likely be kept around as an offseason/training camp body; whether he stays beyond that remains to be seen.
- LS Rick Lovato
Lovato, 24, spent the last three weeks of the season with the Eagles after long snapper Jon Dorenbos broke his wrist. Dorenbos signed a three-year extension with the Eagles earlier in the season, which means he is still the team’s entrenched long snapper. Lovato proved affable in the locker room and useful on the field; the Eagles might keep him around as an offseason/training camp body, but he won’t be making their team.
- RB Terrell Watson
Watson, 23, spent the final two weeks of the season with the Eagles. He played in one game, the season finale against Dallas, and ran nine times for 28 yards and one touchdown. He showed toughness with the ball, and pretty average explosion. Watson is a great story; whether he can be a useful RB3 remains to be seen. The Eagles could bring him back as an offseason/training camp body and see what he has.