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NFL Free Agency Targets: 35 players with connections to the Eagles

Some of these names will likely be on Philadelphia’s radar.

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New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

NFL free agency essentially begins in less than a week!

The new league year doesn’t officially start until 4:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday, March 16 but the action will kick off with the “legal tampering window” opening at noon on Monday, March 14.

Currently armed with $18.1 million in cap space (and that number can increase with some restructures/trades/cuts), the Philadelphia Eagles will be looking to add more talent to their roster. The Birds won’t be the biggest spenders on the market (14th most cap room per Over The Cap) but they do have enough ammo to make a splash or two.

Who will they acquire, exactly? That much remains to be seen ... but we can use some clues to hone in on their potential targets.

As evidenced by Howie Roseman’s “cohabitation matrix,” the Eagles are very big on the concept of familiarity (sometimes to a fault). With that in mind, let’s take a look at some notable connections the Eagles have to this year’s crop of free agents.

NICK SIRIANNI - HEAD COACH

WR Zach Pascal

Sirianni REALLY likes Pascal.

Check out this quote from when Sirianni was the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator in 2019:

“Zach Pascal has a block on a linebacker on that play that is incredible,” Sirianni said about a key run in the win over the Titans. “I told Zach today, hopefully he knows that’s the biggest compliment I can give him, I said, ‘I hope Jacob Sirianni, my son, plays football like you do.’ And I made it very clear to the offensive line that my son is not going to be built like them. So, I mentioned it to Zach first and Zach was incredible on that play.”

Not convinced? Check out these connections outlined by my BGN Radio co-host, Jimmy Kempski:

During his very first press conference after he became head coach of the Eagles, Sirianni named Pascal among 13 players that he felt he built special relationships with in his previous coaching stops. [...]

Before the Eagles’ final preseason game, Sirianni said that he showed the team video cutups of players who went into the final preseason game on the roster bubble and sort of stamped their ticket onto the final 53-man roster. Pascal was among those players that Sirianni showed the team.

And then finally, Pascal was integral in Sirianni’s “dawg mentality” theme that the Eagles adopted in Sirianni’s rookie head coaching season, as documented in a great story by Zach Berman of The Athletic.

Sirianni was Pascal’s offensive coordinator for three seasons. In addition, Eagles passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo was Pascal’s position coach in Indy for two years. It’s easy to imagine the coaching staff will be pining for Howie Roseman to sign him.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get their way. But Pascal might happen to fit exactly what the Eagles are looking for in free agency. And that’s not what most fans would probably like to see: a high-volume, top-end kind of pass-catcher.

The problem with that thinking is the Eagles might not be inclined to break the bank for a veteran receiver. For starters, consider that they threw the ball less frequently (in terms of passing play percentage) than any other team last year. If DeVonta Smith is already failing to get the regular looks he deserves, it’s hard to envision the Eagles sinking major resources into yet another volume target. The Eagles have also spoken highly of Quez Watkins, indicating that they don’t view themselves as barren at receiver outside of Smith.

No one is denying the Eagles need to add more talent at receiver and adding Pascal would hardly be a sexy signing. He’s averaging just 472 yards per season. But the 27-year-old would fit their budget and very well might qualify as a undervalued player. Pascal’s numbers were ascending until Carson Wentz arrived in Indy last year. Wentz doesn’t exactly have an extensive history of getting the best out of his receivers as much as he does with, say, tight ends.

The thinking here is that Pascal would be a souped-up version of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. That’s to say, a very good run-blocking receiver who can contribute more than JJAW in the passing game as a legitimate complementary option alongside Smith and Watkins.

