A new wave of NFL free agency is expected to pick up this week since signings will no longer count against a team’s compensatory pick formula starting at midnight (12:00:00 on May 8). The Eagles are among the teams who have been biding their time while playing the comp pick game.
Philadelphia already has one of the most talented rosters in the league but there’s always room for improvement. Not to mention Howie Rosman has about $22 million in cap space to work with. Here’s a look at some targets who could make sense for the Eagles.
DE EZEKIEL ANSAH
Ansah is one of the most intriguing free agents remaining on the market. He led the NFL in pressure rate last year with 20 pressures in 101 pass rush snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Ansah’s market has evolved slowly as he’s recovery from shoulder surgery.
I can’t help but wonder if Ansah might be one of the top free agent pass rushers the Eagles are rumored to be targeting. Jim Schwartz’s Lions selected Ansah with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. There are some issues with Ansah that could potentially drive down his price to make him more affordable. He’s missed 14 games in his past three seasons and he finished with sacks totals of two in 2016 and four in 2018. Spotrac projects Ansah’s next contract to be less lucrative ($13.5 million average annual) than what Brandon Graham’s next pay day will be ($15.4 million average annual). Maybe Schwartz feels like Ansah is the answer for the Eagles. (*booing ensues*)
Ansah would be a great addition to the Eagles’ defensive end rotation, which is looking thin if Chris Long doesn’t return. For a team that likes to heavily rotate their pass rushers, the Eagles’ depth really drops off after the trio of Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry. If one of those three guys gets hurt, the Eagles are suddenly looking at one of Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall, or Joe Ostman being a top three defensive end on the team. That’s not ideal.
Signing Ansah makes a lot of sense for the Eagles but one would imagine he’ll be looking for a bigger role than what Philly will be offering him. Ansah has already taken some free agent visits and the Eagles seemingly haven’t been among those trips.
It’d be nice if Schwartz could convince his former draft pick to spend a year with the Eagles before allowing Ziggy to test the market again in 2020. Just not counting on it to happen.
DE DERRICK MORGAN
Morgan might be a more realistic signing for the Eagles. The 30-year-old has previously made it sound like he’s moving on from Tennessee. Morgan wouldn’t be some high impact player like Ansah but he could give the Eagles more depth.
The 2010 first-round pick was selected three spots after Graham at No. 16 overall. He’s had a solid nine-year career with the Titans. Morgan’s coming off a down year with only 0.5 sacks in 2018 but he had sack totals of nine and 7.5 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Morgan’s a Lancaster, PA native and attended high school in Coatesville. Maybe he has interest in moving back closer to home.
DE PERNELL MCPHEE
I wrote about McPhee as a potential Eagles target earlier this offseason:
The Ravens selected McPhee with a fifth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He then signed with the Bears during the same offseason that Joe Douglas left Baltimore to join Chicago’s front office. McPhee could fit in the Eagles’ defensive end rotation if they’re looking for a veteran.
McPhee also overlapped with Fletcher Cox at Mississippi State, for what it’s worth.
McPhee didn’t log a sack in limited playing time with Washington last year but he did rank 59th out of 173 edge rushers in pressure rate. He had eight quarterback hits and seven hurries in 203 defensive snaps, per PFF.
DE WILLIAM HAYES
Hayes was selected by the Titans in the fourth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft while Schwartz was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator. Hayes played for former Dolphins defensive coordinator and current Eagles defensive special assistant Matt Burke in Miami over the past two seasons.
Hayes, who recently turned 34, is coming off an ACL injury that he suffered in Week 3 last year. That’s not great. The upside is that Hayes ranked 28th out of 119 edge rushers in pressure back in 2017.
OG JEFF ALLEN
Allen is a player the Eagles were rumored to be interested in back in 2016. Philadelphia decided to sign Brandon Brooks away from the Texans instead. It’s safe to say the Eagles got that decision right. Brooks has been a Pro Bowl guard for the Eagles while Allen struggled to play well and dealt with injury issues after signing with Houston.
But with Brooks now recovering from an Achilles injury, the Eagles could afford to add some interior offensive line depth. Signing the 29-year-old Allen makes a lot of sense. He’s versatile and has experience playing at tackle, guard, and center. He’s also known for being a good locker room guy.
The Eagles have familiarity with Allen since he played for the Chiefs while Pederson was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator from 2013 through 2015.
OG STEFEN WISNIEWSKI
Back in March, the Eagles declined Wisniewski’s option for the 2019 season. He’s failed to receive strong interest on the market to this point but maybe they’ll change with teams no longer having to worry about him impacting their comp pick formula.
I’d think Wis doesn’t have a ton of interest in returning to the Eagles because he feels like he should be starting. He said that he felt like his 2018 benching wasn’t performance-related.
