The Philadelphia Eagles added a familiar face to their defensive line by (reportedly) re-signing veteran defensive end Vinny Curry. Here are some thoughts on this deal and what it means moving forward.
1 - The Eagles filled a need
The Eagles had a need for more defensive line depth after trading away Michael Bennett earlier this month. Here’s an updated list of defensive ends currently under contract with Philadelphia for 2019:
And here’s a depth chart for the entire defensive line
First team: Derek Barnett, Malik Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham
Second team: Vinny Curry, Treyvon Hester, Bruce Hector, Chris Long*
Third team: Josh Sweat, (vacant), (vacant), Joe Ostman/Daeshon Hall
We don’t know for sure that Long will be on the team in 2019 as he considers retirement. More on him later.
For now, let’s focus on what we do know.
Graham and Barnett figure to be the primary “starters” this season. I put that word in quotes, of course, but the Eagles will heavily rotate their ends. Here’s a look at their d-line snap counts from the past two seasons, per Football Outsiders. Starting with 2018:
And now for 2017:
Curry figures to be a significant role player for the 2019 Eagles. He’ll likely be the third or fourth defensive end in terms of playing time. His ability to line up at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations and generate interior pressure gives him another avenue to getting on the field.
Curry’s return isn’t the best development for 2018 fourth-round pick Josh Sweat, who likely tops out as a fourth defensive end in the rotation. His more realistic projection might be as a fifth defensive end ... or worse.
2 - There’s reason to believe Vinny Curry is still good
Curry was not good in 2018.
In 12 games with the Buccaneers, Curry produced just 2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits. According to Pro Football Focus, Curry ranked 98th in run stop percentage and 71st out of 110 edge rushers in pressure rate. PFF said it was the worst season of his career.
Vinny Curry's 79.0 overall grade ranked 27th in 2017 with the Eagles. He rejoins the team after spending a season away in Tampa. pic.twitter.com/T63HLnMoWV— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 21, 2019
Why was Curry so bad? It appears injury was a significant factor:
Curry struggled with a high ankle sprain last season. He attempted to come back too soon, and it set him back further. I don't think those numbers are an indictment of him as a player, but the injury... https://t.co/kwpsQ3cZyH— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 21, 2019
That’s not even to mention Curry was playing in a new scheme on a Bucs defense that allowed the most points in the entire league.
Now Curry is returning to a system in which he previously excelled. In 2017, PFF had Curry ranked 10th in run stop percentage and 35th out of 119 edge rushers in pressure rate. As PFF noted, those numbers indicated a career year for him. His performance was good enough for the Bucs to sign him to a three-year contract worth up to $27 million.
Curry turns 31 in June and it’s possible he won’t be the same player he was for the Eagles two years ago. But there’s reason to believe he can still be a valuable contributor.
3 - The Eagles got good value
Curry’s one-year contract is reportedly worth $2.5 million with another $1.25 million available in incentives. It remains to be seen exactly how much is fully guaranteed. Curry reportedly turned down more lucrative offers elsewhere to come back to his favorite NFL team.
$2.5 million does seems pretty reasonable for a veteran edge defender. Look at some of these deals signed by other players at Curry’s position (via Rotoworld):
Markus Golden (28) -- Signed 1-year, $3.75M deal with NYG
Terrell Suggs (36) -- Signed 2-year, $10M deal with ARZ
Clay Matthews (32) -- Signed 2-year, $16.75M deal with LAR
Shaq Barrett (26) -- Signed 1-year, $4M deal with TB
Cameron Wake (37) -- Signed 3-year, $23M deal with TEN
Alex Okafor (28) -- Signed 3-year, $18M deal with KC
John Simon (28) -- Re-signed 2-year, $4.125M deal with NE
Bruce Irvin (31) -- Signed 1-year, $4M deal with CAR
Anthony Chickillo (26) -- Re-signed 2-year, $8M deal with PIT
Brooks Reed (32) -- Signed 1-year, $1.625M deal with ARZ
For even more perspective, consider Curry was set to carry an $11 million cap number with the Eagles in 2018 prior to being cut. Curry carried a $6.5 million cap number with the Bucs last year.
4 - There are no comp pick consequences
Curry doesn’t count against the Eagles’ compensatory pick formula since he was released by the Bucs. That’s a nice bonus to this signing.
As it currently stands, the Eagles are projected to receive two compensatory picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Philly could potentially receive up to two more if/when players like Jay Ajayi, Stefen Wisniewski, Timmy Jernigan, etc. sign elsewhere.
5 - It’s unclear what Vinny Curry’s return means for Chris Long
I previously thought the Eagles might not re-sign Curry because they were saving a spot for Long. Maybe signing Curry indicates Long will not be back with the team in 2019. If so, that’d be a bummer.
It’s too early to say for sure, though. Long hasn’t officially made a decision either way. As of right now, he’s still under contract. He did say that he’ll be watching how deep the Eagles’ defensive end room gets before deciding if he wants to come back. Curry’s return obviously makes the room more crowded. It’s also very possible the Eagles still add an edge rusher (or two?) via the 2019 NFL Draft, which is loaded with d-line talent. Is there going to be enough room for Long?
It’d be great to see Long come back. He’s still capable of helping this team win. Curry’s addition means Philly will be less screwed if Long does decide to retire, though.
6 - The Eagles are adding even more age
The Eagles have acquired a lot of “old guys” this offseason.
Curry turns 31 in June, DeSean Jackson turns 33 in December, Malik Jackson turned 29 in January, L.J. Fort turned 29 in January, and Andrew Sendejo turns 32 in September. The Eagles also re-signed a 37-year-old Jason Peters.
Are the Eagles getting too old? I recently offered some thoughts on this that I’ll re-share here:
I’ve seen some concern about the Eagles acquiring a bunch of old guys. It’s a fair thing to point out. At the same time, Philly won the Super Bowl in 2018 after adding some key “old guys” to the team such as the aforementioned Long, Patrick Robinson, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Graham, etc. It’s not like the Eagles are bringing in old guys to be their core players. Rather, they’re supplemental pieces. Philly sees a window to win right now so they’re acquiring vets who can help them do just that. I just don’t see what younger players the Eagles should’ve been signing instead. Not to mention youth is going to cost much more money. The Eagles still have plenty of draft picks to restock their foundation with young players; they don’t need to build a roster with young talent acquired in free agency.
Zach Berman of the Inquirer pointed out there’s merit in adding core free agents such as Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod, etc. It’s a fair point. But the Eagles also had a LOT more cap space to burn back when those guys were added in 2016. They also didn’t have a franchise quarterback mega-contract looming on the horizon.
7 - Curry’s return is good for the locker room
Bringing a player back simply because they’re a good locker room presence isn’t a great reason to re-sign a player. Instead, it should be viewed as a bonus. And that’s the case here with Curry. He’s well-liked in the locker room and I’m sure the guys will be glad to have him back.
It’s also a nice bonus for the Philly fans that have always loved Curry, who grew up as a fan of the Eagles himself.