Grading Every Philadelphia Eagles Offseason Move to Date
It’s about halfway through the NFL offseason. The draft has been completed, free agents have been signed, and the OTA practices have been conducted. Coaches will spend the next month analyzing film in an attempt to reduce their rosters from 90 players to the required 53.
Chip Kelly’s offseason moves thus far have helped shape a Philadelphia Eagles team that looks remarkably different than Andy Reid’s group in 2012. Kelly will likely be entering the season with six different starters on defense, while the offense has a handful of new players that will push for playing time immediately.
Kelly hasn’t made the Eagles into instant Super Bowl contenders, but it does look as if he has the team in the right general direction thus far. Each player’s grade thus far is obviously incomplete, as the season hasn’t officially started, but it is a projection of how well he will fit the team.
Michael Vick Re-Signed to One-Year Deal
It's almost too early to grade Chip Kelly's decision to re-sign veteran quarterback Michael Vick. After all, Kelly has yet to officially announce his starter in 2013. If it's Nick Foles, there's a good chance Vick will be cut. And in that case, the decision to pay him $7 million won't look too intelligent.
Kelly likely thought bringing back a veteran in Vick was the right move, and it seemed logical. Vick still possesses world-class speed (just ask LeSean McCoy), and he's a threat to score every time he touches the football.
His turnovers seem to be almost incurable at this point, and the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles couldn't bring him back on a cheaper deal is a little surprising. There didn't seem to be a large market for an oft-injured 33-year-old with 45 combined fumbles and interceptions in the last two abbreviated seasons.
Chip Kelly Hired
Chip Kelly may be the riskiest signing in Philadelphia Eagles history. He has zero coaching (or playing) experience in the NFL. He's made quite a name for himself as a college coach at Oregon, but the National Football League is a substantially different game.
Kelly was handed a five-year, $32.5 million deal, one that already ranks him alongside the game's highest-paid head coaches. Kelly inherits an Eagles squad coming off a 4-12 campaign, having lost 11 of their final 12 games under Andy Reid.
The defense surrendered a franchise-record 33 passing touchdowns, and Kelly wants to make the difficult transition to a 3-4. All this is from a coach who made his mark on the offensive side of the ball.
Obviously, it's too early to judge Kelly, and that's why his grade for now is right in the middle. Kelly will be allowed probably one, maybe two, seasons to kickstart the team, but he better get the Eagles flying in the right direction soon. He has the potential to revolutionize the league and he has the potential to turn into the next Steve Spurrier.
Nnamdi Asomugha & Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out
Cornerback play was supposed to be the strength of the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. Instead, a pair of Pro Bowlers in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made the Eagles the laughingstocks of the league.
DRC started well, intercepting three passes in his first four games. Asomugha was torched from day one though, getting beat repeatedly against far inferior wide receivers. It got to the point that the Eagles went eight consecutive games without an interception.
Asomugha's ridiculous contract all but guaranteed he wouldn't return in '13. He was due for a $15 million cap hit, one that would have decimated the Eagles' payroll. His deal could have been reworked to decrease his annual earnings, but Chip Kelly made the right move by looking elsewhere.
At just 26 years old and with a Pro Bowl selection on his resume, it seemed likely DRC would still get a big contract in free agency. He has the size and potential to be one of the game's finest corners, although he's remarkably inconsistent. But DRC was allowed to walk, and agreed upon just a one-year, $5 million deal with the Denver Broncos.
That put the Eagles in a bind, meaning addressing the position via the draft or free agency (or both) was vital.
Cary Williams & Bradley Fletcher Signed in Free Agency
What the Eagles did to replace DRC and Asomugha was sign free agents Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to deals. Williams is fresh off a Super Bowl championship with the Baltimore Ravens, and he was inked to a three-year, $17 million deal. Fletcher was less regarded, signing at two-year, $5.25 million contract.
The problem is that asking either player to start may be a risky move. Williams has starting experience with the Ravens, but the problem is that he wasn't very good. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Williams surrendered more passing yards than all but three cornerbacks in the league in 2012.
Fletcher played well in limited snaps, but he was only on the field in nickel and dime situations. Fletcher allowed opposing quarterbacks just a 55.8 passer rating on throws in his direction, but this was mainly against slot receivers. Fletcher was also demoted from nickel back to dime back due to a propensity to commit pass interference penalties.
The fact that the Eagles added seventh-rounder Jordan Poyer (many draft boards viewed him as a potential second or third-round candidate) adds depth. But someone needs to step up in 2013 or this unit could be looking at another long season.
Kenny Phillips & Patrick Chung Signed in Free Agency
The Philadelphia Eagles have never recovered from letting Brian Dawkins walk in free agency. They rebounded to a certain extent with Pro Bowler Quintin Mikell, but he was also largely ignored when his contract expired.
Since then, Andy Reid has shuffled in any safety he could find. Eagles fans have seen the likes of Macho Harris, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman try to fill the huge voids left. Even veterans like O.J. Atogwe and Marlin Jackson have done little to stop the bleeding.
Chip Kelly signed a pair of high-risk, high-reward players in Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung. Each was formerly a high draft pick and have both been to a Super Bowl, but both have struggled with injuries.
The fact that Phillips’ contract contains no guaranteed money shows the faith the Eagles have in his ability to stay healthy. And he's already experiencing knee problems. If one of them can’t go, there’s always fifth-round rookie Earl Wolff to fall back on. But this unit will likely be a weakness in 2013 either way.
