What Offseason Moves Are Next for Philadelphia Eagles with the Draft Complete?
The NFL draft is finally complete, meaning the Philadelphia Eagles have officially built approximately 90 percent of the roster they will use for the 2014 season.
They've added talent on both sides of the ball, including outside linebacker Marcus Smith and cornerback Jaylen Watkins, plus wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
But that doesn't mean the Eagles have completely finished their roster. They have some important decisions to make regarding their depth. Specifically, here are five decisions to make.
1. What to Do with Brandon Graham?
The Philadelphia Eagles have a talented player in Brandon Graham who they choose not to use. That's one way to look at it.
The other way to view the situation is to simply realize that the Eagles have three outside linebackers better than Graham. Veterans Trent Cole and Connor Barwin will enter the year as the starters, and rookie first-round pick Marcus Smith is going to work his way into the starting rotation sooner rather than later.
Graham, who enters his fifth and final season from his rookie deal, could be trade bait this offseason for any team that suffers an injury to a defensive end or an outside linebacker. Best suited as a 4-3 defensive end, Graham is still just 25 years old and could probably fetch a fifth-round pick, perhaps a fourth if general Howie Roseman is on his trade game again.
2. Backup Quarterback Competition
The Eagles really hope that Nick Foles plays and completes all 16 games this season, something the Eagles have not had from a starting quarterback since Donovan McNabb in 2003.
But in the event that Foles misses more time due to injuries, they need to be able to rely on their backup quarterback.
Right now, that could be either veteran Mark Sanchez or last year's rookie Matt Barkley.
Sanchez is the former Jets castoff who signed a one-year deal in free agency, while Barkley is the Chip Kelly product who likely isn't as bad as the player the Eagles saw in limited action in 2013.
The two will battle it out in training camp. The winner (and as of now, I think it's a 50-50) will be just one snap away from playing at any given time during the season.
3. Should Brandon Boykin Start?
You could make a legitimate argument that the best defensive player on the 2013 Eagles played in just 51 percent of the snaps.
That would be nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin, who collected six interceptions, including two in the final minute of a victory. His interception of Kyle Orton in the final drive of the season finale ranks as one of the most memorable turnovers in franchise history.
But Boykin is still expected to enter 2014 as the nickel corner behind Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. That's potentially a problem, as Boykin is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season. If he turns in another dominant year as a nickel corner, the Eagles may not want to give him a lucrative contract extension if he's not yet a starter.
The Eagles could make him the starter in training camp and cut Fletcher. They could make Boykin the starter in camp and demote Fletcher to nickel corner, which is what I would do. Or they could keep their most talented defensive back on the field for barely half the snaps.
4. Can Alex Henery Beat out Murder Leg at Kicker?
Alex Henery is one of the biggest reasons why the Eagles lost their home playoff game to the New Orleans Saints. He missed a field goal and delivered short kickoffs that led to some big returns by Darren Sproles.
That was a problem for Henery all season, as he ranked 22nd in the NFL in field goal percentage and 31st in kickoff distance, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Eagles countered Henery's failures by bringing in undrafted free agent Carey Spear, who earned the nickname Murder Leg for his big kickoffs and tendency to kick long field goals during college. He's also a monster hitter, delivering some terrific special teams tackles. But Spear wasn't particularly accurate, connecting on just 78 percent of field goals throughout his career.
Although the fans will want Spear to beat out Henery for the kicking job, it won't be easy for an undrafted rookie free agent to come in and beat out a veteran who ranks fourth among active kickers in field goal percentage.
5. Can Chip Kelly Make the Offense Work Better with His Players?
After a year as the Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly is really starting to shape the team's roster the way he wants it.
He anointed Nick Foles as his starting quarterback by passing on Johnny Manziel with the team's first-round pick. He released DeSean Jackson and replaced him with Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff at receiver. He traded boom-or-bust backup running back Bryce Brown. And he added versatile veteran running back Darren Sproles as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
The Eagles scored 442 points in 2013, the fourth-most in the NFL. How will they do with a bunch of new players on offense, particularly at skill positions? Kelly hand-picked Matthews. Huff went to Oregon and should already have a good grasp on the offense. And Foles is one year more experienced, with a full offseason under his belt as the starter.
The Eagles escaped injuries last year, particularly on the offensive line. The goal for 2014 is avoiding injuries and building on the success from the previous year. If defensive coordinators struggle to contain Kelly's offense again, the Eagles will be simply unstoppable.