Early Projections for Philadelphia Eagles' Final 53-Man Roster
The Philadelphia Eagles added eight players to their roster in the NFL draft, plus a handful more undrafted free agents. That pushes the grand total up to 90, a number Chip Kelly will have to whittle down to 53 by the end of training camp.
Some of the positions are set in stone. Michael Vick didn’t re-sign just to be released in preseason. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson have lucrative contracts showing they’re a pivotal part of the team’s future. And most of the defensive players who were added via free agency are players who should start or provide a strong impact on last year’s awful defense.
Kelly will have some decisions to make, though. There are a handful of receivers fighting for the last several spots. The defensive backfield from 2012 was a nightmare, which means Kelly could be putting forth a whole new collection of players. It’s way too early to know which players he will really keep, but here’s one man’s look at the 53 lucky players who can call themselves Eagles.
Michael Vick is the odds-on favorite to win the starting spot for 2013, and it seems highly unlikely to envision a scenario in which that doesn’t happen. Vick is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.5 million, according to Spotrac, and he counts as $12.2 million against the cap. That’s reason enough to all but hand him the starting spot.
Nick Foles seemed to be an odd fit for Chip Kelly’s offense, but then Kelly drafted Matt Barkley. Barkley isn’t any better of a runner than Foles, so maybe Kelly doesn’t need a running quarterback to succeed in his offense.
There’s also the recent report that the Eagles were offered a trade for Foles and Kelly turned it down, according to Tim McManus of 97.5 The Fanatic.
One has to assume both Foles and Barkley will be on the roster, which means Dennis Dixon may be the odd man out. Dixon ran Kelly’s offense at the University of Oregon back in the day, but there doesn’t seem to be room for four quarterbacks on the active roster. G.J. Kinne is only useful on the practice squad.
Projected Depth Chart: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
Chip Kelly inherits a stellar core of running backs for his offense. LeSean McCoy is an All-Pro who has scored 20 touchdowns in a season, and he has almost all of the physical tools one could want from a running back. The improved offensive line will bring out the best in McCoy, who enters 2013 as a potential league MVP candidate.
Bryce Brown was amazing and awful in the same season. When he wasn’t rushing for 175 yards and two touchdowns on prime-time TV, he was losing multiple fumbles. Brown has an unbelievable combination of power and speed, and Kelly will bring out the best in him.
There are also undrafted free agents Chris Polk (2012) and Miguel Maysonet (2013), each of whom has the talent to contribute at the NFL level. Kelly doesn’t really utilize a fullback, so it’s doubtful Emil Igwenagu makes the roster.
Projected Depth Chart: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Miguel Maysonet
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two phenomenal wide receivers for a Chip Kelly-led offense, as they possess elite speed and the ability to beat safeties deep. Jason Avant is a fine complement, as he’s a slot receiver with possession skills and reliable hands.
Arrelious Benn is an intriguing player, as he’s big (6’2”, 220 pounds) and fast, and he could play an effective slot role as well. Damaris Johnson and Riley Cooper may be fighting for one spot, and Johnson probably gets the edge because Cooper hasn’t shown the consistent production expected from a bigger receiver.
Russell Shepard looks to be a long shot, and it depends on whether Kelly keeps five or six receivers. Shepard was a standout high school quarterback (the No. 1-ranked QB in the nation ahead of Matt Barkley, according to Rivals). He put up limited stats at LSU in a multi-positional role, but he has the versatility to fit in Kelly’s offense.
Projected Depth Chart: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, Russell Shepard
One of these years, Brent Celek will be a veteran cut, seeing as he’s a slower tight end who has been on the decline for two straight seasons.
It doesn’t seem logical that he will play through the remainder of his contract, which goes through the end of 2016, according to Spotrac. He will probably make this club because he’s still a talented player who can contribute, but his replacement has been drafted.
Zach Ertz is a big target, and after a productive career at Stanford, he was drafted with the 35th overall pick. Ertz can line up at tight end, split out wide or even line up at H-back. James Casey was brought over from the Houston Texans to play a similar role. And there’s also three-year backup Clay Harbor in the mix.
That may seem like quite a logjam at tight end, but Chip Kelly has stated he loves using three-tight end sets. Keeping four tight ends on the roster shouldn’t be a problem.
Projected Depth Chart: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor
The five starters on the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line could make up one of the top units in the league next season. This assumes Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans can all return from their season-ending injuries in 2013.
