NFL Free Agents: 5 Players the Philadelphia Eagles Need to Pursue
With the re-signings of Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis and DeSean Jackson, the only current player left on the team that needs to be extended is running back LeSean McCoy.
However, that deal should be finished quickly because McCoy is the team's future, so it's prudent to take a look at five free agents outside of their organization the Eagles need to pursue in order to fill some gaping holes.
Brian Dawkins (S)
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Bringing the legendary Brian Dawkins back to Philly? It's a stretch, but it's certainly worth a shot.
Dawkins isn't even positive that he'll be back for another season, but he is an unrestricted free agent at the moment. He only made $1.6 million in base salary in his last season as a Bronco, and should be paid the same or even less as the years continue to tick away.
The veteran safety was the leader of a decent Broncos defense, but had a down year in terms of tackles (51 in 14 games). He did have three sacks as a blitzing safety, which is a role that he fits well, but his production clearly wouldn't be as high as it was in his prime years with Philadelphia.
B-Dawk is a perfect fit for the Eagles, who have two young safeties they need to groom; Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have decent potential, but they need a mentor like Dawkins to help them develop.
In addition, the Eagles lack a defensive leader on the field and in the clubhouse, and the emotional Dawkins would seamlessly transition back into that role which he left after the '08 season.
The biggest roadblock has been Dawkins' vociferous pleas to play in Denver, but I'm sure the right deal and a little persuasion by the Eagles front office could bring back the eight-time Pro Bowler.
Curtis Lofton (LB)
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With the desperate need the Eagles have at the linebacker position, Lofton is one of two middle linebackers the Eagles need to actively pursue.
Curtis's advantages are clear and wide-ranging: He is a tackle machine—three straight 100-plus-tackle seasons, could become the leader of the defense and is only 26 years old. Running the wide-9 defense, the Eagles need a athletic, powerful linebacker who will pursue downhill and make tackles behind or at the line of scrimmage.
Lofton's asking price might be as high as $7 million, but I think it would be worth it to acquire a franchise-type linebacker. It would be a complete mistake to go into 2012-2013 with three young, unproven linebackers.
Matthews has proven that he is still a long way from being a decent NFL starter, Brian Rolle is a hard-hitting pinball who has very little consistency and Jamar Chaney, while being a serviceable ILB, might not have the size to continue to produce.
The fact that the Falcons are willing to let him go is a little concerning, but I think it's more about the money in Atlanta.
Jim Leonhard (S)
Leonhard is tackled after making an interception.
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With the signing of LaRon Landry, Jim Leonhard is now the best free agent safety, and safety is a position the Eagles are lacking in.
Jim's value to the Eagles, however, would be much different than that of B-Dawk. He is an athletic, talented veteran who will immediately take the starting role and hopefully keep it for two or three years. His ability to make open-field tackles and stop the run are traits the Eagles need from their strong safety, and he can help mentor the Eagles young safeties.
While he is somewhat of a liability in coverage, that is the least of the Eagles' worries considering the fact that they are loaded with coverage talent: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are all good coverage defensive backs. Jim job will be to help stuff the run, and it is a job he does well.
Leonhard's asking price would be around $2.5 million, and seeing as the Eagles have $20 million left, it would be in their best interests to sign this above-average safety.
Jackie Battle (RB)
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With Shady McCoy still looking for a restructured deal, Ronnie Brown out of town and Dion Lewis being the only other running back on the depth chart, the Eagles would be wise to pick up a low-risk, high-reward option at the running back position to back up LeSean McCoy this season.
Battle would be a perfect fit for the Eagles, as he would be a change-of-pace back relieving Shady from time to time. In today's NFL, throwing different looks at defenses in the run game, especially with different personnel, is paramount. Battle's 6'2", 238-pound frame means that he is built like a truck, and that is what he could be for the Eagles: a reliable short-yardage option who will be a serviceable backup in the case Shady misses a game or two.
All of those rewards will come with minor risks attached. Battle made $600,000 in 2011-2012, which means his asking price won't be much higher than $1.2 million this free agency period. The Eagles currently have around $20 million in cap space remaining, which would be more than enough to sign the valuable Battle without killing their other free agent options.
This one's a no-brainer.
Stephen Tulloch (LB)
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Tulloch has been a beast for Tennessee, compiling 392 tackles over the last three seasons—392.
He's a hard-hitting, tackling machine who also has played in the wide-9 his entire career. He knows the system, and would be a perfect fit for the defense. In addition, he's played under current defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Tulloch is somewhat of a coverage liability, but seeing as he'll be playing downhill as a middle linebacker, it's not like he's going to be covering that often anyway. Jamar Chaney's speed on the outside makes him a better fit for the outside linebacker position, so this move would also put Chaney in his normal position.
This move, in my opinion, is a win-win for the Eagles. Tulloch's projected cap hit would only be in the $6.5 million to $7 million range, which would be a good bargain for an Eagles defense in sore need of a solid middle linebacker.