The Best Free Agent Fit at Every Position for the Philadelphia Eagles

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIJanuary 8, 2013

The Best Free Agent Fit at Every Position for the Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles have some major holes on their team. That couldn't have been more obvious this season, as the Eagles lost 11 of their final 12 games in what will be remembered as one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

    The offense was mostly beat up this season, but there are still large holes on the offensive line. The defense was soft and ineffective, and all four players on the secondary are in danger of losing their jobs this offseason.

    The team needs to be mainly rebuilt through the draft, not free agency. But that doesn't mean they should only focus on April's draft. No, there are still a significant amount of roster spots, both starters and backups, who can be filled through signing free agents.

    Here is the most ideal candidate at each position for the 2013 Eagles.

Quarterback: Matt Moore

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    Look, I get it. I feel the same way. Matt Moore? Really?

    Yeah, that's about the best the Eagles can do through free agency. This is the most important position in sports. You can't sign Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan in free agency. It doesn't work like that.

    You've got to start from the bottom and build your way up. Moore has had a little bit of success in the NFL. He's been around for six years. You can bring him in to compete with Nick Foles for a starting job, or you can make Moore your veteran backup. Personally, I'd make it an open competition in training camp, but Foles would have to clearly lose the battle for me to make Moore the 2013 starter.

    The Eagles likely aren't going to be a playoff team in 2013 regardless of who is their quarterback. There's just too much fixing that needs to be done, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Running Back: None

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    This is the strongest position on the Eagles. This is the only position I definitely wouldn't touch during the offseason.

    You've got one of the best all-around backs in the game in LeSean McCoy as your starter. You have a very promising backup in Bryce Brown, who proved to be a tremendous combination of power and speed, but also a liability as a fumbler. You've got Chris Polk and Dion Lewis, of which only one will likely be on the 2013 roster (it should be Polk). And you have fullback Stanley Havili, who really proved himself as a powerful blocker and a decent runner.

    The Eagles should be a run-first team in 2013, especially because of the inevitable weakness at quarterback.

Wide Receiver: Louis Murphy

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    The Eagles could use a physical receiver for the 2013 season. Anybody who watched the team could tell you that. It makes sense to target a third- or fourth-round draft pick on a big red-zone body.

    I would also recommend adding a veteran, such as Louis Murphy, who caught 25 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown for the Carolina Panthers last season.

    He has good size, and while he's not going to be any higher than fourth on the depth chart, he'll be good competition for Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. Neither has emerged as a legitimate threat so far in his career.

    Neither has Murphy for that matter, but signing him is more about my decision to move on from Cooper and give an opportunity to a veteran. He may be the next Steve Smith, who caught just 11 passes in 2011, or he could record 40 receptions in 2013.

Tight End: Visanthe Shiancoe

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    Tight end was an area of weakness for the Eagles in 2013. Brent Celek is like the quarterback who's good enough to keep his job but not good enough to win games by himself. Regardless, he's not going anywhere in 2013.

    Backup Clay Harbor failed to fill in as expected when Celek missed time with a concussion, as Harbor was placed on injured reserve with broken bones in his back.

    Harbor has been decent in three seasons, but with a lot of teams turning to two-tight end offenses, I would like a veteran who can contribute. Enter Visanthe Shiancoe.

    The 32-year-old was buried on the Patriots depth chart in 2012, but he has proven that he can play, most notably in 2009 when he caught 56 passes, including 11 for touchdowns.

    Let's have him compete for a backup role with Harbor, similar to what former Packers veteran Donald Lee did during camp in 2011.

Offensive Tackle: Ryan Harris

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    Yup. Remember this guy?

    Harris had been brought to Philadelphia before the 2011 season with the expectation that he would fill the void at right tackle. Let's just say things didn't happen the way the Eagles hoped.

    Harris couldn't stay healthy and was finally waived with an injury settlement. The Eagles moved Todd Herremans from left guard to right tackle, Harris signed with the Denver Broncos before the playoffs and spent 2012 as a backup on the Houston Texans.