If Wis sees his market dry up, though, he could decide the Eagles are ultimately his best option in 2019. There could be an avenue to playing time, anyway, with Brooks recovering from injury and Isaac Seumalo subject to struggles.
If I was the Eagles, I’d consider placing the rarely-used May 7 tender (formerly the June 1 tender) on Wis. In short, this would allow the Eagles to 1) bring Wis back at a reasonable cost or 2) allow him to still count towards the Eagles’ comp pick formula if he signs with another team.
RB JAY AJAYI
Wait. Why is Ajayi making this list? The Eagles already have Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott, and Donnel Pumphrey. And the Eagles already gave out Ajayi’s No. 26 jersey to Sanders.
I’m not including Ajayi here because I think he’ll be on Philadelphia’s roster in 2019. I’m including him because I think they could offer him a May 7 tender in order to try to get a comp pick for him, similar to what I just talked about with Wis.
Over The Cap comp picks expert Nick Korte recently talked about this possibility:
2. Art. 9, §1(b)(i) of the CBA allows for a team after the May deadline (formerly June 1) to place on any of their remaining UFAs a tender that's a 10% raise from his prior year's salary.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 6, 2019
4. 2 years ago, the Patriots dusted off using this rarely used tender on another RB, LeGarrette Blount. A week later, Blount signed with…the Eagles.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 6, 2019
Blount counted in the 2018 compensatory pick formula, though the pick for him was over the 32 pick limithttps://t.co/7gl9rO8Aua
6. As far as I know the May 7 tender isn't guaranteed, so if Ajayi signs it, or is unable to find a contract with another team, the Eagles could just cut him or rescind the tender and move on. I'm sure that Ajayi would find that frustrating if he's no longer in the Eagles' plans.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 6, 2019
7. But Howie Roseman has proven himself to be devoted to manipulating the compensatory pick formula. He tried to get an extra 6th rounder with the shenanigans he did to Mike Wallace's contract. I could see him going to lengths to get a 4th rounder.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 6, 2019
CB KAYVON WEBSTER
I wrote about Webster as a potential target back in 2017: “Webster was a third round pick by the Broncos in the 2013 NFL Draft. He overlapped with Undlin in Denver from 2013-2014. Webster had his most productive season as a rookie when he had one interception, 10 passes defensed, one forced fumble, and 37 tackles. Webster’s playing time decreased ever since then because he’s been stuck behind big money corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. along with 2014 first-round pick Bradley Roby. Broncos writers identify Webster as a very good special teams player and suggest he could be looking for a bigger role on a new team. The 26-year-old defensive back might be an interesting buy-low option for the Eagles.” Webster was reportedly set for a free agent visit with the Eagles that offseason but he signed with the Rams instead. Webster only played two games for the Texans in 2018 after dealing with injuries. The Eagles have a lot of talented youth at corner but it might be nice to add an inexpensive veteran like Webster, who can serve as an experienced backup and play special teams.
Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are still recovering from significant injuries suffered in 2018. If they’re at risk of missing games early in 2019, it wouldn’t hurt to add a veteran like Webster.
The oldest corner on the Eagles’ roster is Josh Hawkins, who is 26. Webster is 28.
S GLOVER QUIN
I think the Eagles might be done adding safeties. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the projected starters, though McLeod is coming off ACL/MCL recovery. The Eagles signed Andrew Sendejo to seemingly be their third safety. The Eagles also recently claimed Blake Countess and his $2 million salary off waivers.
There’s been talk (including from myself) that the Eagles could cut Sendejo to save a fourth-round comp pick and $800,000. I’m not going to dismiss that possibility. But it might not have to come to that. If the Eagles use the May 7 tender to get Wis and/or Ajayi to count TOWARDS their comp pick formula, they won’t need to cut Sendejo to save a fourth-round pick. So we’ll see how that goes.
If the Eagles do want to add a safety who doesn’t impact their comp pick formula, Quin could be of interest as the team’s new version of Corey Graham. The Lions originally signed Quin while Schwartz was Detroit’s head coach. At 33, Quin’s best days are behind him. It’s also not like the Eagles have needed to wait to sign him since he was cut by the Lions earlier this offseason. Still, I’ll mention him here due to the Sendejo comp pick consideration.
I’ll also give honorable mention to Tre Boston, who is still on the market for some reason. I’m guessing he’s hoping for a bigger role than Philly could reasonably offer.
RB DARREN SPROLES
Sproles previously said he was going to make his decision to retire or not in May. Well, it’s May now. The feeling here is that Sproles would like to play in 2019. I also feel like Pederson would like to have Sproles back. But I’m not so sure the front office will be eager to pay a 36-year-old running back who’s only been able to play in nine games the past two years due to injury.
Who do you want the Eagles to sign?