The best way for an NFL team to manage the salary cap efficiently is to hit on draft picks. That allows an organization to recycle its players frequently, as opposed to being forced into long-term contracts with players.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in an excellent salary-cap position, checking in at over $20 million under the cap. There are no glaring needs this offseason—although safety is pretty close to being one—and the Eagles have all their draft picks.
Undoubtedly the first-round pick will be vital, and general manager Howie Roseman has done an excellent job the past two seasons, hitting with defensive end Fletcher Cox and offensive tackle Lane Johnson. This year, the Eagles should look at a player for the secondary or a pass-rushing outside linebacker. But the team needs to be wise with its late-round pick as well.
Center Jason Kelce was formerly a sixth-round pick, and he’s playing at a very high level now. Outside linebacker Trent Cole was a fifth-round pick, and he’s anchored the defense for eight seasons now. Here are a handful of players coming out in this year’s NFL draft who could provide a positive impact for Philadelphia in the near future.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a solid, although not spectacular, trio of cornerbacks. There’s Cary Williams, who overachieved in his first year of a three-year deal. Due to the fact that he’s due to make $6.4 million in 2014 and over $8 million in 2015, Williams will have to restructure his deal or he won’t be on the roster much longer.
Bradley Fletcher is an average starter, and Brandon Boykin is a blossoming star who shone from the nickel spot this past season. Still, the secondary was torched in the playoffs when dime corner Roc Carmichael had to go in for a play for the injured Williams.
The Eagles need depth at the position, and Keith McGill from Utah is a solid mid-round option. McGill has terrific size at 6’3”. He’s actually the biggest corner declaring for the NFL draft. McGill is a former safety-turned-corner with a ton of upside. He is comparable to a player like Brandon Browner, and he may eventually move to safety at the NFL level.
As I mentioned in a recent article about Philadelphia Eagles’ draft needs, the team needs more depth on the defensive line.
Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton are a talented, up-and-coming core on the front of the new 3-4 defense. Vinny Curry can provide pass rush off the edge, and Damion Square filled in at both nose tackle and 5-technique end. Still, the Eagles could use another player pushing for playing time.
Caraun Reid could provide an impact at both end and tackle. He’s over 300 pounds, which means he’s sturdy enough to hold his own as a 3-4 end. He may be slightly undersized as a straight-up 0-technique nose tackle, but shifting him to a 1-technique tackle spot in a 4-3 front may work.
Even if Cooper is retained on a new deal, Chip Kelly wouldn’t say no to more depth at the receiver position, especially a big receiver like BYU’s Cody Hoffman. That would probably mean Jason Avant is the odd man out. Even if Maclin is re-signed, it’s difficult to see him being on the roster in 2015. He will probably sign a one-year deal and then test the free-agent market after (hopefully, in his case) a career year.
Hoffman would probably start ’14 as the fourth receiver, behind DeSean Jackson and a combination of Maclin/Cooper/Avant. There’s also Arrelious Benn, who is still under contract for one more season after missing all of his initial season with Philadelphia.
Hoffman has tremendous size (6’4”), and he’s a terrific threat in the red zone. He’s slower, but then again, Cooper doesn’t wow anyone with his speed, and he was extremely successful a year ago. Hoffman is probably a fourth-round prospect as of now, after disappointing during this past collegiate season.
The Philadelphia Eagles desperately need a safety, and they’ve been so unsuccessful in their attempts over the years. There have been draft picks like Macho Harris, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, and failed free-agent signings like Marlin Jackson, O.J. Atogwe and Patrick Chung.
Earl Wolff will get the chance to start in 2014, and Allen may be re-signed to provide depth or compete for a starting spot. But the team needs to take a chance on a big-time player like Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward, and draft another safety in the draft.
Dezmen Southward is a big man at 6’2” and close to 215 pounds. He was a 2012 honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, and he may have the potential to contribute for the Eagles in the future.
The Philadelphia Eagles could use an offensive lineman to develop into a potential starter in the future, given that Todd Herremans is aging and has a fairly high cap figure coming up.
Kareem Edwards has the potential to play both center and guard at the next level. He’s undersized, at just 6’4” and 290 pounds, which probably makes him an ideal fit for the Kelly offense. Edwards may want to bulk up a bit to be able to compete better at the NFL level, but he would fill a need as a backup interior lineman for the Eagles.