WR Mike Williams

Sirianni was Williams’ wide receivers coach during his rookie season. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was his OC in 2019 (interim) and 2020. As if those ties weren’t relevant enough, Williams was one of eight wide receivers the Eagles told Wentz to study leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. The Eagles used an official Combine interview on Williams and used one of their top 30 pre-draft visit allocations on him. Williams has been mentioned as a potential franchise tag candidate but the sense seems to be that he’ll make it to the market. If he does, he’s an intriguing fit for the Eagles given how Philly’s receiving corps lacks size. But Williams’ injury history is concerning and he’s probably going to cost more than the Eagles are going to want to spend.

QB Jacoby Brissett

If the Eagles trade Gardner Minshew, which is possibly but not necessarily likely, they’ll be in the market for a new backup quarterback. Brissett obviously has experience with Sirianni.

HOWIE ROSEMAN - EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER

QB Joe Flacco

Again, if the Eagles trade Minshew, they’ll need a backup behind their starter. And this guy Knows The System™! Aren’t you proud of how I didn’t even mention that the Eagles inexplicably overpaid Flacco $3.5 million last year and got bailed out with the New York Jets trading for him?

CB Rasul Douglas

Sul’s had a strange career. After getting cut by the Eagles, he spent the 2020 season with the Carolina Panthers. People seemed to think he played well there but the numbers didn’t tell the same story (108.5 passer rating when targeted). He sat on the open market for a bit before signing with the Las Vegas Raiders. Then they cut him and he briefly spent time with the Houston Texans. Then they cut him and he landed on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Out of desperation due to injuries, the Green Bay Packers added Douglas to the roster ... and he ended up being a Pro Bowl alternate. He picked off five passes with the Packers. Douglas figures to either chase a big pay day or use this opportunity to find stability in Green Bay. I don’t envision him coming back to Philly.

CB Sidney Jones

Jones finally stayed healthy (career high 16 games, beating his previous high of 12) and played fairly well for Seattle (84.3 passer rating when targeted). I don’t see the Eagles revisiting this well, though, and I don’t see Jones wanting to come back to Philly.

JONATHAN GANNON - DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad

AQM was with Gannon in Indy from 2018 through 2020. The Irvington, New Jersey native is coming off a career season with six sacks and 13 quarterback hits. He could potentially play the SAM role in Gannon’s defense. The Eagles might have an opening at that spot since Genard Avery is currently set to be a free agent.

EDGE Kemoko Turay

Turay was also with Gannon in Indy from 2018 through 2020. The Montclair, New Jersey native is coming off a career season with 5.5 sacks. Turay has never played a full season and injuries have limited him to just 24 out of 49 possible regular season games over the past three years. Concerns about his durability will limit his value, potentially making him an affordable addition for the Eagles if they value his upside. The former second-round pick (No. 58 overall) is still only 26 years old.

DL Tyquan Lewis

As a 2018 second-round pick, Lewis was a relative disappointment for the Colts. He only logged 8.5 sacks in 12 starts and 41 games played over four years. Still, he offers some inside-out versatility with experience at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Perhaps he could be an inexpensive replacement for Hassan Ridgeway?

CB Xavier Rhodes

Gannon was in Rhodes’ position room in both Minny and Indy so the ties to him are obvious. Entering his age 32 season, he’s not a perfect fit for Philly. But if the Eagles lose Steve Nelson and are looking for stop-gap option because they don’t implicitly trust their youth, Rhodes could be available to them.

CB T.J. Carrie

Carrie overlapped with Gannon in Indy. He would be a less flashy and less expensive stop-gap option than Rhodes.

DAVE CALDWELL - PERSONNEL EXECUTIVE

Might the former Jacksonville Jaguars general manager see a bigger role in the Eagles’ front office this offseason? Former co-directors of player personnel Brandon Brown and Ian Cunningham recently departed the organization. Besides, Caldwell already had some notable influence with the Minshew acquisition last year.

