Philadelphia Eagles: Grading the Team's First Five Free Agency Moves
The Philadelphia Eagles have kicked off free agency with five key moves made within the team’s 53-man roster. Three key players were extended, one was traded and one was released.
The team by no means finished their transactions for the period, but the moves so far set the Eagles on a strong road for the future. The following slides break down each of the five moves and whether the Eagles made the right choice.
Jamaal Jackson: Released
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Jamaal Jackson was the longest-tenured member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the last man to have played on the Eagles' 2004 Super Bowl team.
He started 77 games in an Eagles uniform as the team’s center, turning in a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2009 before suffering a season-ending injury late in the year. Jackson missed nearly all of 2010 with another injury and was demoted to backup in 2011 when new offensive line coach Howard Mudd deemed sixth-round pick Jason Kelce was a better fit for the team’s offense.
Personally, I have always been a big fan of Jackson.
The Eagles’ offense suffered in the ’09 Wild Card Game against Dallas without Jackson snapping the football, and the team never recovered from his loss in the first game of 2010. Kelce struggled vastly as a rookie, and I feel the Eagles would have been better off with Jackson.
Mudd disagrees though, and he’s the man making the decisions. So with that in mind, it made sense for the Eagles to cut Jackson. Mudd likes undersized and mobile offensive linemen, and there was no point in bringing back the 6’4”, 300-plus pound Jackson for 2012 to simply be a backup again. Jackson will likely get a job somewhere as a starter, since he’s still a very effective center when healthy.
But his release saves the Eagles money on the salary cap, and the team can always pick up a cheap backup in free agency.
Winston Justice: Traded to the Indianapolis Colts
Winston Justice has had an up-and-down career with the Philadelphia Eagles. He put his name in team infamy in 2007 when he let up six sacks to Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora in a 16-3 loss to the New York Giants. Justice worked his way into the starting lineup by 2009 and had two solid seasons as the starting right tackle for the Eagles.
Justice struggled in training camp 2011 and lost his starting job to veteran Todd Herremans, who moved to right tackle when the Eagles picked up Evan Mathis in free agency. Justice was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in a move that saw the Eagles swap sixth-round picks with the Colts.
Simply put, the Eagles dumped themselves of the $4 million or so they were set to pay Justice to be a backup in 2012.
Justice is still a solid tackle and he will likely start at right tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, with Anthony Castanzo manning the blind spot of Andrew Luck. This was a smart move for the Eagles, as they really didn’t need Justice in ’12—especially not for what he was set to make.
Trent Cole: Four-Year Contract Extension, $53 Million ($15M Guaranteed)
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Trent Cole is one of the NFL’s best defensive players, and few ends in the game are better at playing both the run and rushing the passer. Cole has been a star for the Philadelphia Eagles since the team grabbed him in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, and he’s an essential part of the defense.
Pro Football Focus rated Cole as the best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL last season and the year before. He’s simply a dominating presence, and he makes life substantially easier for Jason Babin on the other side, as well as cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha.
Cole was previously signed through 2013; the new deal will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2017 season, which means he should be able to retire an Eagle.
Todd Herremans: Three-Year Contract Extension, $21 Million ($11M Guaranteed)
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Todd Herremans is one of the more underrated offensive linemen in the game, and he’s been a valuable member of the Philadelphia Eagles since the team drafted him in 2005. Herremans has the versatility to play both tackle and both guard positions, and he was stellar as the Eagles’ left guard for many seasons before switching to right tackle in 2011 to protect Michael Vick’s blind side.
Herremans and Jason Peters give the Eagles arguably the best duo of offensive tackles in the NFL, and they were a major factor in the tremendous season LeSean McCoy turned in on the ground. The deal locks Herremans up through the 2016 season, meaning the Eagles will have him for at least five more years.
The $21 million deal the team gave him is a very reasonable price for one of the league’s top tackles, and the Eagles are fortunate to have gotten away with paying Herremans so little.
DeSean Jackson: Five-Year Contract Extension, $51 Million ($15M Guaranteed)
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This DeSean Jackson signing will probably be met with mixed reactions from Philadelphia Eagles fans, but I’m a big fan of the contract. Jackson is irreplaceable to the Eagles, and he creates another dimension to the offense with his game-breaking speed.
Jackson leads the NFL in touchdown catches of 40 or more yards since 2008, and he’s averaged over 1,000 receiving yards per season since the team drafted him in the second round of the ’08 draft. Jackson is a threat to score every single time he touches the ball, and he is substantially better than the receivers that were available in free agency this offseason.
He has had his attitude problems and he drops far too many catchable passes, but the Eagles need to hold onto him simply for the way he changes the game.
Considering Santonio Holmes got a five-year, $50 million deal from the New York Jets last season, I think the Eagles paid a good price for Jackson, especially considering Jackson is getting just $15 million guaranteed.
He’s an elite wide receiver, and he needs to be paid as such. Jackson is a one-trick pony and speed is often the No. 1 attribute that goes for an athlete, but it’s also the No. 1 attribute that can’t be taught. The Eagles made the right choice with Jackson, and now that he’s set to earn his money, he should have a big season in ’12.