Mike Mitchell Would Be an Ideal New Safety for the Eagles

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) runs on the the field during player introductions before the start of an NFL football game  in Charlotte, NC, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo / Mike McCarn)
MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles aren't the type of team that is going to overspend or make a larger-than-life splash in free agency. General manager Howie Roseman learned his lesson with that 2011 "Dream Team." 

That's why it isn't surprising to hear, via CSN Philly's Geoff Mosher, that the Eagles had yet to show much interest in this year's free-agent rock star, Jairus Byrd, despite the fact that Byrd plays safety and safety just happens to be the Eagles' weakest position. 

But Byrd, who, according to ESPN's James Walker, is looking for a deal that averages $9 million a year, will inevitably be overpaid, which is why the Eagles are better off spending their money on starting-caliber safeties in what is considered to be the second tier of free agency. 

Enter Mike Mitchell, whom Mosher reports has received interest from Philly as we approach the official start of the free-agency period Tuesday. The 26-year-old—he's a year younger than Byrd—started 14 games for Carolina in 2013, recording 66 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. 

That kind of versatility and playmaking ability earned him a positive grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which is something no qualifying Eagles safety could accomplish in 2013. He was also ranked as the 19th-best safety in coverage, which is particularly important for a team that ranked dead last in the NFL in pass defense last year.

Pro Football Focus coverage grades, safeties, 2013
Mike MitchellPanthers3.519th
Nate AllenEagles-1.351st
Earl WolffEagles-4.067th
Patrick ChungEagles-8.481st
Pro Football Focus

Mitchell might not be Byrd, but the price difference could be substantial. Considering that Byrd is also older and missed several games due to a foot injury last year, I'd say this is a no-brainer. 

They'll probably have to fight for Mitchell, too, because safeties are hot commodities this year, but the good news is that everyone not named Byrd could be affordable due to the fact that Antoine Bethea, Chris Clemons and Donte Whitner are also available. Supply and demand doesn't dramatically favor the players here. 

The Eagles might need a pair of new safeties. The jury's still out on 2013 rookie Earl Wolff, and Nate Allen is probably better suited as a backup. They'll likely look for another one in the draft, and a pass-rusher is also needed, but they'd be silly not to invest in one of those top-end safeties about to hit the open market. 

Bethea will be 30 next season. Whitner is also a couple of years older. Clemons has zero sacks and just three picks in his last 32 starts. Byrd will be too costly. Mitchell, though, might be the perfect target. 

If the Eagles are going to spend money on anyone, it should be on him.