Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Free Agency Primer: What to Expect, What to Watch

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Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Free Agency Primer: What to Expect, What to Watch
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The Philadelphia Eagles have already been quite possibly the busiest team of the 2014 NFL offseason, re-signing their top two impending free agents, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, while also extending the contracts of key offensive cogs Jason Peters and Jason Kelce

Now, with Cooper and Maclin wrapped up and Michael Vick set to test the open market, the Eagles can turn their attention fully to whoever else floats their boat in free agency. The roster is already in very good shape but can still use some upgrades, and general manager Howie Roseman and Co. always make some interesting moves this time of year. 

To get a feel for what might be coming, here's a free-agency preview for the Eagles.

 

Bank statement

The Eagles have just over $24 million in cap space, according to EaglesCap.com, which is more than anyone else in the NFC East and is the 11th-highest total in the league. Considering that most of their in-house work is already done, that gives them the freedom to operate quite liberally on the open market, if they so choose. 

 

Family first

Again, Cooper and Maclin are back and they've got all of their long-term contracts taken care of. No extensions should be in the works and the only 2013 starter not under contract is Nate Allen, whom they'd probably like to replace anyway.

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

It looks as though Michael Vick will get away to pursue a starting job elsewhere, which is understandable. And that'll save them money anyway. Beyond that, I don't think it hurts to bring back Allen, who had a decent 2013 campaign and should be cheap, as well as Arrelious Benn, who should have a chance to win the No. 4 wide receiver job now that Jason Avant is gone. 

Finally, punter Donnie Jones should absolutely be re-signed. Apparently his contract doesn't permit that to happen until free agency officially gets underway, but I'm guessing the Eagles already have an offer prepared. Jones was fantastic in 2013, placing more kicks inside the 20-yard line than all but three other punters. 

 

Who they'll have to let walk

Reports from NFL Media's Ian Rapoport suggest Vick is receiving plenty of interest. Logic indicates he'll have a chance to start elsewhere, which means he's a goner. Jason Avant was also cut and I don't think they'll bother with Kurt Coleman, who was terrible again in 2013.  

 

What they need

Which safety would be best for the Eagles?

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The Eagles should have enough money to sign two quality, starting-caliber free agents. I think their entire offense, their corners and their non-pass-rushing front-seven defenders are set. But they need another pass rusher and a safety. Those have to be priorities. 

In fact, I'd even consider two safeties right now. The jury's still out on Earl Wolff; Patrick Chung was a bust; Allen is good, not great. There isn't much on the roster beyond that. 

Looking deeper, they could use some more depth at corner and inside linebacker and might need to think about signing an experienced backup quarterback to replace Vick.

 

Whom they should chase

Jairus Byrd (S, Buffalo Bills): He'd be the ideal signing. Strong in coverage, young with a ton of playmaking ability. But he'll be very expensive. Fortunately for the Eagles, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner and the Miami Dolphins' Chris Clemons also fit that profile. I'd be shocked if the Eagles didn't land one of those four guys and maybe even someone like Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis Colts) or Mike Mitchell (Carolina Panthers). 

Any of these safeties would work for the Eagles
Player Age 2013 PFF rank
Jairus Byrd 27 2nd
T.J. Ward 27 6th
Donte Whitner 29 53rd
Chris Clemons 28 25th
Antoine Bethea 30 69th
Michael Mitchell 27 59th

Pro Football Focus

Rob Jackson (LB, Washington Redskins): An under-the-radar 3-4 pass-rushing specialist who could have starting potential after being overshadowed by Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan the last couple years. He's only 28. 

Antoine Cason (CB, Arizona Cardinals): Big, physical corner with plenty of talent and still some upside at 28. He'd provide insurance and might even give Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher a run for their starting money. 

Matt Flynn, Josh McCown or Matt Cassel: They're the only guys who could keep carrying this team, at least temporarily, in place of Nick Foles

 

What can wait for the draft

Nothing. They should address the safety situation right now, and they'd be smart to spend some money on bolstering the pass rush, too. The draft will be about reinforcement and potential future upgrades. 

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