2011 NFL Free Agency: Defensive Options for the Philadelphia Eagles
Assuming a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, the Eagles will have plenty of options in free agency.
The Eagles need to overhaul a defense that was arguably Andy Reid's worst defense in his 12-year tenure.
With a lack of playmakers, former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had almost no chance to succeed.
This defense needs major upgrades, especially starting with a nonexistent pass rush and a complement at cornerback to star Asante Samuel.
Here are the options on the defensive side of the ball in free agency:
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Brandon Graham, the team's first round pick in 2010, will potentially be out until midseason, the Eagles have to address the defensive end position.
Coming off a major microfracture knee injury, any production from Graham would be an added bonus, but the Eagles should not count on it.
The Eagles cannot go into next season with Juqua Parker starting because he is aging and breaking down.
1. Charles Johnson
Most fans do not even know who the talented Johnson is, even though he is inching towards being a top-10 defensive end in this league.
Johnson recorded 11.5 sacks this season for the Panthers and was undoubtedly their best defensive player. Though he may be the top priority for the Panthers, the Eagles can still sign him for a tolerable contract.
Johnson is 275 pounds and solid in run defense, where he recorded 61 tackles—a great number for a 4-3 defensive end.
If the Eagles decide not to throw all their money one free agent cornerback, then the 25 year-old Johnson could be a great option.
2. Ray Edwards
Edwards is young at 26 and is a rising superstar at defensive end. The Eagles can finally have a competent player across from Trent Cole to apply pressure.
Ray Edwards in a down year had eight sacks, and also missed two games. He is a complete defensive end, like Cole and could be worth the long term investment.
The Vikings will try to keep him, but there is no doubt the Eagles should pay to upgrade one of their biggest weaknesses on the team.
3. Jason Babin
He may have the best chance to land in Philadelphia, especially after the Jim Washburn hiring. Babin even talked about his future, calling it a "tough decision" on whether to follow Washburn and rejoin the Eagles or stay in Tennessee.
Jason Babin had 12.5 sacks last year and could be a great complement to star pass rusher Trent Cole. Babin also, for the first time in his career, played the run extremely well.
He had 58 tackles, which is a solid number for a guy more known for his pass rush.
With Brandon Graham unlikely to start the season healthy, Babin could be a solid signing to hold down the defensive end job until Graham comes back.
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The Eagles go four deep with their defensive tackle rotation, but still seem to lack the pass-rushing tackle who can impact the rest of the defensive line.
Part of the reason Parker and Cole wear down by season's end is because the lack of a push up the middle.
Brodrick Bunkley could be a major beneficiary from the Washburn hiring because he will be playing in the same system he excelled in during college at Florida State.
Antonio Dixon should only improve, but does not offer much in the passing game. Still though he is one of the best run defending tackles in the game.
1. Albert Haynesworth (via trade or signing if cut)
It boils down to whether the Eagles would be interested in Haynesworth. I am sure Jim Washburn is desperately trying to convince the front office that he can motivate Haynesworth.
Haynesworth, of course, is still upset about playing the nose tackle position in the Redskins' 3-4 defensive scheme. When he signed his $100 million contract, he envisioned playing in a 4-3 as a penetrating defensive pass-rusher.
The only coach who has had success motivating Haynesworth to play up to his highest potential is current Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
A reunion may not be out of the question. The entire defense can transform if a motivated Haynesworth shows up to play.
2. Brandon Mebane
Mebane finally showed his pass rushing capabilities, even though he only had one sack.
Mebane would be a solid fit as he is one of the best defensive tackles in the league. He can push the pocket and is quick to be a disruptive player on the line, something the defensive line lacks.
The 26-year-old would automatically become a starter under Washburn on the line.
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The Eagles have consistently ignored their linebacking woes the past few years which almost always comes back to hurt the defense significantly.
A top playmaker on the outside would be greatly needed for a defense trying to improve.
The Eagles have Jamar Chaney a rising stud, who can play all three linebacker positions. Depending on where the Eagles decide to play him will impact their free agency plans at the linebacker position.
Personally I think Chaney can excel as a middle linebacker. He is almost unblockable on running plays with his speed. Chaney has made a few plays in coverage displaying his potential, but was too inconsistent last year.
1. James Anderson SOLB
The 240-pound Anderson had a great season starting at strongside linebacker.
Anderson recorded 130 tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception.
If the Eagles do not re-sign Stewart Bradley, the 27-year-old Anderson could be a target in a weak strongside linebacker class.