WR D.J. Chark

Chark to the Eagles has been a popular dot to connect. The Jags selected him with with a 2018 second-round pick (No. 61 overall). Chark has never played a full season (though he was one game shy in 2019) and a fractured ankle limited him to just four appearances last year. His appeal to the Eagles is that he offers some size (6’4”, 200 pounds) and play-making ability. Chark might be an undervalued commodity given how he’s largely been saddled with poor quarterback play in Jacksonville. He could be in the Eagles’ price range.

WR Allen Robinson

The Jags selected Robinson with a 2014 second-round pick (No. 61 overall). He’s had a pretty impressive football career considering he’s been consistently saddled with poor quarterback play dating back to college (see: Christian Hackenberg, Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky). Last year was no different for Robinson considering he had to play with Justin Fields, who was pretty bad as a rookie and might be the most overrated player in the NFL. Excluding the 2017 season where he only suited up for one game, Robinson posted career lows in targets, receptions, yards, yards per reception, and touchdowns in 2021. It’s fair to wonder if he’s declining ahead of his age 29 season. But the thinking here is he might be a good bounce-back candidate in a new environment. The guess here is he’ll be looking to play with a more proven quarterback.

TE James O’Shaughnessy

The Jaguars claimed him off waivers in 2017 and he remained on their roster through last season. So, he overlapped with Caldwell for four years down in Duval. JOS is hardly an exciting name to consider but he could be a solid TE2 behind Dallas Goedert. The Eagles could afford to improve their depth at that spot.

OT Will Richardson

Caldwell selected Richardson with a 2018 fourth-round pick. He only ended up making five starts in 44 games with the team. There’s some intrigue with his profile considering his long arms and decent athletic testing. This could be a signing in the Le’Raven Clark mold. Adding Richardson would give the Eagles more depth at tackle, which could be nice with Brett Toth injured and Andre Dillard potentially heading out the door in a trade.

AARON MOOREHEAD - WIDE RECEIVERS COACH

WR Christian Kirk

Moorehead was Kirk’s position coach at Texas A&M from 2015 through 2017. The receiver spoke highly of his former mentor when the Eagles hired Moorehead in 2020. Kirk might out-price what the Eagles are looking to spend at this position considering he’s coming off a season with 103 targets, 77 receptions, 982 yards, and five touchdowns. On paper, though, he would be a nice upgrade on Greg Ward in the slot.

WR Josh Reynolds

Moorehead was Reynolds’ position coach at Texas A&M in 2015 and 2016. After failing to produce much with the Titans, Reynolds had a productive little stint for the Detroit Lions last year. He caught 19 of 36 targets for 306 yards (16.1 average) and two touchdowns. He’d be a low-cost, complementary addition to the receiving corps.

JASON MICHAEL - TIGHT ENDS COACH

TE Mo-Alie Cox

Michael was Cox’s position coach on the Colts in 2019 and 2020. Cox will be looking for more opportunity than he’ll find stuck behind a dominant TE1 like Dallas Goedert, though. And he could find what he’s looking for by staying in Indy with Jack Doyle announcing his retirement.

JEMAL SINGLETON - ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/RUNNING BACKS COACH

RB Marlon Mack

Singleton was Mack’s position coach during the 2017 season. Mack then overlapped with Sirianni in Indy from 2018 through 2020. It was in 2019 when Mack posted 1,091 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Since that season, he’s logged just 32 carries for 127 yards (4.0 average) and zero scores. It’s fair to wonder how his 2020 Achilles injury impacted his ability. It’s also only fair to acknowledge he’s been stuck behind Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines on the depth chart. Those guys aren’t too shabby. The Eagles could take an inexpensive flyer on Mack. The Eagles could take a chance on him not totally unlike how they gave a shot to Kerryon Johnson last year.

NICK RALLIS - LINEBACKERS COACH

LB De’Vondre Campbell

As noted on BGN last year, Campbell has an unusual connection to his would-be position coach in Philly in that Rallis and he were teammates at the University of Minnesota from 2013 through 2015. There’s a (highly suspect) rumor out there about the Eagles being interested in Campbell but it doesn’t really pass the sniff test. An organization that has notoriously undervalued the linebacker position is about to spend big money on a player coming off an All-Pro year and entering his age 29 season? I’ll believe it when I see it.

