Philadelphia Eagles: Which Free Agents Should Return?

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles: Which Free Agents Should Return?

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Heading into the offseason, Philadelphia Eagles fans can take comfort in knowing GM Howie Roseman has done a remarkable job managing the team's salary-cap situation.

    There's no quarterback dominating the payroll, thanks to third-round pick Nick Foles taking the reins last season. The entire offensive line is under contract for 2014, and nine of the 11 defensive starters are signed as well. Incredibly, the Eagles have just $1.2 million of dead money heading into next season.

    Outside of the wide receiver position, management won't have too many difficult decisions to make. That will allow Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly to add a potential high-profile free agent or two in the spring. Safeties T.J. Ward and Jairus Byrd have to be on the Eagles' radar, along with pass-rushing linebackers Anthony Spencer and Brian Orakpo.

    For now, Philly is poised to be the class of the NFC East for years to come. Even more, that reinforces the need for Roseman to bring back a few players of his own to put forth the best possible roster in 2014.

    Below are the eight Eagles players hitting free agency, and whether the organization should retain them.

Riley Cooper

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Bringing back Riley Cooper should be a necessity if Nick Foles is to remain the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback in 2014. Chip Kelly will likely keep an eye on quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL draft, but mark it down that Foles will be his opening-day starter.

    So why would the team let Cooper walk? Cooper is just 26 years old and coming off of a career year in Kelly’s offense, but he’s never really done anything until Foles took over. He amassed just 46 receptions and five touchdowns in his first three seasons before breaking out to the tune of a 47 receptions, 835 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.

    Cooper showed unbelievable chemistry with Foles, developing into a bona fide starting NFL receiver. Foles posted a 141.7 passer rating when throwing to Cooper, which is the highest of any QB-WR combo in the league this season.

    The team will likely let Cooper test the free-agent market first, but three things should return him to Philly: his much-publicized off-the-field issue, his rapport with Foles and the fact that teams may be hesitant to pay for a player seen as a product of the system.

     

    Bring him back?: Yes

Jeremy Maclin

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    Rob Carr/Associated Press

    Can the Philadelphia Eagles afford to pay both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper? The Eagles are in excellent salary-cap position for 2014, but they’re set to pay DeSean Jackson over $10 million and Jason Avant over $4 million (although Avant will likely restructure).

    That’s a lot of money for one position, especially when the Eagles are a run-first team. Then again, Chip Kelly can never have too many weapons, and he never got to see Maclin on the field.

    Maclin’s return from a torn ACL means Philadelphia might be able to sign him to a one-year prove-it deal. This would be by far the best move for Maclin. After all, Jackson and Cooper put up career seasons under Kelly. Maclin should be able to challenge the numbers Jackson posted. Then he could test the free-agency market and really get paid.

     

    Bring him back?: Yes, but on a one-year deal

Donnie Jones

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Donnie Jones is just a punter, but he’s worth retaining. The Philadelphia Eagles have themselves a valuable weapon in Jones, and he bailed the team out many times down the stretch.

    Jones was twice named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and he set a franchise record with 33 punts downed inside the opposition’s 20. Jones is a two-time AP Second-Team All-Pro, and there’s no logical reason for the Eagles to allow him to test the open market.

     

    Bring him back?: Yes

Michael Vick

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    It will be interesting to see what happens to Michael Vick this offseason. Many thought he was the right man to run Chip Kelly’s offense, but injuries eventually gave way to Nick Foles.

    Vick is 33 years old, but he still possesses a cannon of an arm and the ability to make things happen with his legs. He could definitely win football games for a team, but a GM will have to be cautious given Vick’s injury history. He has suited up for all 16 games just once since being drafted in 2001.

    Vick will likely join a QB-needy team like the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets or Oakland Raiders, either as a stopgap for a first-round pick or to compete for the starting job. He could always return to the Eagles as the clear backup to Foles. After all, he knows the offense well and he’s been a model teammate in Philly. But Kelly will probably draft a quarterback in the middle rounds to compete with Matt Barkley as the backup. That makes Vick the odd man out.

     

    Bring him back?: No

Clifton Geathers

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Despite being a mammoth of a man, Clifton Geathers hasn’t latched on with any NFL teams to date. The Philadelphia Eagles are his fourth professional team since being drafted in 2010.

    Geathers is listed at 6’8” and over 340 pounds, which almost makes him too big to play in this league. He’s cast as a 3-4 defensive end for the Eagles, but Geathers hasn’t provided any impact as either a pass-rusher or run-stopper. He may struggle to get another job next season.

     

    Bring him back?: No

Nate Allen

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    After three rocky seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Nate Allen played pretty well in 2013. With the wide-nine scheme gone, Allen was a solid safety for a defense that was markedly improved.

    Allen recorded his first interception in two years when he picked off Carson Palmer in Week 12. He finished the season with an interception, a sack, a forced fumble and 65 tackles.

    The team will likely start Earl Wolff at strong safety in ’14, and an upgrade via the NFL draft would be beneficial. But there’s room for Allen as a third safety and top backup.

     

    Bring him back?: Yes

Kurt Coleman

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    With his contract expiring, the Kurt Coleman days in Philadelphia should be over. The former seventh-round pick isn’t bad given the round he was picked in. But he just lacks the ideal talent to contribute as an NFL safety, and he’s been exposed whenever he’s been forced to play.

    Coleman appeared in 15 games this season, finishing with 14 tackles and no impact plays (interceptions, sacks or fumble recoveries).

     

    Bring him back?: No

Colt Anderson

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    As a safety, Colt Anderson is no match for this league. But he’s a top-tier special teams player, and the Philadelphia Eagles would be wise to retain his services simply for the impact he has on the coverage units.

    Players aren’t often re-signed just for their ability to play on special teams, though, and as a result, Anderson may have played his last down for the squad. Then again, there are three safeties on the roster set for free agency, and Patrick Chung will be cut. Anderson should be re-signed.

     

    Bring him back?: Yes