    I'd bring him back as veteran insurance for the 2013 team. Notice, I said insurance. He shouldn't be a starter. But he is a pretty good tackle when he is healthy, and I'd have no problem with him and Dennis Kelly as my backup tackles in 2013.

Guard: Andy Levitre

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    You've probably noticed by now that most of the free-agent signings for the Eagles have included fringe players. That's how it is. Not every team can go all "2011 Eagles" on the rest of the league and sign every big-name player available.

    Well, guard Andy Levitre would be the first big signing made by the Eagles. This is a player the Eagles can't pass up.

    Levitre, 26, has started all 64 games for the Buffalo Bills in the four seasons he's been in the league, where he's established himself as one of the best guards in the game. He may not get the recognition he deserves, playing in Buffalo, but this guy is legit, particularly as a pass-blocker.

    Levitre has already made it clear that he will go to the team willing to offer him the most money. The Eagles have a lot of salary cap space available and should make a big push for the former second-round pick.

    At left guard all four years of his career, the Eagles would need to move either Levitre or veteran Evan Mathis to right guard. Personally, I'd move Mathis to right guard because he started there for 15 games with the Carolina Panthers in 2006.

    An offensive line of Jason Peters, Andy Levitre, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans would really help the development of Nick Foles in 2013.

Center: Dan Koppen

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    Veteran Dan Koppen would be a tremendous backup for the Eagles, who really don't have a single backup on the offensive line who necessarily needs to be on the team for 2013.

    Koppen, 33, started for the Broncos this season after J.D. Walton went down for the season. He's no longer the solid starter he used to be, but having a veteran with a decade of experience as your backup is a lot better than having Dallas Reynolds as your backup.

Defensive End: Wallace Gilberry

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    Eagles fans may remember Wallace Gilberry as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive end who scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery against Philly in Week 14.

    But Gilberry is also a solid backup. He played the fourth-most snaps among Bengals defensive ends in 2012, but he still collected 6.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries.

    The starting defensive ends in 2013 will undoubtedly be Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Gilberry could contribute in the rotation with Vinny Curry. Don't expect either Philip Hunt or Darryl Tapp to return.

Defensive Tackle: Shaun Cody

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    Defensive tackle should be a position of strength for the Eagles in 2013.

    Rookie Fletcher Cox played very well and should continue to improve. Veteran Cullen Jenkins is still an above-average starter, and Mike Patterson will be a great rotation guy.

    Houston's Shaun Cody could compete with veterans Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri, as well as Cedric Thornton, for the fourth spot at defensive tackle.

Linebacker: Lorenzo Alexander

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    Lorenzo Alexander likely wouldn't play much linebacker for the Eagles in 2013. Veteran DeMeco Ryans and 2012 rookie Mychal Kendricks will start in 2013, and the Eagles will need to draft another linebacker.

    Alexander, however, is one of the best special teams players in the league, probably better than even Colt Anderson. He was named a Pro Bowler this season and Mike Shanahan called him the best special teams player he's ever seen in 2010.

    One of the many weaknesses on the 2012 Eagles was special teams coverage. Alexander, 29, would be a major asset.

Cornerback: Sam Shields

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    I would be surprised if Green Bay lets the 25-year-old Sam Shields leave as a free agent. But the Eagles should still do everything they can to sign him. He's terrific in pass coverage and is one of the more underrated defenders in the league. That's what happens when you play on the same defense as Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson.

    The Eagles need to seriously revamp their defense. Bringing in Shields would be a tremendous acquisition.

    If Shields isn't available, the Eagles should go hard after Atlanta's Brent Grimes or Miami's Sean Smith. But do not re-sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Safety: Jairus Byrd

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    You want to call Jairus Byrd the best available free agent? I have no problem with that.

    The Bills safety is extremely underrated, but he's as good as they get. In 2012, he allowed zero touchdown passes while intercepting five passes. He's equally solid against the run and he's just 26 years old.

    Signing Byrd would make 2013 a tremendous offseason. He would easily be the Eagles' best safety since Brian Dawkins.