Matt Barkley Drafted
This was a shocking move, but when Matt Barkley fell to the fourth round, Chip Kelly couldn’t resist him anymore. He traded up to the first pick on day three of the draft to acquire the rights to the USC quarterback.
Barkley had a tremendous collegiate career and likely would have been a top five overall pick had he declared a year earlier. A poor senior year dropped his stock, as well as concerns about his arm strength.
It will be interesting to see how the Philadelphia Eagles use Barkley in 2013 and beyond. He’s buried on the depth chart for now as Michael Vick and Nick Foles battle it out for the starting job. But Kelly could decide that neither is the answer, which would mean Barkley sees time on the field as a rookie.
It’s a low-risk pick with plenty of upside. And if Foles turns out to be the quarterback of the future, Kelly could always trade Barkley to a team that needs a quarterback.
Cullen Jenkins & Mike Patterson Released
Releasing both Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson really reduced the talent on the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line.
The Patterson release was no surprise. He had just finished up his eighth NFL season, struggling to stay healthy following offseason brain surgery. That’s a shocking procedure for a player to undergo, and it’s no surprise the Eagles parted ways, considering Patterson was going to earn $4.06 million as a cap hit in 2013.
Jenkins is 32 years old and was due to make $4.5 million in a base salary in ’13. He had registered nine sacks in the previous two seasons, and has experience playing in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense. Both he and Patterson joined the New York Giants, with Jenkins expected to start.
The Jenkins release is puzzling. Because he’s gone, the Eagles will have to start either Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry or Bennie Logan opposite Fletcher Cox on the line. Jenkins would have been a perfect fit. He’s still productive, and the Eagles have plenty of room under the cap.
Connor Barwin Signed in Free Agency
Chip Kelly added a fine pass-rushing outside linebacker in Connor Barwin, a player that has plenty of experience in a 3-4 defense.
Barwin peaked with the Houston Texans back in 2011, collecting 11.5 sacks while starting all 16 games. His performance really dropped off last year, as he gathered just three sacks despite starting 16 games once again. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Barwin rated as the third-worst 3-4 outside linebacker among 34 qualifiers.
The problem with signing Barwin is the contract he was given. Chip Kelly signed Barwin to a six-year, $36 million deal with the opportunity to make up to $40 million. Eight million dollars of that contract is guaranteed money.
Barwin’s production last year was vastly disappointing for that kind of a contract. He’s also fighting for playing time with current Eagles players Brandon Graham and Trent Cole, and it’s no guarantee Barwin will start.
Drafting Lane Johnson Fourth Overall
Chip Kelly’s first major move as head coach was drafting offensive tackle Lane Johnson, a supremely athletic man who will line up on the right side as a rookie. Johnson is raw, having played offensive tackle for just two seasons, but he has the ability to play at a Jason Peters level if all goes according to plan.
Johnson posted a 4.72 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, the second-fastest time of any offensive lineman in this year’s draft. He can get downfield in the running game, so the key will be warding off the fastest speed rushers.
Either way, Johnson projects to be a good player. He allows Todd Herremans to move back inside to his natural guard position, which means Danny Watkins will be relegated to the bench.
Isaac Sopoaga Signed
Switching to a 3-4 defense meant Chip Kelly needed to acquire a mammoth-sized nose tackle for the middle of his defensive line.
Enter Isaac Sopoaga. A veteran from the San Francisco 49ers, Sopoaga will be counted on to plug the middle of the line and open up holes for his teammates. Sopoaga is 32 years old, so he’s a short-term answer, and he’s limited in the passing game.
But he can play 20-30 snaps per game, and he’s a big body that will excel in the running game. He projects to be the starting nose tackle on the opening week.
James Casey Signed
James Casey has to be one of Chip Kelly’s favorite players. He’s a fullback/tight end who will line up at multiple spots in Kelly’s offense.
Casey was brought in on a relatively cheap free agent contract, inking a three-year, $12 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Casey had minor arthroscopic knee surgery and missed some of OTAs, but he will be fine for the start of the regular season.
Casey caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, and he could easily reach those totals again in ’13. He will compete with Brent Celek and Zach Ertz for playing time, but his ability to play fullback as well as H-back will give Casey his fair share of snaps.
Arrelious Benn Acquired Via Trade
This was a fairly low-risk, high-reward trade for Chip Kelly. He brought over wide receiver Arrelious Benn from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a former second-round pick who has struggled with injuries during his three NFL seasons thus far.
The team acquired Benn and a seventh-round pick for a sixth-round pick and a conditional draft pick. Essentially, Benn was acquired for very little.
He’s a bigger receiver who will compete with Jason Avant and Damaris Johnson for time at the slot position. Benn topped out in 2011 with 30 receptions for 441 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, he grabbed just four balls for 26 yards, seeing action in only eight contests.
It’s very likely he makes the 53-man roster, but there’s no telling what his impact will be. Fortunately, Kelly didn’t give up much for Benn.
Stanley Havili & Dion Lewis Traded
These were two relatively uneventful trades. Chip Kelly traded away fullback Stanley Havili to the Indianapolis Colts for defensive end Clifton Geathers. There’s no guarantee Havili will make the Colts’ roster, and there’s no guarantee Geathers will make the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster.
Meanwhile, Dion Lewis was traded to the Cleveland Browns for outside linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Acho is a second-year player, although he never played after suffering a season-ending injury in his rookie campaign.
These trades will have virtually no effect on the season.
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