Eagles news and notes for 2/10
The move was not a surprise. McKelvin, 31, struggled last year, his first with the team, as the Eagles' defense nosedived in the second half of the season. McKelvin missed three games with injuries and was hobbled by a hamstring problem in several others.
Releasing McKelvin before the second year of the two-year deal he signed in 2016 saves the Eagles $3.2 million off their salary cap; they are expected to make several moves to gain some cap room for free agency, which starts March 9. Spotrac.com pegged their cap situation fourth-worst in the NFL entering the offseason.
ESPN's Adam Caplan has reported the team has approached left tackle Jason Peters about lowering his $11.2 million 2017 cap number. Connor Barwin, Ryan Mathews, Jason Kelce and Ron Brooks, among others, also could face release or restructuring.
It will be interesting to see what the Eagles do at corner, where the other 2016 starter, Nolan Carroll, also had a disappointing year and is scheduled to become a free agent. The free-agent market at corner doesn't look great, though this is considered a really strong corner draft class. De facto general manager Howie Roseman has disparaged the "Band-Aid" approach the Eagles have taken to the position the past several years.
The Eagles traded corner Eric Rowe, their 2015 second-round draft pick, to the Patriots last September. He ended up playing most of the snaps in the Super Bowl, and could be a full-time New England starter in 2017, especially if the Pats let Logan Ryan become a free agent. In that case, Ryan, from Berlin, N.J., and Rutgers, could become an Eagles target.
Many fans hated this draft initially, but...
With Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor already on the roster, the Eagles drafted cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the first two rounds, an unorthodox approach that paid off big-time. Additionally, the Birds found Brian Westbrook, who in my opinion remains the best running back in Eagles history.
All told, the Eagles found three Pro Bowl players in Sheppard, Michael Lewis, and Westbrook, and one should-have-been Pro Bowl player in Brown. Additionally, while he had success elsewhere, Raheem Brock became a long-time NFL starter.
This was the polar opposite of the worst draft over the last 18 years, which was 2011. In 2011, the Eagles reached for need, selecting Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the first two rounds. In 2002, they just took the best players, landing a pair of corners on an already cornerback-rich team.
The moral of the story here: Just take the best players.
While things didn't work out great in Doug Pederson's first season as head coach, there were some individual players who had good years. In fact, five Eagles made ProFootballFocus' list of the top 101 players in the league in 2016 after just two players made the same list in 2015.
PFF reminds its readers that they try to take position out of the equation … otherwise the list would be filled with quarterbacks.
For the Eagles, it starts with a former first-round pick who has taken a quite unusual career path:
9. Brandon Graham
The guys at ProFootballFocus don't just like Brandon Graham. They like like Brandon Graham. No, the sack total wasn't very high at 5 1/2 in 2016, but he brought consistent pressure. Graham went from unranked a year ago to No. 9 in 2016.
55. Fletcher Cox
Cox dropped from 28 in 2015 to 55 in 2016, but still had a really good season.
PFF writes that he was an "unblock able force at times this season." His best game was Week 17 against the Cowboys and he had eight QB pressures in two games against the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line.
78. Jason Peters
The old veteran really bounced back in 2016 to take a spot on this list after going unranked a year ago. While PFF said he was inconsistent in the run game, he was one of the NFL's best at pass blocking.
The overwhelming success this past year brought has Sturgis feeling confident and excited about his future in Philadelphia.
“I really just kind of struggled through my first few years,” he said when reflecting during the team’s locker room clean-out day. “I really felt like I got in a good groove and just hitting the ball really well. I would kick against guys on Sundays and felt like, ‘You know what? I can be one of the better guys.’”
Sturgis was just that as his 35 field goals tied for second most in the league, trailing only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, who tallied 38 on the year. Additionally, Sturgis' 135 points ranked fourth in the NFL this season.
However, he understands there’s always room for improvement and this offseason, there are a few key aspects Sturgis will look to work on.
“The 40-49 (range) I missed more than I would have liked this year. I can deal with a few over 50,” Sturgis said. “I should make them all. They’re really good, Coach (Dave) Fipp and Coach (Doug) Pederson are good about not putting me out there for kicks I shouldn’t make. So when I’m out there, I need to make the kicks.”
In total, Sturgis failed to connect on six attempts in 2016, one of which was that block against New York. The other five kicks he missed were from 46, 44, 55, 51, and 49 yards out. In the coming months, he’ll look to clean those up.