2. Barrett Ruud WOLB
Yes I know Ruud has played middle linebacker his entire career with the Buccaneers, but he has the potential to play on the weakside.
Ruud had 118 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception. Ruud could be signed to play the weakside allowing him to roam around more.
3. Thomas Davis WOLB
Davis has been injured the past two seasons, but he was considered one of the best weak-side linebackers in football.
In seven games in 2009, Davis recorded 61 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions—elite numbers for a weak-side linebacker in a limited number of games.
Davis could be easily signed on the cheap, and if healthy, could provide the Eagles a playmaker at the linebacker position.
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Continuing on with the previous slide, the Eagles will have to make a decision where to play Chaney and Stewart Bradley (assuming he is re-signed)
1. Stephen Tulloch
At only 26, Tulloch headlines this group of linebackers in the free agent class.
Standing at 240 pounds Tulloch combined his solid speed and tackling ability into a Pro-Bowl caliber year, recording 160 tackles.
Even though he did not have an interception, Tulloch was a solid mainstay in coverage and would be a perfect fit in Philadelphia.
2. Paul Posluszny
Posluszny was one of the few bright spots on a horrid Buffalo Bill defense.
He recorded 151 tackles and was a stud in the middle.
Posluszny could fit in as the Eagles middle linebacker, which would move Jamar Chaney to the weakside, a position he is still familiar with.
Posluszny is an aggressive, hard-working player and could fit what Juan Castillo wants.
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Starting at right cornerback last year was the 24th least valuable player in the league, Dimitri Patterson, according to Bill Barnwell.
The Eagles need a competent starter across from Asante Samuel. The lack of a right corner hurt the Eagles greatly down the stretch last season.
Teams are smart and do not throw at Samuel. Samuel was in fact one of the least targeted defensive backs in the league last season, and he still racked up seven interceptions.
While Patterson had his moments, he is more of a nickel corner. Trevard Lindley is a talented, long corner, but may need another year before he is ready to contribute.
The Eagles spent a third-round pick on Curtis Marsh, but he is more of a developmental player.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha
Nnamdi Asomugha was only targeted 29 times in 14 games last season, an astoundingly low number.
Teams know the capabilities of Asomugha and are smart not to test him because most of the time the ball would not be completed.
Asomugha has elite speed and size and can stick with any receiver in the league.
The Eagles employ man-to-man coverage, and Asomugha is the best in the league.
He can press and be physical at the line, but fits what the Eagles do on defense, opposite of Asante Samuel, who plays off the receiver.
2. Johnathan Joseph
While Jonathan Joseph seems interested in returning to the Bengals in 2011, whoever strikes out in the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes will be pursuing him, so he will have a number of options.
At 27, Joseph is in the prime of his career and is one of the most underrated corners in the league. He deserves to be mentioned in the discussion of top 10 corners currently playing.
Joseph has elite speed, great coverage and ball skills. He can press and play up at the receiver, but has enough recovery speed if beat.
He is a fluid athlete and can play the run better than most corners.
With such a huge price tag on Asomugha, some believe Joseph is the better buy on the free-agent market.
3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (via trade)
Antonio Cromartie's cousin Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is probably the more talented of the two at the young age of 25.
He is a tall, lanky, physical specimen at 6'2'', 182 pounds. Rodgers-Cromartie is a legitimate 4.3 guy and can stick to every receiver in the league.
Rodgers-Cromartie has already made a Pro Bowl and has 13 career interceptions.
He is a great cover corner, but does struggle in the run game.
However, as he is under contract, the Eagles would have to construct a deal with the Arizona Cardinals for his services.
If the Eagles choose to trade Kolb, most expect them to look for a starting player and draft picks.
The Cardinals drafted cornerback Patrick Peterson at the fifth-overall spot, so they could be happy to send Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia if it meant landing a franchise quarterback like Kolb.
4. Ike Taylor
A recent report by FOXSports.com's Adam Caplan, who cites multiple sources, states that the Eagles "will show strong interest in Taylor once free agency starts."
The 31-year-old Taylor has made it known that he will test free agency and Philadelphia may seem like a fit.
Caplan goes on to say, "And with the Eagles possibly playing more zone and less man coverage in the secondary this season based on the adjustment the defensive line is expected to undergo, Taylor would fit in quite well."
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With free safety Nate Allen returning from his injury and the drafting of strong safety Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round this past draft, the Eagles should be set at safety.
Kurt Coleman would be a valuable backup, where he is more suited to play.
Thus, I highly doubt the Eagles pursue any safety in free agency.