With the NFL season halfway over, the Philadelphia Eagles are right where most expected them to be before the start of the season. They're 3-5, putting them on pace for six wins, which is to be expected with a first-year coach using one of the bottom rosters in the league.
While the Eagles do have a chance at winning the NFC East, they'll also have an opportunity to use the next eight games to determine which players on their roster should be brought back in 2014.
Here are my predictions for next year.
This couldn't be an easier decision for me.
I wouldn't have re-signed veteran Michael Vick for this season, so I certainly wouldn't bring him back for next year. There's no denying that he'll never be able to stay healthy for more than 11 or 12 games in a season again, especially as he gets older.
Nick Foles and Matt Barkley would be terrific backup quarterbacks.
Perhaps one will show enough over the final half of the season to warrant a potential starting spot in 2014. Either way, both need to be on the 2014 roster, especially with their low roster cost.
As for the starter? That could still be a draft pick.
Obviously, LeSean McCoy will be the starting running back in 2014. He's a top-three back in the league and probably the best player on the Eagles.
The big question is whether Bryce Brown deserves another shot at proving that he can be a reliable backup running back. If things don't improve over the second half of the season, there's no way the Eagles can justify bringing him back.
And I don't think things will be getting better.
Chris Polk may be a decent third running back, but the Eagles don't use him much. I'd look elsewhere.
Fourth running back Matthew Tucker has never carried the ball.
DeSean Jackson is the best receiver on the team. He's returning for his seventh season with the Eagles.
Jeremy Maclin, although not technically on the 53-man roster, is a free agent after the year. He hasn't established himself as the top receiver the Eagles hoped for when they made him their first-round pick in 2009. But his value to this team has been made clear this year.
He's still just 25 years old, and his ACL injury should enable the Eagles to re-sign him for less than ideal value. He needs to come back.
Veteran Jason Avant is another tough decision.
He's going to be 31 when the 2014 season starts, and he's not making as much of an impact this year as he has in past years. But for a little under $4 million, it's worth bringing him back.
Riley Cooper is also a close call.
He's a free agent after this season and was really exposed early in the year as one of the bottom starting wide receivers in the NFL. The Eagles can pick up his replacement in one of the later rounds of the draft or in free agency.
His time is over.
Damaris Johnson is yet another tough call.
He's been a major disappointment this year, catching just two passes in eight games. He's also struggled as a punt returner, still making many poor decisions on fielding punts inside the ten-yard line. His role was expected to be big this year but it's just not happening.
He's not a keeper.
Neither B.J. Cunningham nor Jeff Maehl has any future on the team.
Veteran Brent Celek will be entering his eighth season in 2014, but he'll still be just 29. For at least one more season, he's worth keeping around.
Rookie Zach Ertz isn't going anywhere and James Casey was a big free-agent signing who deserves an opportunity to show what he can do, even though he hasn't been used much this year.
Veterans Jason Peters and Evan Mathis aren't going anywhere. Neither is center Jason Kelce nor right tackle Lane Johnson.
The big question is veteran Todd Herremans, who will be 32 next year and hasn't played well for the second straight season. At a salary of $4.2 million, it's not worth bringing him back.
The Eagles can find his replacement in the draft.
It's hard to evaluate backup offensive linemen who don't really play a lot. Allen Barbre is versatile. Matt Tobin is a rookie with lots of potential. Dennis Kelly had moderate success playing last year. And Julian Vandervelde is an adequate backup center.
As of now, I'd look to bring back all four.
The Eagles have the foundation for a terrific, young defensive line.
Ends Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry are all in their second year and have a very bright future. Rookie Bennie Logan will see much more playing time following the Isaac Sopoaga trade. Damion Square and Clifton Geathers are solid backups at a low price.
I'd keep every one of them.
There's no reason for the Eagles to bring back veteran Trent Cole. He had a great run in Philly, but his better years are behind him. This will be an easy decision.
DeMeco Ryans has the potential to be a veteran cut, but he's played really well over the last couple of games. If he keeps this up for the rest of the year, there's no way the Eagles can get rid of him. I think he'll be back.
Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin will obviously be back.
Brandon Graham is a disappointment for a first-round pick, but he's still worth keeping around.
Emmanuel Acho and Jake Knott are solid backups, but Casey Matthews hasn't done anything in three years and Najee Goode is nothing special (despite his touchdown on Sunday). I'd keep Acho and Knott but not Matthews and Goode.
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher have both exceeded expectations after signing as free agents during the offseason. The Eagles may bring in competition for a starting role, likely through the draft, but neither of these two is going anywhere.
Second-year player Brandon Boykin continues to improve. He's a future starter.
Roc Carmichael is on the roster as necessary depth, but he doesn't have much of a future with the team.
Nate Allen has surprisingly played well over the past few games—enough that it makes sense for the Eagles to re-sign him following the season. Patrick Chung has been injury-prone and ineffective. It makes no sense to bring him back in 2014.
Rookie Earl Wolff has been a solid performer after he was thrust into a starting role a few weeks ago. Colt Anderson is too valuable on special teams to discard.
Kurt Coleman is a close call, but the fourth-year player hasn't gotten the opportunities this season. He has, however, had three years to show that he's not a very good player in the NFL.
Don't expect him back in 2014.
Kicker Alex Henery is inconsistent and has no power.
He was a waste of a fourth-round pick, considering how easy it is for a kicker to be picked up as a free agent. If he manages to last the season, don't be surprised to see the Eagles bring in a veteran as competition for Henery in the offseason.
Donnie Jones has been a pleasant surprise at punter. The veteran is the best player on the special teams. Jon Dorenbos is flawless as a long snapper.
Players to Keep: Foles, Barkley, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Celek, Ertz, Casey, Peters, Mathis, Kelce, L. Johnson, Barbre, Kelly, Tobin, Vandervelde, Thornton, Curry, Cox, Logan, Square, Geathers, Ryans, Barwin, Graham, Kendricks, Knott, Acho, Williams, Fletcher, Boykin, Allen, Wolff, Anderson, Jones, Dorenbos (37)
Players to Discard: Vick, Brown, Polk, Tucker, D. Johnson, Cooper, Maehl, Cunningham, Herremans, Cole, Matthews, Goode, Carmichael, Chung, Coleman, Henery (16)
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