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Highlighting Philadelphia Eagles' Biggest Offseason Obstacles

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Highlighting Philadelphia Eagles' Biggest Offseason Obstacles
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles seem to be heading in the right direction under Chip Kelly. The team has captured four consecutive wins, vaulting the Birds back into the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, and the bye week allowed a week of rest before a pivotal matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.

Now the Eagles have a week to prepare for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the high-flying Detroit Lions, a team easily capable of putting up 30 points on even a good defense.

The offense is thriving under second-year quarterback Nick Foles, who is looking like an MVP candidate. And Billy Davis' defense has gelled behind a strong core of young players, notably defensive end Fletcher Cox and cornerback Brandon Boykin.

Most of the Eagles' key players are under contract for the 2014 season. Superstars like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters and key veteran Evan Mathis have already been locked up to long-term deals. And high draft picks like Cox and Lane Johnson are still early in their rookie contracts. But general manager Howie Roseman will have a handful of major decisions to make regarding the futures of some of his players, along with deciding which free agents to pursue.

 

Is Nick Foles the Quarterback of the Future?

It’s getting harder and harder to refute this. Some may still argue for a more mobile passer with a stronger arm, but that would likely mean ransoming a package of draft picks to move up in the NFL draft and select Teddy Bridgewater or someone else.

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Nick Foles has proven he can run the Chip Kelly offense. Just look at his stats during the Philadelphia Eagles’ four-game winning streak. Even when he makes a bad decision, it works out the Eagles’ way, such as his first interception of the season that was then called back.

Foles is sitting at 21 total touchdowns and no picks, and he’s 6-1 in games in which he’s seen significant action. He’s making a push to set the single-season NFL record for passer rating, and he’s even providing an impact as a runner.

If the Eagles win the division with Foles at the helm, the front office has to bring him back. If he doesn’t win the division, the Eagles will have to weigh their options.

 

Does Michael Vick Have a Spot on the 2014 Roster?

Michael Vick has handled the 2013 season with a ton of class. He’s really a model for patience and character these days. It’s difficult for a veteran quarterback with four Pro Bowls on his resume to watch an unproven player take his job and proceed to run an offense designed for that veteran.

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But the fact that Vick then endorsed Nick Foles to be the starter was extremely classy. Vick seems to have his NFL future all planned out, as he said he wants to be a starter for two more years and then be a backup.

So if Foles returns to the Eagles as a starter, whom do the Eagles want to back him up? They can’t possibly go with Matt Barkley, can they? You could make a strong case Barkley is the worst quarterback in the NFL, at least if you base that assessment purely on production.

Bringing back Vick would be the ideal scenario if the team can work something out. Then again, if Vick says he wants to start somewhere, he has to know he’s not going to get that chance here barring a Foles injury. Vick’s best bet may be to go to New York and try to beat out Geno Smith in 2014.

 

Should the Eagles Bring Back Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper? Both? Neither?

The Philadelphia Eagles have two big decisions to make with their wide receivers for 2014, as both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are impending free agents.

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Maclin is a former first-round pick, who will be coming off a torn ACL. He’s never lived up to his potential, but the Chip Kelly offense has a way of getting the most out of every player. If the Eagles can work out a long-term deal with Maclin that doesn’t break the bank, Nick Foles would have two dynamic weapons in DeSean Jackson and Maclin.

Letting Cooper walk seemed like a foregone conclusion two months ago, but he’s shown he has some serious chemistry with Foles. The Eagles may look at Cooper as a package deal with Foles:  If Foles comes back, Cooper does too. But if the Eagles move on from Foles, they may move on from Cooper.

It will be interesting to see what kind of a contract Cooper can get. He’s never really done anything until this year, and it took Foles to bring out the best in him. With Michael Vick, the big wideout was virtually invisible on the football field.

The Eagles also owe hefty salaries to DeSean Jackson ($12.5 million) and Jason Avant ($3.9 million), and they may need one or both of those two to take a pay cut for Philly to bring everyone back.

What Position Do the Eagles Take in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

It doesn’t seem likely that the Philadelphia Eagles will target a quarterback in the first round of the draft, especially after Chip Kelly proclaimed Nick Foles his starting quarterback for the next 1,000 years.

The defense has played much better under coordinator Billy Davis, but the secondary remains the most likely position to be address next offseason. Historically, safeties aren’t often taken high in the first round, and the Eagles need a cornerback more than they need a safety.

Cary Williams has been solid after signing a three-year deal in free agency, and Brandon Boykin may be a star in the making. But drafting a corner would allow Boykin to stay in the nickel and, at the very least, give the Eagles a strong trio of cornerbacks.

 

Which Free Agents Should the Eagles Target?

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills is arguably the top free agent out there—especially in terms of being a specific fit for the Eagles’ needs.

It doesn’t seem likely that Byrd will be back in Buffalo, but he’s a phenomenal safety who would make the Philadelphia secondary much more formidable. Passing numbers against Byrd this season: 6-of-13 for 41 yards and three interceptions. That’s a 14.1 passer rating.

Compare that to Nate Allen (103.4), Earl Wolff (116.0) or Patrick Chung (128.3), a trio that has allowed a combined nine touchdown passes this season.

Other free agents that would really fit the Eagles’ needs: defensive ends Antonio Smith (Houston) or Brett Keisel (Steelers), Miami cornerback Brent Grimes or 49er safety Donte Whitner.

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