The Philadelphia Eagles have the next six months to upgrade their roster for the 2013 season.
Chip Kelly has already been hired as the team’s head coach, taking over for 14-year veteran Andy Reid. Kelly brings with him an explosive style of offense that led to the team re-signing Michael Vick.
The Eagles have all the necessary speed on offense with running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The offensive line should be much improved, as Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans are all set to return from injury.
What will be a question mark for next year is the defense. This is a unit that was directly responsible for the eight-game losing streak that cemented Reid’s tenure in Philly. The line lacked pass-rushers to get to the quarterback but the biggest problem was the porous secondary.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the most notable player on the Eagles set to hit free agency. He’s still just 26 years old and he’s been to a Pro Bowl. But DRC has also been vastly inconsistent over the last three seasons, and especially since he was traded to Philadelphia.
Rodgers-Cromartie is still one of the top corners in free agency because of his size, physical skills, age and resume. He will probably command at least a four- or five-year deal worth $8-10 million per season. That’s simply too much to pay for a corner that is too often mediocre, one that takes plays off and plays when he wants to.
DRC began last year playing at a Pro Bowl level. He intercepted Brandon Weeden twice in the season’s opener and manhandled young receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon. In fact, DRC didn’t give up a touchdown pass in the first six weeks of the season.
Since then, though, he got exposed on almost a weekly basis. DRC allowed five touchdowns without recording a single interception in his final 10 games. Eight times he allowed a passer rating of over 100.
Obviously, the lack of a pass rush really didn’t help him. The Eagles finished the season with just 30 sacks, tied for 25th in the league. As Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham further their development, that should bode well for the secondary.
But bringing back DRC on a one-year franchise tag doesn’t seem like a logical move. It’s simply too much money to pay a mediocre corner that rated 98th out of 113 qualifying corners last year, per Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles already owe Nnamdi Asomugha over $15 million in ’13. They will likely restructure that should they bring him back. But even if the deal is reworked to pay Asomugha $5 million next year, that means the Eagles will be paying way too much for a cornerback duo that was one of the NFL’s worst last season.
And if the Eagles don’t franchise tag DRC, there’s really no one to get the tag.
Derek Landri and Jake Scott are free agents, but each is simply a backup who may or may not return at a minimal salary. The other free agents are players like Akeem Jordan, Darryl Tapp and King Dunlap, who probably won’t be back under any circumstances.
Simply put, this may just be a year the Eagles don't use their franchise tag.