After a busy first day of the new league year, it’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: NFL free agency grades. The Philadelphia Eagles were active on Thursday by making a total of three signings. The Eagles probably aren’t done making moves yet, but here’s an evaluation of what the team has accomplished under the watch of Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas so far. We’ll start with my grades and also take a look at what the ‘experts’ are saying.
ALSHON JEFFERY: A
I really like this deal for the Eagles.
Put the contract aside for a second. The Eagles desperately needed to get Carson Wentz help this offseason. I was on record saying they didn’t even need an Alshon-type. They just needed to add some respectable, NFL quality receivers.
The Eagles did more than that by adding Jeffery. He’s a legitimate No. 1 talent that this town hasn’t seen in a long time. Jeffery figures to be a great player for Wentz to have around. He’s a big, physical target with an elite catch-point skill set. He only dropped one pass last season despite being targeted 94 times. Jeffery is exactly the kind of proven, reliable receiver that should do wonders for the Eagles’ second-year quarterback.
Now let’s bring the contract back into focus. Yes, there’s risk Jeffery could leave after this season since he only signed a one-year deal. But I wouldn’t worry about that a ton. The Eagles will still have plenty of time between the season ends and 2018 free agency begins to work something out. If worst comes to worst, they can always just franchise tag him, although that will be expensive and not ideal.
But I like the one-year deal because it mitigates the risks (injury, suspension) that come with signing Jeffery. Those risks could still be present next year if/when the Eagles want to sign him to an extension, but at least now they’ll have more information on him after having him in house for a season.
This was a very good deal for the Eagles. It’s worth getting excited about. Especially since Jeffery had two of the best seasons of his career under former Bears and current Eagles wide receivers coach Mike Groh. Just look at these numbers.
2013 - 89 receptions, 1421 yards, 7 TD
2014 - 85 receptions, 1133 yards, 10 TD
BGN readers gave the Eagles’ signing of Jeffery a 96% approval rating.
SB Nation gave the Eagles an ‘A’ for getting Jeffery.
The most notable thing about Jeffery signing with the Eagles is that he did so on a one-year deal. It’s worth $14 million so it’s not a cheap deal for Philadelphia, but it means Jeffery will be playing for what he hopes will be an even bigger contract in 2018.
Coupled with Torrey Smith, this is a deal the Eagles can definitely feel good about for the 2017 season and the development of Carson Wentz. The concern is whether or not Jeffrey will be able to stay healthy for an entire season.
ESPN gave the Eagles an ‘A-’ grade.
It should be telling that Jeffery had a down year and missed four games thanks to a PED suspension but was still able to get what is essentially the same one-year deal he picked up on the franchise tag from Chicago last year. In his four years as a starter, Jeffery is ninth among wideouts in both cumulative receiving yards and receiving yards per game, despite having Jay Cutler as his best quarterback in that time. With him having just turned 27, there's plenty of reason to think Jeffery will rank among the top half of starting NFL wide receivers.
The one-year deal gives the Eagles an opportunity to evaluate Jeffery before deciding whether to keep him around. Matthews' future with the team might depend on whether the Eagles like what they see with Jeffery. Howie Roseman is as aggressive in the trade market as anybody in football, and with Matthews entering the final year of his deal, Philadelphia might very well see what's available for their former second-round pick. Fans with Agholor jerseys, meanwhile, might want to quietly place them on eBay before supply outstrips even ironic demand.
TORREY SMITH: A-
The Eagles wanted to trade for Torrey Smith prior to the NFL trade deadline last season. Instead, they signed him for only $500,000 in guaranteed money. This is a pure low-risk, high upside deal.
The only downside here is if Smith makes the team and stinks it up while making $5 million. That wouldn’t be great. But the good news is the Eagles could move on after this season.
Smith could very well bounce back in Philadelphia after having a few down years in San Francisco. The truth is the 49ers have been a mess for the past couple of seasons: bad coaching under Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, bad quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, and bad talent evaluation from the front office leading to a totally depleted roster.
For all his faults, Smith is still statistically one of the best deep threat receivers in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if Wentz can form a connection with him. We barely got to see the Eagles even attempt deep passes last year because they simply did not have the talent for it. This year, Wentz will have an opportunity to rack up those all important AIR YARDS.
BGN readers gave the Eagles’ signing of Smith an 80% approval rating.
SB Nation gave the Eagles an ‘A’ for nabbing Smith.
It’s a three-year, $15 million deal, which could end up being one of the biggest steals in free agency this year. It gives Carson Wentz a veteran speedster at a fraction of the cost it would’ve taken to land DeSean Jackson.
ESPN gave the Eagles a ‘B+’ for signing Smith.
Remember Torrey Smith? In a way, Smith is a cautionary tale for teams targeting deep threats such as DeSean Jackson and Kenny Stills in free agency. After moving on from Joe Flacco in Baltimore, Smith was anonymous during his two-year run in San Francisco, catching a total of just 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns. Granted, he wasn't working in great offenses, but he was outproduced by the likes of Quinton Patton and Jeremy Kerley last year.
It's possible that Smith is toast, but because he didn't suffer any serious injuries during his time in San Francisco, it's likelier that he was stuck in a terrible scheme fit. Things should go much better in Philadelphia, where the Eagles have a promising quarterback in Carson Wentz and have been desperately crying out for somebody capable of stretching the field. Smith should help there. Smith was also a monster in terms of drawing pass interference penalties in Baltimore, picking up 26 calls for 571 yards over his four years in town. That would be a boon for Wentz, who drew only 100 yards of PI penalties last year. At three years and $15 million, Smith is a relative bargain for the Eagles.
CHANCE WARMACK: A
You don’t want no problems with Chance the Blocker. The 25-year-old guard is a pretty big dude at 6-2, 323 pounds.
There’s no denying Warmack hasn’t lived up to expectations after being selected No. 10 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. But he hasn’t been terrible. Our Titans blog, Music City Miracles, described Warmack as "average" and "not a total bust." Rather, he was just a "disappointment."
Maybe Warmack can turn his career around in Philadelphia now that he’s reunited with his college offensive line coach at Alabama: Jeff Stoutland.
Warmack only received $500,000 guaranteed so this is obviously a low-risk, one-year deal for the Birds.
It’d be great for the Eagles if Warmack could step up into a starting role. At his age, he could potentially be a long-term fixture at the left guard spot.
Now that I think about it, look at what the Eagles’ offensive line could potentially be this year.
LT Jason Peters - 35 years old
LG Chance Warmack - 25 years old
C Isaac Seumalo - 23 years old
RG Brandon Brooks - 27 years old
RT Lane Johnson - 26 years old
After having one of the oldest offensive lines in the NFL for so long now, the Eagles suddenly might be getting younger. And when Johnson eventually places the aging Peters, it’s possible Halapoulivaati Vaitai (currently 23 years old) could take over at right tackle. Or the Eagles could draft another offensive tackle this year with the hopes of him taking over on the right side.
At worst, though, Warmack can be the next Stefen Wisniewski: a nice, cheap backup guard to have for one season.
BGN readers gave the Eagles’ signing of Warmack a 98% approval rating.
Yesterday was fun, you guys. The Eagles didn’t have a ton of cap space to work with but they made some very important moves.
Big props to Roseman and Douglas for what they’ve been able to accomplished so far. There’s still work to be done, though, so I’m interested to see what the Eagles do next.