DENNARD WILSON - DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH

S Marcus Maye

Wilson was Maye’s position coach on the Jets from 2017 through 2020. Maye was one of the Jets’ very few bright spots during that stretch, logging six interceptions, 22 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. Maye’s playmaking ability prompted the Jets to use the franchise tag on him last year. Unfortunately for Maye, he suffered a torn Achilles in November. It remains to be seen exactly how that injury will impact the 28-year-old’s market. The Eagles could be comfortable adding him at the right price.

MICHAEL CLAY - SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR

LB Marcell Harris

Here’s a bit of a deep cut for you. Harris and Clay overlapped for three years in San Fran. Harris was second on the 49ers in special teams tackles in 2020 and he tied for the most assisted special teams tackles in 2021. He has has some defensive playing experience with 20 total starts (52 games played), including seven last year. He should be able to be had for a low price. It’s not hard to envision him following in the footsteps of Eric Wilson, Zach Brown, Corey Nelson, Jatavis Brown, etc. as the annual inexpensive Eagles linebacker signing that doesn’t pan out.

PREVIOUS RUMORED INTEREST

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

There was a weird leak about the Eagles’ interest in JuJu last offseason. NFL insider Adam Schefter first reported he turned down more money from Philly to play in Pittsburgh. He specifically called the Eagles a “secret suitor” for JuJu. Then Howie Roseman seemingly texted Schefter to tell him to say that it was JuJu’s agent who contacted the Eagles and that Philly “did not wind up courting him.” Strange!

In any case, the Eagles have shown previous interest in him. He was one of the eight receivers that the team told Wentz to study in 2017 and they used a Combine interview with him leading up to that year’s draft. JuJu’s production and efficiency really dropped the past two years, logging a paltry 8.6 yards per reception. That’s gross. Then again, he had to deal with a dilapidated Ben Roethlisberger who couldn’t throw the ball more than like 10 yards down the field. JuJu could be an interesting option for the Eagles if they’re able to buy low on him and utilize him in the slot.

Fun fact: JuJu is younger than 2020 Eagles draft pick John Hightower.

WR James Washington

The Eagles used a Combine interview on Washington leading up to the 2018 draft. He hasn’t been trending in the right direction with his receiving totals dropping from 735 to 392 to 285 over the past three years. But, as we noted with JuJu, he had to play with Big Ben. Washington. The 25-year-old qualifies as another buy-low candidate for the Birds.

RB Rashaad Penny

As a 2018 first-round pick, Penny has largely been a bust for the Seattle Seahawks. But damn was he good to finish the 2021 season! He posted the following numbers over the final five games last year: 92 attempts, 671 yards (7.3 average), 6 TD. Wild. The Eagles will not be looking to spend significant resources on the running back position, which could easily rule them out of targeting Penny. But he would be an intriguing addition given the price. At 5’11”, 220 pounds, he would bring more size to the Eagles’ backfield. We know Penny was previously on Philly’s radar considering they hosted him on a pre-draft visit in 2017.

RB Darrel Williams

The connection here is admittedly thin; the Eagles met with Williams at the Senior Bowl several years back. But the Kansas City Chiefs running back profiles as a potential Jordan Howard replacement. His 3.8 career yards per carry mark isn’t impressive but 1) that’s why he could be available and 2) he could be more efficient running hard behind Philly’s o-line.

TE Durham Smythe

First of all, love this dude’s name. That’s important. The Eagles showed a lot of pre-draft interest in Smythe. They talked with him at both the Senior Bowl and Combine before putting him through a private workout at his pro day. Smythe is coming off the most productive season of his career with 357 yards. Nothing too flashy about this option but he could be a solid TE2 to add behind Goedert. As an added bonus, he’s a Havertown, PA native.