But Peters was an All-Pro before his Achilles injury, and Lane Johnson has the potential to be a similar kind of player. Evan Mathis has quietly emerged as one of the league’s best guards. Kelce was an up-and-coming center, and Herremans is a borderline Pro Bowl guard.
Danny Watkins will no longer start for the club, but he will likely still provide depth to the squad at guard. Dennis Kelly was a fifth-round rookie last year who was forced to start several games when injuries salvaged the club.
Dallas Reynolds filled in at center in 2012 when Kelce was injured—this after Reynolds spent the previous three seasons on the practice squad.
These three players should be strong bets to make the roster next season.
It’s likely Chip Kelly keeps at least nine offensive linemen, which means there’s a big competition for the final spot between Allen Barbre, Nate Menkin, Matt Kopa, Matt Tennant, Julian Vandervelde and Ed Wang. Barbre gets the nod for this list simply because he provides veteran experience, and he can play both tackle and guard.
Projected Starters: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson
Projected Backups: Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins, Allen Barbre
The new 3-4 defense for the Philadelphia Eagles changes up the roles of many of the defensive players. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham will move to outside linebacker spots, while Fletcher Cox transitions to a 3-4 end.
Isaac Sopoaga was signed from the San Francisco 49ers to serve as a veteran nose tackle, while the other defensive end position will be filled by a rotation of Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton.
Joe Kruger and Paul King were each seventh-round defensive linemen. Kruger’s odds of making the team bode well, given that he should have been a mid-round pick. Antonio Dixon spent some of 2012 out of football, but he gets the final spot over King because he is a veteran with experience playing on the interior line.
Projected Starters: Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton
Projected Backups: Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan, Joe Kruger, Antonio Dixon
The new 3-4 defense for the Philadelphia Eagles should feature Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as pass-rushing outside linebackers vying for snaps from one another.
Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans will play the 3-4 inside spots, with the backup spots essentially up for grabs.
Ryans has a chance to be a veteran cut since he's scheduled to make a base salary of $6.60 million in 2013, according to Spotrac. He was a poor fit in the Houston Texans' 3-4 defense. He's also suffered a major Achilles injury in the past. But there isn't anyone waiting to take his spot, so he makes the team in the mock predictions.
Casey Matthews seems to be a likely candidate to make the roster because he was on the Oregon Ducks. After that, the final roles could really be filled by anyone. Jamar Chaney played such a limited role in 2012 that he becomes a veteran cut on this mock roster. Jason Phillips gets a nod as a four-year veteran and former draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
Phillip Hunt showed enough intrigue in the CFL to warrant another look, so he steals the final spot from Everette Brown, Emmanuel Acho and Chris McCoy.
Projected Starters: Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Trent Cole
Projected Backups: Brandon Graham, Casey Matthews, Jason Phillips, Phillip Hunt
The 2013 secondary will look nothing like the awful 2012 unit that surrendered a franchise-worst 33 touchdowns through the air.
Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung were all signed as free-agent acquisitions. Each is expected to start or at least provide a prominent role. Brandon Boykin will return as the team’s nickelback, although he will face stiff competition from seventh-round rookie Jordan Poyer.
Earl Wolff has a chance to supplant Phillips or Chung as a starter one day soon, and Nate Allen should still make the roster because he’s been a three-year starter for the club. Colt Anderson provides no value as a safety but he’s a special teams ace and will earn his spot that way.
This means the Kurt Coleman era has likely ended, as well as the days of Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley and Curtis Marsh.
Projected Starters: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips, Patrick Chung
Projected Backups: Brandon Boykin, Jordan Poyer, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson
Alex Henery will resume his role as the franchise’s kicker, and while he lacks the ideal leg strength, he does have a sparkling 87.9 career field-goal percentage (the second-best rate in NFL history).
Newly signed punter Donnie Jones will battle undrafted rookie free agent Brad Wing for the punting spot. Jones is a former two-time All-Pro who has had NFL success over the past decade, while Wing enjoyed a stellar career at LSU (also the university Jones attended).
Jones gets the spot over Wing because of his previous success. Jon Dorenbos has been the long snapper for seven years, and he’s a top player in his field.
Projected Depth Chart: Alex Henery (K), Donnie Jones (P), Jon Dorenbos (LS)