This is a huge offseason for the Eagles. Working with a roster that went 4-12 and has plenty of fat to shed, the inexperienced Chip Kelly has some major moves that he needs to make. Tight end, a position that will undergo some serious changes this year, was discussed in the last installment. Today we talk about another glaring need: tackle.
Tackle is a bit of a complex issue for the Birds. For starters, what the team does in free agency will be partially dependent upon their feelings towards Todd Herremans. The eight year vet has experience at tackle and could be kicked out to the right side if Kelly so chooses. That changes the picture.
Also, Michael Vick is a left handed quarterback, thus making the right tackle the primary pass protector for the blind side. Therefore, do they go with a strong pass protecting right tackle with the assumption of Vick starting? Do they go for a traditional mauler on the right side? Whatever the case, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the type of players they probe into as they look.
There is no way of predicting what Kelly will do. However, this search for a tackle could be a fairly important move despite being at such an early stage of his tenure. Everyone saw last year what a bad offensive line can do to coaches on the hot seat.
As a result, here are some suggestions as to who the Eagles should be speaking to currently. This first batch of players is suggested with the assumption that Herremans is left inside to play right guard. I'm also in the camp that Vick is not a done deal, which means that I believe the Eagles are looking for a standard right tackle.
The big prize for the Eagles would be Andre Smith of Cincinnati. Smith, who is only 26 years old, is a big boy at 6'6", 335 pounds and will be the most sought after tackle on the market. Not only because he's solid in the run game, but because Smith is a good pass protector as well.
According to ProFootballFocus, Smith was listed as the fifth best tackle and the best right tackle in the entire league last year, which was just his second season as a full-time starter. More specifically, Smith allowed only seven sacks and two QB hits the entire year.
Signing Smith would be an interesting proposition for the Eagles. On the positive side, he and Peters could make a dominant pair and Smith could potentially replace Peters on the left side in a few years. However, they would also have to pay the sixth best free agent on the market accordingly, which might be more than the Eagles want to spend in the trenches.
Enter Phil Loadholt of the Minnesota Vikings. The Oklahoma product measures in at 6'8", 343 pounds, grades out well as a pass protector and is the type of mauler that could help the Eagles for a long time in their new run-based system. He just turned 27 in January. Just think of when the Eagles added Jon Runyan in 2000 and that's what you have in Loadholt.
What benefits the Eagles in this situation is that there are plenty of quality tackles on the market. Consequently, it will reduce Loadholt's price tag given that he's a very good, but not elite player.
In the event that the Eagles do decide to move Herremans to tackle, then there's a separate list of qualities that they're looking for. More specifically, the Eagles would be looking for depth that could fill in at either tackle spot as they develop a prospect from the draft
Jeff Otah could be a perfect fit in this case. Considered one of the up and coming studs of the league for Carolina, knee injuries have derailed his career despite being only 26 years old. In fact, he was actually traded to the Jets last year, but the trade was voided when Otah failed his physical.
I know that bad knees are a sensitive subject in Philadelphia. However, what makes Otah interesting is that if he can get healthy he's capable of playing either tackle position and he could be had for a very cheap one or two year "prove it deal". It's a bit risky, but in a back-up role Otah could be a good fit.
Another name that would could make sense is Max Starks of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Starks has been starting for the Steelers over the last two years, but it's only because they had no one to replace him. He hasn't had a great season since 2009, and being a year removed from repairing his ACL, he could likely be had for something near the veteran minimum.
What makes Starks a decent option is that he's been a starter since 2004 and wouldn't cost the Eagles any games (I'm looking at you Demetress Bell and King Dunlap). That's essentially all you can ask for from a replacement—especially as a short term transition player.