Ranking the 2014 Impact of Philadelphia Eagles' Free-Agent Signings so Far
The Philadelphia Eagles have stayed relatively quiet in the open free-agent market this spring, signing just one defensive starter and a handful of special teams players. But they’ve been sure to lock up the core of their own roster, beginning by extending offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce.
General manager Howie Roseman handed out new contracts to their own free-agent wide receivers, locking up Jeremy Maclin for one more year and Riley Cooper for potentially five. Those contracts could certainly come in handy given that three-time Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson has been the subject of frequent trade talk rumors, per Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com.
According to Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News, the Eagles won’t be bringing Jackson back in any form in 2014. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly reports that Philadelphia may be willing to release Jackson if they cannot find a trade partner.
Logically, it’s safe to assume that Jackson won’t be an Eagle in 2014, which means Cooper and Maclin will have increased roles in the offense. If the franchise doesn’t spend a high draft pick on a safety in the upcoming NFL draft, there will be more pressure on Malcolm Jenkins to perform in the secondary. Here’s a rough glimpse at which free-agent signings will have the biggest impact on the Eagles in 2014.
6. Bryan Braman/Chris Maragos
Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos won’t have much impact, if any, on the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles. Neither has contributed much as a defensive player recently. Braman technically plays as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he played just 18 snaps in 2013. Maragos saw just 53 snaps as a safety for the 2013 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
Both will be buried on the Eagles’ depth chart. Braman is fighting for a spot behind Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. He will have to make the team based on his ability to compete on special teams. The same goes for Maragos, who won’t see snaps on defense behind Nate Allen, Earl Wolff and Malcolm Jenkins.
If either turns into an effective special teams player, that has to be viewed as a quality signing by the Eagles. Any defensive contributions would be strictly a bonus.
5. Nolan Carroll
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Nolan Carroll actually played really well in 2013. He was targeted 90 times in coverage, allowing completions on just 47.8 percent of his passes. He recorded three interceptions and held quarterbacks to a 65.3 passer rating.
Carroll won’t be expected to pursue a big role with the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles. The current cornerback depth chart has him fourth, behind Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin. If the Eagles draft a cornerback in the top three rounds—which is fairly likely—Carroll may slip to fifth on the depth chart.
There’s also a chance either Williams or Fletcher could be released before the 2014 season starts. Williams played well a year ago, so Fletcher is the more likely release, given that his $3.6 million base salary and no cap penalty means Philly would save more by cutting him.
What the Eagles will be looking for from Philadelphia is that Carroll performs well if he’s called upon to start. If he can duplicate his three interceptions from a year ago, that would be terrific for Eagles fans.
4. Donnie Jones
Philadelphia Eagles fans have to be thrilled with the performance Donnie Jones turned in a year ago. He was signed to a one-year deal in free agency and responded with one of the best seasons by an Eagles punter in history.
Jones set a franchise record with 33 punts inside the 20. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice. And he demonstrated an ability to consistently bail the Eagles out of tough situations.
Jones was locked up to a three-year deal that will keep him in an Eagles uniform through 2016. It’s not out of the question to expect that he can make a Pro Bowl next season. He won’t get a ton of opportunities to punt on the Eagles, but he proved he has a tremendous ability to direct his punts where he wants them to go.
3. Malcolm Jenkins
Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t quite the flashy safety signing Philadelphia Eagles fans wanted, so the trick to maximizing his production will be defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ ability to use him in multiple defensive formations.
Jenkins entered the NFL as a cornerback but soon transitioned to safety. He will start next to either Nate Allen or Earl Wolff (likely Wolff) on the 2014 team. Jenkins didn’t put up great numbers last year, so this signing is based more on the fact that Howie Roseman believes Jenkins is a good value pick for the dollar.
If Jenkins can overachieve a la Cary Williams in his first season in Philadelphia, that will be a good sign. Jenkins won’t likely ever be a Pro Bowler. He’s disappointed as a former first-round pick, although he’s still good enough to be a starter in year five in the league. If Jenkins can record several interceptions, help the Eagles improve upon their 29th-rated passing defense from a year ago and keep his missed tackles down, he will make a positive impact.
2. Riley Cooper
What kind of an impact Riley Cooper makes in 2014 will depend largely on whether DeSean Jackson is still on the team. Cooper obviously benefited from Jackson on the opposite side, drawing a cornerback and a safety on most plays, and that opened up underneath routes for Cooper. Five of Cooper’s eight touchdowns came in a two-game span in the middle of the season.
Still, Cooper’s tremendous relationship with quarterback Nick Foles is what brought him back to Philadelphia on a new contract. The five-year deal he signed is pretty much a two-year, team-friendly deal, which is probably a good move considering Cooper has only had one year of success at the NFL level.
Duplicating his 2013 stats would be a success for Cooper. That would mean he again displays an ability to gain yards after the catch while beating defenders on jump balls. Cooper won’t likely ever be a Pro Bowler, but he could push for double-digit touchdowns if he again demonstrates an uncanny chemistry with Foles.
1. Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin could be the focal wide receiver in the Philadelphia Eagles offense if DeSean Jackson is not back. Despite being a 2009 first-round pick, Maclin has never been a No. 1 receiver for the Eagles—he’s always been the second option behind Jackson.
Maclin has struggled with injuries, and he’s never reached 1,000 yards in a season. But he has been productive still, averaging over 850 yards and six touchdowns per campaign, and both Jackson and Riley Cooper put up career-best numbers in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Maclin is rehabbing from a torn ACL last summer, which means he may not be 100 percent. If he doesn’t regain his pre-injury form, the Eagles will need to rely substantially more on their tight ends and running backs on underneath routes. If Maclin surprises and puts up 1,200 yards, the Eagles are in great shape.