Breaking Down What Philadelphia Eagles' Offseason Moves Mean for the NFL Draft
Just a week into the free-agency period, the Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the busier teams in the National Football League.
They've signed eight players, one on offense and seven on defense. Six of the seven defensive players have a relatively good chance of starting during the first week of the 2013 season, and the lone offensive player, James Casey, is expected to be a major contributor on the 2013 Eagles.
They've also made a trade for an offensive player, giving them nine new players.
And that's a good thing.
After all, this is an Eagles squad that needs a complete turnaround on both offense and defense. They're coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Expectations were high for Philly heading into 2012, despite a dismal 1-4 start and 8-8 finish in 2011.
And the Eagles started off strong last year, winning three of their first four games, all three victories with a last-minute offensive score followed by a dramatic last-second defensive stop.
Then everything imploded for the Eagles, as they dropped 11 of their final 12 games, ending the season in last place in the division for the first time in five seasons. Their point differential ranked them 30th in the league, ultimately leading to the firing of 14-year head coach Andy Reid.
The hiring of offensive mastermind Chip Kelly has rejuvenated a fanbase that hasn't seen a playoff victory since the 2008 season.
Things appear to be off to a solid start in free agency as well. The following slides will address the seven signings, as well as the players lost to other teams, and how the moves will impact the Eagles during the draft next month.
1. Trade for Wide Receiver Arrelious Benn
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The Eagles' trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for wide receiver Arrelious Benn provides them with a former second-round draft pick who has a chance to compete for a third or fourth receiver spot on the team.
Odds are that the depth chart heading into the 2013 season will go DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and then Benn.
Benn's impressive size and speed hasn't helped him much in Tampa Bay, as he's caught just 59 passes for 862 yards and five scores during his three disappointing seasons in a Buccaneers uniform.
If the Eagles have the opportunity to snatch up a promising young receiver during the draft, they'll definitely still pull the trigger. The addition of Arrelious Benn to the Eagles doesn't mean the team couldn't use one more playmaker at receiver.
2. Signed Tight End/Fullback James Casey
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The Eagles added an offensive weapon in tight end/fullback James Casey, formerly of the Houston Texans.
Casey is exactly the type of player Kelly looks for in his offense. He's fast and versatile with the ability to line up at fullback, tight end, receiver and even running back.
He caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three scores last season and will likely compete with Brent Celek for playing time at tight end.
I expect to see him used in two tight end formations, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles release fullback Stanley Havili, who hasn't proven to be as versatile as Casey.
Adding a second tight end was likely in the Eagles' offseason plans, but don't expect another player to be added in the draft now that the Eagles have Celek, Casey and Clay Harbor on the roster.
3. Signed Nose Tackle Isaac Sopoaga
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With the Eagles likely switching to a variation of the 3-4 defense in 2013, new nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga has an opportunity to start from day one. After all, he brings almost a decade of experience playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
Signing Sopoaga doesn't mean the Eagles won't draft either Star Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd if that's who they deem is the best fit for their defense. Sopoaga, after all, will be 32 at the start of the 2013 season. He's not in the long-term plans.
A player like Lotulelei or Floyd would be.
4. Signed Linebacker Connor Barwin
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The addition of linebacker Connor Barwin is viewed as a little bit of a gamble for the Eagles, as Barwin suffered through a disappointing 2012 season in which his sack totals dropped from 11.5 in 2011 to 3.0 in 2012 (despite playing in all 16 games both years).
Still, he has experience playing in a 3-4 defense. I expect him to be one of the starters in 2013, along with DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Graham.
So does this impact the team's chance of drafting a star like Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones?
Maybe a little. Probably not though.
If you have an opportunity to improve your team with an explosive playmaker with your top draft pick, you don't pass up on the opportunity just because you already have four potential starters at linebacker.
5. Signed Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams; Lost DRC, Nnamdi
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The Eagles knew they had to replace both starting cornerbacks during the offseason. After all, veteran Nnamdi Asomugha wasn't going to be around in 2013 due to his massive salary and free-agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hadn't played well enough to be re-signed.
Fletcher had injured and overshadowed by Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins in St. Louis. He may need to compete for a starting job in Philly, but he's expected to bring his toughness and sharp cover skills to a defense that lacked both in 2012.
Williams allowed a lot of passing yards in 2012, but his 89.1 passer rating is made up for by his exceptional tackling ability.
Like linebacker, however, the addition of Williams and Fletcher won't stop the Eagles from adding stud Dee Milliner with the fourth overall pick if they deem him to be the best available player.
After all, the NFC East is loaded with superstar wide receivers Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
Someone's gotta cover them.
6. Signed Safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips
Regardless of how Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips play for the Eagles in 2013, they'll be a significant upgrade over Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, who both turned in dismal seasons as starters in 2012.
Chung and Phillips will both likely start, and if they can stay healthy, the Eagles' secondary will be drastically improved. Allen and Coleman are both still on the roster, but if the Eagles deem a second- or third-round draft pick worthy of a safety, they'll definitely pull the trigger.
Because veteran safety/special teams ace Colt Anderson was re-signed to a one-year deal, I'd expect Coleman to be the first safety cut if the Eagles add a new player during the draft.