With the impending free-agent market beginning to develop, what positions will the Philadelphia Eagles need to sign to set in motion a playoff run for the 2013-2014 season?
It cannot be understated that the Eagles will have a ton of cap space. This figure can only grow, as the Eagles must make personnel decisions on large contract players like Michael Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha.
So, with all the money to spend, what positions do the Eagles need to spend it on? The following grading scale has been assigned and will be used to grade the team at each position:
A - No free-agent signing necessary
B - Free-agent signing only if bargain or depth available
C - Free-agent signing would be ideal, but not absolutely necessary
D - At least one starter at position needs to be replaced with a free agent
F - Impact free agent is desperate need
Keep in mind that these grades are relative to free-agency need. That means that while stats may not prove a position is an "A" worthy, a free-agent signing would be the wrong move.
Grade : B
I grouped these three positions together for a specific reason. At the moment, the state of the offensive line is speculative.
When healthy, the offensive line is no doubt an "A" position (as a whole) for the Eagles. However, there are two problems to this. The first is that as of late, they haven't been close to full health. The second is that even at full health, one injury can compromise the whole line.
Because of that, they receive a grade of a B. If healthy, this team could go into next season untouched in free agency. However, if a bargain or valuable depth piece is available, it would be a no-brainier to take a waiver on the player(s).
Almost too obvious here when it comes to assigning a grade to the Eagles running backs. Maybe the team's only position of strength, both LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown provide long-term foundational promise for the Eagles.
With Dion Lewis and Chris Polk bringing up the back end of the position, not even depth is a need at the moment.
Long gone are the days of the Eagles having the luxury to worry about bringing in a top free-agent fullback like Leonard Weaver.
While usually a forgettable position, a new coach in Chip Kelly will surely have some use for the fullback when it comes to downhill running and increased block pick ups.
While Stanley Havili isn't the laughing stock of the league, the Eagles could definitely spare a little of their large salary cap to upgrade at the position. If a player hits the Eagles radar, they should jump on him as soon as possible. If nothing ever comes to fruition, I doubt many will lose sleep over it.
Now, before you claim how neither Michael Vick nor Nick Foles are "B" grade quarterbacks, go back and read how the grading scale works.
Currently, the Eagles are in a position of strength when it comes to quarterbacks. Available to them is a young quarterback whom the new head coach thinks highly of, and a speedy veteran who was made for said head coach's offense.
Whether or not they will both be on the roster, let alone who will start, is not an issue at the moment. The Eagles have viable options, and options that are better than what the free-agency market offers.
Now, if they want to go fishing and try and reel in a wild card like Dennis Dixon, then why not? They have a third-string spot available, and maybe even a second-string spot depending on what happens to Vick's contract. However, anything more than a bargain or depth from free agency and this Eagles team could be in big trouble.
Like the positions before, tight end is in pretty decent shape for the Eagles. Brent Celek this past season had his fair share of problems when it came to drops. With that being said, Celek is a solid option, and Clay Harbor is being groomed nicely behind him.
Chip Kelly may benefit from a quicker and more athletic tight end, hence why they could look to free agency. They also are in need of a larger read zone target, opening another possibility for a tight end signing.
Like fullback, I don't believe many fans are clamoring for an overhaul. If a move happens, even just for depth, it should be a welcomed upgrade. Without one, the Eagles should be fine next season.
The wide receivers get a hybrid C/D grade because of the status of Chip Kelly's offense. If he wants to run an offense similar to what he had at Oregon, there may not be a better core than DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The problem is that in any standard NFL offense, the Eagles are undersized at the position. Going even further, any injury to the two starters leaves either Jason Avant or Riley Cooper to step into place. While both players have been fine for their roles over the past few years, neither are starter material.
The Eagles could use a legitimate threat (who is above 6' 3"), and a guy like Dwayne Bowe comes to mind. With Kelly's Oregon offense, Maclin and Jackson fit extremely well. Still, that doesn't protect against lack of depth. Without it, the Eagles will continue to struggle.
The Eagles have made attempts at strengthening their defensive line for the past couple of years, signing Cullen Jenkins and drafting Fletcher Cox. With Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon in the mix, the team has no business in defensive tackle free agency.
Cullen Jenkins has not been what the Eagles have expected, but with that being said, he is still a starter on this team. With a solid core and good depth, money could be better spent elsewhere.
If the Eagles decide to move back Brandon Graham to linebacker in a 3-4 base defense, a position may open up for defensive ends. While top defensive ends are usually expensive, the team could benefit from some added depth.
Trent Cole will see a lot of play this season, but beyond that, the roster is thin. With Phillip Hunt failing to pan out, a mid-level replacement would be perfect.
Whether the base defense is a 3-4 or a 4-3, the Eagles looking in the free-agency market for linebacker help should be a given. DeMeco Ryans was impressive at MLB, and Mychal Kendricks was solid rookie coming out of the middle rounds.
The other side made up of a mix of Akeem Jordan (who is an unrestricted free agent) and Jamar Chaney is what could use some help. With a good amount of cap room, they are just too weak of players to start for a playoff team. One starter coming in that could push Chaney and Jordan (if re-signed) to solid backups would help this team immensely.
With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie becoming a free agent and Nnamdi Asomugha's possible voided contract, the Eagles are left missing their two starters. Even if they were coming back, this position needed an overhaul.
The Eagles will not be in a bargaining position, as they will openly be without one, if not two starters. While they could fill the position via the draft, two starting rookies is extremely risky.
This is no time to mess around for the Eagles, at least one, if not two, positions need to be filled. The secondary is by far the biggest gaping hole for the Eagles, and only outside talent can help.
I know the secondary was bad, and the safeties aren't excluded. However, with Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman still under contract, there are two players that are giving the Eagles options.
Worst-case scenario, the Eagles start the same two safeties as last season. While that would not be ideal at all, they are two somewhat experienced starters.
If the Eagles can bring in one top free-agent safety, even a guy like Ed Reed, they could field the second safety spot by committee. If they can find two players, that's even better, but again not a necessity like it is for a position like cornerback.
While Alex Henery has solidified his spot on this team for the near future, Mat McBriar will most likely be competing for his job this summer.
There is no reason not to sign a free agent punter to battle McBriar. Aging and injury prone, he can't be handed a job for no reason. If McBriar wins out of camp, special teams will undoubtedly be in good shape.