Philadelphia Eagles' Free Agency and Draft Wish List
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have an impossibly long list of team needs heading into this offseason. Chip Kelly’s touch on this team was evident in year one, as he molded second-year quarterback Nick Foles into a likely franchise signal-caller.
The offensive line played as a top-five unit all year, and defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ new 3-4 scheme brought out the best in most key players on that side of the ball. The Eagles could still use a handful of upgrades to even further solidify their roster heading into 2014.
The secondary has long been a problem for this team, as the organization is still trying to recover from letting Brian Dawkins walk and the whole Nnamdi Asomugha fiasco. Adding a playmaker would shore up a defensive backfield that was last in the NFL in passing yards allowed this past season.
Considering the offense was as explosive as expected, the main priority this offseason should be improving the defense.
Sign T.J. Ward
The Philadelphia Eagles absolutely need to improve their safety corps for the 2014 season.
Players like Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, and Kurt Coleman just haven’t gotten the job done. Earl Wolff may develop into a quality player, but he was a fifth-round pick and projects best as a situational player for next year.
The team hasn’t had much recent success drafting safeties, and they need a player who can contribute immediately. T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns is hitting free agency, and he is the best option. Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd will be seeking too much money, as he unquestionably wants to become the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
While the Eagles are in a tremendous cap situation, they would be better suited to sign a second-tier safety like Ward, who was still a good enough player to make this past season’s Pro Bowl. Ward rated as the third-best overall safety in the game, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Ward was the highest-rated safety against the run, but he also allowed just a 61.2 passer rating in pass coverage. Adding him would give defensive coordinator Billy Davis a dangerous playmaker in his defensive backfield.
Re-Sign Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper
Maclin is a former first-round pick who before the 2013 season even began tore his ACL meaning he has still never played a snap of football under Chip Kelly. But Kelly’s offense brought out the best in DeSean Jackson, and Maclin has a similar skill set.
Maclin, who suffered his injury in a contract season, would benefit from a one-year deal under Kelly, especially if he were to then put up big numbers. Then he could test the free-agent market and undoubtedly get a sizeable deal.
There’s no reason for the team to let Cooper walk. The chemistry between Coope and Nick Foles was remarkable, and the pair combined for a 141.7 passer rating, the highest mark between any quarterback and wide receiver in 2013.
Cooper is a pretty good downfield threat and ranked third in the NFL in yards after the catch in 2013. Considering Cooper never had success in the NFL until Foles took over, it’s doubtful another team shows too much interest in him.
The ideal scenario is that the Eagles bring back Cooper with a reasonable deal, something like three to four years at $4-5 million per year.
Add Pass-Rushing Outside Linebacker in First Round
The Philadelphia Eagles got good results out of their starting outside linebackers in 2013. Trent Cole was fantastic down the stretch and Connor Barwin was a jack-of-all-trades for the whole season.
But the team could use an upgrade, considering Cole is entering his 10th year in the NFL and is due to make $5 million in base salary. It would be wise for the organization to invest a first-round pick in a pass-rushing linebacker who can get to the quarterback, a player who constantly requires double-teams.
After all, the Eagles do face Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Robert Griffin III six times per season.
Possible options for the 22ndoverall pick are Auburn’s Dee Ford, Stanford’s Trent Murphy and Oregon State’s Scott Crichton.
Add Big-Play Cornerback in Second Round
Assuming the Philadelphia Eagles do add a big-name safety via free agency, they don’t necessarily need to address the position again in the draft (although it wouldn’t be a bad option).
That means cornerback should be the next targeted position in the NFL draft.
The Eagles got good performances out of free-agent additions Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher in 2013, and 2012 third-round pick Brandon Boykin is a blossoming star. But Williams has a $6.4 million cap figure in 2014 and $8.1 million by 2015, which means he may need to restructure to remain on the roster.
Either way, the defense could use another big-play corner to its secondary.
In the second round, Philly could get a player who will push for playing time immediately. Last year, the defense was exposed when fourth corner Roc Carmichael had to sub for Williams for a play in the NFC Wild Card Round loss to the New Orleans Saints. They can’t let that happen again, and if Williams, Fletcher or Boykin gets hurt for an extended period of time, Philadelphia will need a quality corner to fill in.
Add Versatile Defensive Lineman in Third Round
Billy Davis did a tremendous job maximizing the production from his defensive line in 2013. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton made smooth transitions to 5-technique ends, while rookie Bennie Logan was drafted to play nose tackle in the three-man front.
The trifecta make up one of the better defensive lines in the game, and pass-rushing end Vinny Curry can get to the quarterback in pass-rushing situations. Still, Logan isn’t the most ideal fit as a nose tackle, considering he’s not much over 300 pounds.
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t necessarily need an immovable mountain of a man like a Dontari Poe, but they would certainly take him if he were available. The best option would be a player who can play both tackle and end in a 3-4. This way the Eagles aren’t forced to use undrafted free agent Damion Square as a nose tackle when Logan is out of the game.
Green Bay’s B.J. Raji is a player the team should be looking for, but he will cost way too much in free agency. Possible options from the NFL draft include Arizona State’s Will Sutton or California’s Deandre Coleman.