EDGE Charles Harris

Remember Charles Harris? He was one of the five players the Eagles were rumored to take at No. 14 in 2017. Harris ended up going to Miami at No. 22 instead. He was a bust for the Dolphins, posting just 3.5 sacks in three years before being traded to the Atlanta. He had three sacks with the Falcons before landing in Detroit last year. Harris had a career year with the Lions, notching 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. He also finished with Pro Football Focus’s 19th-best pass rushing grade among edge rushers. Did the light truly come on for Harris or was he just putting up empty production one on of the NFL’s worst teams? Though edge rushers typically get paid, questions about his viability could keep his price tag down. The Eagles could look to add Harris in the SAM role.

EDGE Uchenna Nwosu

Yet another SAM linebacker target. The Eagles showed interest in Nwosu via a pre-draft visit in addition to attending his pro day. Nwosu probably won’t come cheap considering he’s been a decent player coming off a career year with one interception, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, five sacks, and 17 quarterback hits. His impact was really on display in the regular season finale, though the Los Angeles Chargers ended up (narrowly) losing. Intriguing, ascending player.

CB Donte Jackson

Jackson is probably going to be too expensive but we’ll note that the Eagles previously used a pre-draft visit and Combine interview on him.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon

We mentioned Witherspoon as a potential target last year before he signed a one-year contract with Pittsburgh. Here’s what we wrote at the time:

The 6-2, 195 pound Witherspoon went through some ups and downs with the San Francisco 49ers. He flashed potential at times as a starter with decent ball production (four interceptions, 24 passes defensed). He also struggled with injuries and got benched for performance issues. The Eagles might be willing to take a chance on this soon-to-be 26-year-old considering they showed some interest in him (pre-draft visit) leading up to the 2017 NFL Drat.

Despite seeing limited playing time with the Steelers (31.6% of their defensive snaps), Witherspoon came up with three interceptions and nine passes defensed. He allowed just a 35.1 passer rating when targeted. Pro Football Focus graded him as their 15th-best cornerback. Witherspoon should be available at a reasonable cost.

S Justin Reid

The Eagles showed a lot of interest in Reid leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. They met with him at the Combine, worked him out at his pro day, and brought him to Philly for a pre-draft visit. Reid is a free agency bargain candidate. He kind of struggled on a bad Houston Texans team the past two years but he showed promise earlier in his career with five picks in his first two seasons. The 2018 third-round pick might get back on track in a more stable environment. Reid only turned 25 years old last month.

P Pat O’Donnell

The Eagles reportedly had interest in O’Donnell during the 2018 offseason. He hasn’t been good, though, so I doubt they’ll sign him. Figured I’d mention here anyway since the Eagles could be in the punter market after Arryn Siposs really struggled late in the season.

LOCAL CONNECTION

EDGE Haason Reddick

Reddick is a Camden, New Jersey native and he played college football at Temple. If he has interest in returning home, the Eagles could have interest in making that happen. A late bloomer, Reddick only had 7.5 sacks in his first three seasons before posting 23.5 over the last two. Reddick wouldn’t be a cheap add but the Eagles aren’t reluctant to invest in their pass rush.

DARIUS SLAY RECRUITMENT

S Quandre Diggs

If you follow Slay on Twitter, you probably know that he LOVES this dude. He’s always tweeting about his former teammate from the Detroit Lions. Slay isn’t the one making the Eagles’ signings, no, but keep in mind that he advocated for the Birds to sign Steve Nelson last summer. i would imagine Slay has said something to Roseman about the Eagles signing Diggs. I don’t think the Eagles are looking to pay top of the market money to a 29-year-old safety coming off a dislocated ankle and a broken right fibula that he suffered in January. But if something weird happens with Diggs’ market, maybe the Eagles try to swoop in ... much to the delight of Slay. No safety has more interceptions than Diggs over the past two years.