Philadelphia Eagles: Grading Early Free-Agency Moves
The Philadelphia Eagles have been relatively quiet thus far in free agency, despite terrific position in the salary cap that enables general manager Howie Roseman to make a big splash, should he be interested.
The team's obvious target of safety was addressed when the Eagles added New Orleans Saints' safety Malcolm Jenkins, per Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune. He's no Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward though, and the fact that second-tier safeties like Donte Whitner and Antoine Bethea have already signed elsewhere suggests Philly will have to spend a high draft pick on a safety as well.
Roseman is being cautious after the "Dream Team" debacle of 2011, but there has been little upgrade thus far to a defense that could use an elite player. For now, here are the team's grades for the three new players who were signed, as well as the own free agent who was re-signed to a new deal and another player who was released.
Signed Safety Malcolm Jenkins to Three-Year Deal
For those who wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to sign Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward, too bad. They didn’t sign either of those Pro Bowl players. They also passed on Donte Whitner, Antoine Bethea, Mike Mitchell and Louis Delmas.
The Eagles did sign Malcolm Jenkins, a former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints who hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his five NFL campaigns. This is a signing based more on potential than production.
Last year, he rated 65th out of 86 qualifying safeties, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He started 14 games, recording 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was one of just three safeties in the NFL to pull off that achievement (Eric Berry and Mike Mitchell are the others).
Jenkins is versatile, which is what attracted the Eagles to him. He actually entered the NFL as a cornerback and transitioned to a safety in his second season. He played a key role on a Super Bowl champion team as a rookie, and he’s an upgrade over Nate Allen and Patrick Chung.
Still, this signing doesn’t mean the Eagles don’t need a safety in the upcoming draft; in fact, now they need one more than ever. There are just two safeties (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor) worth selecting at the 22nd overall pick, and Green Bay could be in the market for one of them at pick No. 21. That means Howie Roseman may have to trade up or make do with a second-round player.
Jenkins' three-year, $15.5 million deal includes $8.5 million guaranteed. If he isn’t a good player for the Eagles, they can release him before 2016 at just a $1.5 million cap penalty, but they’re committed to him for at least two seasons. The trick will be trying to get more out of him than they have gotten from players like Marlin Jackson, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Kenny Phillips.
Released Safety Patrick Chung
According to NJ.com, the Eagles released Patrick Chung on Tuesday. The move was expected; he was a horrible player in 2013 and will go down as one of the worst free-agent signings in recent years for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He was essentially a gamble, as Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly thought they might be able to get the value out of him that made him a second-round pick coming into the NFL. He backfired, though.
He was rated by Pro Football Focus as the 71st-best safety in the league out of 86 qualifiers. Chung allowed five touchdowns in pass coverage without recording an interception. He didn’t record a sack or forced fumble either. He was one of just five safeties to start at least 10 games last year without recording a big play.
Chung had a $3.25 million cap hit in 2014 and a $3.75 million cap hit in 2015. With Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson all hitting free agency and Chung being released, Earl Wolff may be the only safety from the ’13 team to return in ’14.
The grade for releasing Chung is based on what his contract would have been had he made the ’14 team.
Signed Safety Chris Maragos to Three-Year Deal
He is a four-year NFL player who spent the last three seasons with the Seahawks. He played sparingly on the 2013 Super Bowl team, seeing just 52 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Maragos was targeted once in pass coverage, allowing a 21-yard touchdown.
He wasn’t signed to be a safety, though; Maragos is expected to add special teams depth. He will probably replace either Colt Anderson or Kurt Coleman on the 53-man roster. The problem is that he didn’t rate very well by PFF as a special teams player; he rated tied for 1,076th out of 1,188 special teams players.
Re-Signed Punter Donnie Jones to Three-Year Deal
Bringing back punter Donnie Jones was a no-brainer. He’s just a punter, but the Philadelphia Eagles were fortunate to have him in 2013. He was a two-time NFC Special Teams Player of the Week and set a franchise record with 33 punts inside the 20-yard line. Jones rated ninth-best in the league with a 41.0 net average, per Pro Football Focus.
His new three-year deal is worth about $6 million, which is a fair price to pay for a player who rates as one of the best in the world at his craft. Jones bailed the Eagles out numerous times a year ago, and he’s still just 33 years old, which is young enough for a punter.
Signed Linebacker Bryan Braman to Two-Year Deal
The Philadelphia Eagles signed former Houston Texans linebacker Bryan Braman to a two-year deal, adding depth to their roster.
Eagles signed former Texans LB Bryan Braman to a two-year, $3.15 million deal, including $1 million guarnteeed via @seanstellato.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
He spent three seasons with the Texans as a reserve linebacker, appearing in 46 of a possible 48 games. He played in just 18 defensive snaps in 2013 but does have experience as a linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
He was signed more for his ability to play on special teams. It’s a little puzzling, because Pro Football Focus rated Braman as the 1,176th-best special teams player out of 1,188 players. That’s not exactly enticing, especially when the numbers show that he made eight tackles and missed seven a year ago.