The 5 Moves the Philadelphia Eagles Must Avoid in Free Agency
Philadelphia Eagles fans tend to think of free agency in terms of the moves we hope the team will make, but what about the ones it should avoid?
It wasn’t that long ago the Birds were derailed by their spending ways. The 2011 offseason saw the organization make numerous high-profile signings. Obviously, though, they weren’t the right moves. The team went 8-8 that season before bottoming out with a 4-12 record the following year.
That doesn’t mean the Eagles must refrain from signing free agents. Proceeding with caution couldn’t hurt, though.
In all honesty, there aren’t many players in this year’s free-agent class that need to be written off completely, particularly if expectations are reasonable. As is always the case, however, a history of injuries or lack of production are red flags that absolutely must take precedence over ability.
We found five players who fans might legitimately want the Eagles to target when free agency opens on March 11 but for various reasons the team would be wise to avoid.
Are any of these guys on your wish list?
On the surface, B.J. Raji would appear to have everything the Eagles are believed to be looking for in a free agent. He’s massive (6’2”, 337 lbs); he’s versatile; he’s only 28.
There’s just one problem. Where has the production gone?
Not so long ago, Raji was a star—the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft, a key cog in the 2010 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl run, a Pro Bowler in 2011. At one point, the man was even co-starring in State Farm commercials with quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers.
The last two seasons tell a far different tale. Raji hasn’t recorded a single sack in a regular-season or playoff game since ’11—a streak spanning 38 games—while ’13 was a particularly down year all around. The five-year veteran ranked toward the bottom of the league in Pro Football Focus’ metrics for run-stop percentage and pass-rush productivity (subscription only).
To make matters worse, it appears Raji severely overvalues his current abilities. Back in November, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the defensive lineman was sitting on a long-term offer from the Packers worth $8 million per season.
If he wouldn’t sign that, what’s it going to take?
If the Eagles can get Raji to agree to a so-called “prove it” deal, he’s still young enough to turn his career around. He’s simply not worth a commitment right now.
If B.J. Raji is off the table because his production has fallen off dramatically, Terrence Cody shouldn’t even be up for consideration. The 2010 second-round pick never amounted to anything for the Baltimore Ravens, a franchise that’s been cranking out solid defenders for years.
At 6’4”, 340 pounds, Cody might look the part of an NFL nose tackle—only it hasn’t translated onto the field. The 26-year-old spent one season (2011) as a starter in Baltimore but has since been reduced to a part-time player.
Reason being, Cody isn’t very good. He’s recorded zero sacks in 56 professional games, and in 2013, he ranked tied for 110th out of all interior linemen in Pro Football Focus’ run-stop percentage (subscription only).
His level of play is unlikely to be fixed by a change of scenery. The Ravens produce plenty of excellent players on the defensive side of the football. The fact that he couldn’t make it surrounded by All-Pros such as Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed—albeit late in their careers—is telling.
There’s a feeling that the Eagles are in desperate need of an upgrade at nose tackle, where Bennie Logan took the majority of the snaps last season. They’re not this desperate though. Cody would only take up a roster spot that could go to a young player with some actual upside.
Don’t rule out the possibility the Birds could add a veteran receiver, if for no other reason than to provide additional competition at training camp this summer.
Just don’t expect it to be Britt. A first-round pick in 2009, his is a career that came off the rails and is unlikely to recover.
Following a 2010 season in which he scored nine touchdowns in 12 games, Britt suffered a torn ACL in the following year and hasn’t been the same since. Last season, he hauled in just 11 receptions for 96 yards with zero touchdowns in 12 games for the Tennessee Titans.
Some of Britt’s decline could be attributed to his falling out of favor in Tennessee, not to mention being stuck in the league’s 21st-ranked passing offense. That being said, it’s clear he doesn’t have the same explosion. The 25-year-old went from averaging 18.5 yards per catch in 2010 to 8.7 last season.
There are other reasons to be leery of taking a chance on Britt. He wouldn’t be much use to the Birds on special teams, which is important for a receiver who’s No. 4 on the depth chart at best. And while he’s managed to fly under the radar lately, off-the-field and other character issues could rear their collective head at any moment.
Some suggested Philadelphia attempt to trade for Britt last year prior to Cooper’s emergence as a viable target. It doesn’t appear that there was any legitimate interest from the Eagles then—or any team for that matter—but he’s a free agent now.
With Michael Vick likely moving on in free agency, Philadelphia should be in the market for a third quarterback to fill out the depth chart. Having seen firsthand what Matt Cassel is capable of against the Eagles last season, those with short memories might consider him an option.
Cassel completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards with three touchdowns—two through the air, one on the ground—as the Minnesota Vikings dismantled the Birds 48-30.
The truth is Cassel would not make for a reliable backup though on the count of his jarring inconsistency. One week after taking apart the Philadelphia defense, he completed just 13 of 27 attempts for 114 yards with one touchdown and four turnovers in a 42-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cassel’s 32-36 record as a starting quarterback in the NFL should be enough to scare off most teams, and at 32 years old, he has absolutely no upside. The veteran of nine seasons is still too slow going through his reads, too quick to tuck the ball and run.
There’s also the issue of signability. Cassel chose to opt out of his contract with the Vikings that would’ve paid him $3.7 million in 2014—not to mention provided him an opportunity to start.
Even supposing he was willing to come to Philadelphia, at what cost?
One of the many surprises of the Eagles 2013 campaign was Nate Allen shaking the draft bust label and transforming into a capable safety.
That being said, if last year was the ceiling of his ability, the team cannot afford to bring him back.
Many of Allen’s growing pains over his first four seasons can be traced back to the long recovery from a torn patellar tendon suffered in his rookie season coupled with a Wide 9 defensive front that’s tough on safeties. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that literally every Eagles safety in 2013 showed improvement in a scheme that lets defensive backs be defensive backs rather than asking them to be linebackers.
Still, Allen didn’t exactly develop into an impact player. He did his job, racking up 82 tackles in 16 games, but momentum-changing plays were few and far between. The 2010 second-round pick finished out the campaign with one sack, one forced fumble and one interception.
The real hang-up, though, is the Eagles should have ample opportunity to upgrade. 14 of CBSSports.com’s top 153 free agents are safeties, so there are plenty of options to choose from.
If Allen winds up being retained, it won’t be the end of the world. However, the Eagles owe it to themselves to take a serious look at what the market has to offer.
Chances are they can do better.