Last-Minute Predictions for Philadelphia Eagles Free Agency
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of work to do to return to a playoff team, let alone one of the top teams in the National Football League.
In 2012, the team lost 11 of its final 12 games under Andy Reid, who was fired immediately following the season's final game. The Eagles, who reached the playoffs in nine years under Coach Reid, have missed the postseason in consecutive years and are now one of the worst teams in the National Football League.
Kelly's new squad has weaknesses at a number of different positions, notably quarterback. Veteran Michael Vick was re-signed to a one-year deal following a dismal 2012 season in which he combined for 10 interceptions and four fumbles in just 10 starts. He is just one of a number of quarterbacks on the roster, including last year's rookie Nick Foles, veteran Trent Edwards, former University of Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon and Arena Football League quarterback G.J. Kinne.
The Eagles have holes at the other positions too, particularly the secondary, where all four members from the 2012 starting lineup deserve to be replaced this offseason. Defensive tackle and linebacker are also major areas of need.
It's unclear which route the Eagles will take in free agency.
In 2011, the Eagles turned in one of the most famous offseason free-agent signing sprees in NFL history, acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith, Evan Mathis and (in a trade) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
But in 2012, the Eagles were very quiet in free agency, choosing instead to focus on re-signing their own players to long-term contracts.
With free agency scheduled to begin Tuesday, the Eagles have already been linked to a number of players. Here are a number of players the Eagles could end up signing.
Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver
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Here's a player I could see being a real threat in Chip Kelly's offense, if the New England Patriots allow him to walk this offseason.
Edelman is a threat as a receiver, a runner and a returner. He played in just nine games last season but caught three touchdowns and scored a fourth on a punt return.
He could handle the punt and kick return duties for the Eagles and catch 30 to 40 passes at wide receiver if used properly.
Dustin Keller, Tight End
Jared Cook is the big-name tight end during the free-agency period, but I expect the Tennessee Titans to lock him up to a long-term deal.
The Eagles, however, could make a move for Dustin Keller, the former first-round pick of the New York Jets. Keller has never turned into a top tight end like the Jets hoped when they drafted him in 2008. But he also hasn't had a solid quarterback or an offensive mastermind.
I wouldn't call Michael Vick a solid quarterback, but Chip Kelly is definitely an offensive mastermind. He could use Keller with Brent Celek in two-tight end formations.
Keller isn't a great blocker, something Kelly looks for in his receivers and tight ends, but he can catch the ball and make plays in the open field.
If he leaves New York, I think the Eagles will be interested in him.
Brandon Moore, Guard
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Since right guard is easily the biggest hole on the Eagles offense, Brandon Moore seems like a logical fit. He's pretty old, turning 33 this offseason, but he's also one of the best guards in the game and can likely provide several more productive seasons.
Imagine an offensive line of Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Brandon Moore and Todd Herremans. That would rank as one of the top-10 lines in the NFL.
Realistically, though, I think Moore will be re-signed, and I think the Eagles will go after a right tackle, with the goal of moving Herremans back to the guard position.
Sebastian Vollmer, Tackle
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Here's my prediction for the Eagles offensive line in 2013: They sign Sebastian Vollmer to play right tackle and move Todd Herremans to right guard.
Vollmer, who has blocked for Tom Brady his whole career, is 28, but he's only played four seasons in the National Football League. He should have five or six good years of football left.
If the Eagles can land Vollmer, he will likely be their biggest free-agent signing of the offseason.
Mike DeVito, Defensive End
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The Eagles would be wise to invest in a number of low-key rotational players during free agency.
Mike DeVito, a defensive end from the New York Jets, would be a great signing for a team likely switching to a 3-4 defense in 2013. DeVito, who turns 29 this summer, collected a sack, 10 hurries and 36 tackles in 2012. He rated as the seventh-best 3-4 defensive end against the run last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
If signed, don't be surprised if a player like DeVito works his way into the starting rotation.
Ricky Jean-Francois, Defensive Line
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Ricky Jean-Francois barely got onto the field for the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, playing in just 190 snaps, but he can play at both nose tackle and defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
Jean-Francois, 26, weighs close to 300 pounds and could enter the 2013 season as the Eagles starting nose tackle, despite his limited experience.
I expect the Eagles to sign him to a three-year deal.
Alan Branch, Defensive Tackle
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Alan Branch is a mammoth defensive lineman who could be an option as the team's nose tackle if it elects to pursue him in free agency. He weighs 325 pounds, meaning he would be pretty effective at plugging the middle.
He's missed just one game in the last four seasons too.
Nick Barnett, Linebacker
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A player like Nick Barnett could be a very intriguing option for an Eagles team likely switching to a 3-4 defense.
Barnett, who turns 32 this offseason, would likely receive just a one- or two-year deal, but he has years of experience as an inside linebacker in a 3-4.
If signed, he would definitely start in 2013.
Philip Wheeler, Linebacker
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Wheeler, 28, enjoyed his best season in 2012, collecting 78 tackles and three sacks. He even rated as the sixth-best 4-3 linebacker in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
He may fly under the radar during the free-agency period, but if the Eagles think he can make the successful transition to a 3-4 defense, he would be a great signing.
I predict he will be re-signed by Oakland, however.
Antoine Cason, Cornerback
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Cornerback is arguably the strongest position in free agency this offseason. A player like Antoine Cason, a starter and former first-round draft pick for the San Diego Chargers, is just the ninth- or 10th-most appealing option at the position.
That's fine with me.
Cason is just 26, turning 27 this offseason, and he has had success with the Chargers. Over the past three seasons, he's defensed 45 passes and intercepted eight others.
Cason struggled in 2012, allowing a 98.0 passer rating and ranking as the sixth-worst cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. So he would definitely be a risk.
But at a relatively low price and in a new environment, Cason could become a quality player in a division loaded with star wide receivers.
Keenan Lewis, Cornerback
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The Steelers would be crazy to let 26-year-old Keenan Lewis walk after the career season he turned in in 2012.
Lewis played all 16 games and didn't intercept a pass. But he did turn in a very impressive 23 passes defensed.
If the Eagles can beat the Steelers and the rest of the league in a bidding war for Lewis, he would be plugged in as an immediate starter for the next several seasons.
Louis Delmas, Safety
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Louis Delmas isn't the most talented safety or the biggest ball hawk. However, he has a reputation for being one of the more physical players in the National Football League, something the Eagles have desperately been lacking since they allowed veteran Brian Dawkins to leave via free agency following the 2008 season.
Delmas, only 26, would be a big upgrade over Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman.
Quintin Mikell, Safety
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Here's an intriguing option. What about bringing back veteran safety Quintin Mikell for a second term in Philadelphia?
Mikell, who was recently released by the St. Louis Rams, turns 33 at the start of the 2013 season and is definitely on the downside of his career.
But he's still an effective player. In fact, he ranked as the fifth-best safety in the National Football League in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. He's the best at his position as a blitzer, collecting three sacks and eight hurries in 2012, and he's very effective against the run.
On a one-year deal, I would love to bring back Mikell, who was one of the more underrated players in Philly during his time here.
Shane Lechler, Punter
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Because I think this is the kind of crazy move general manager Howie Roseman would make.
The Eagles need a punter and veteran Mat McBriar is not the answer. Shane Lechler isn't the long-term answer either, since he's 36 years old, but he could still play for several more seasons at an elite rate.
He's earned seven Pro Bowl selections and has averaged more than 47 yards per punt for each of the last six years.
The Eagles struggled with field position all year in 2012. Lechler could help fix that problem.
Realistically, I don't think he'll leave Oakland, but if he does, I think the Eagles will be interested.