Eagles' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 14, 2021

Eagles' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    By restructuring several contracts and planning to cut ties with numerous veterans, the Philadelphia Eagles have been working to clear cap space so far this offseason. Still, they're not in a position to be big spenders when free agency begins this week.

    Instead, Philadelphia is more likely to pursue free agents who will help fill its needs at a lower cost. Free agency is set to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, with the legal tampering period starting Monday. The latter is when teams can begin to negotiate with players on the free-agent market.

    With the league's salary cap set at $182.5 million, the Eagles are currently $8.6 million over the limit, according to Spotrac. Still, that's a much better spot than they were in earlier in the offseason, and they should be able to keep clearing space so they can add to their team during free agency.

    Here's a last-minute guide for Philadelphia's top storylines as it enters free agency.

Veteran Backup Quarterback Could Be a Priority

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Since trading Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts last month, the Eagles have reportedly made it clear that they'll be building around quarterback Jalen Hurts moving forward. Hurts, who was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, flashed his potential for Philadelphia during his rookie season.

    "Jalen Hurts is the guy," ESPN's Chris Mortensen said during a recent appearance on SportsCenter (h/t Word On The Birds). "Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, has basically sent the message to his personnel department and his general manager, Howie Roseman, that he wants to do everything he can to help Jalen Hurts be successful."

    However, Hurts is also the only quarterback currently on Philadelphia's roster with Nate Sudfeld becoming a free agent. So the Eagles will need to add a backup. And it could be beneficial for them to sign a proven veteran who could step into the role in case Hurts either gets injured or doesn't end up working out.

    Hurts only made four starts in 2020, so he's not a proven star. With veterans such as Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Alex Smith and more on the free-agent market, Philadelphia could add one on an affordable deal so it has a solid option backing up Hurts.

    Signing one of those players would likely work out better than bringing back Sudfeld, especially because an experienced quarterback could help further Hurts' development.

Wide Receiver Remains a Top Need This Offseason

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    The Eagles are likely going to sign a free-agent wide receiver this offseason. But don't expect it to be one of the top-tier playmakers on the market, such as Kenny Golladay or JuJu Smith-Schuster.

    Philadelphia needs to add a proven veteran to its receiving corps, which features several youngsters who have yet to break out. That group includes Jalen Reagor (a 2020 first-round draft pick), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower.

    The Eagles released DeSean Jackson and will likely cut ties with Alshon Jeffery, so they should replace those former standouts with a low-cost receiver during free agency. But even though Philadelphia likely won't be signing a top playmaker, it could still get a boost from a signing.

    Josh Reynolds and Tyrell Williams are among the free agents who could make sense for the Eagles, especially because each have a tie to a member of the team's coaching staff. Wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead was an assistant at Texas A&M during Reynolds' final two seasons there from 2015-16. Williams previously played for new Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni when both were with the Los Angeles Chargers from 2015-17.

    Neither may be a splashy addition to the Eagles offense, but sometimes those are the types of moves that end up working well. And considering Philadelphia's lack of production at receiver of late, it needs to add what it can at the position.

Will Mills Return or Do Eagles Sign Another DB?

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Jalen Mills is one of the Eagles' top players who are about to hit free agency, and it's unclear whether they'll be bringing back the 26-year-old defensive back. After playing cornerback his first four seasons, Mills moved to safety in 2020 and had positive results, recording a career-high 74 tackles to go with one interception, one forced fumble, three pass deflections and 1.5 sacks in 15 games.

    Whether or not Mills returns, Philadelphia could use a solid cornerback to pair with Darius Slay in its secondary. Perhaps the Eagles could go after a veteran looking to have a bounce-back 2021 season, such as Xavier Rhodes. That would help improve the position group for the short term.

    Jonathan Gannon has taken over as Philadelphia's defensive coordinator after previously serving as the cornerbacks coach for Indianapolis, where Rhodes played last season. Rhodes spent the previous seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and Gannon was their assistant defensive backs coach from 2014-17. So Rhodes could be a potential fit in the Eagles' new defense.

    It's also possible that Philadelphia could look to add a top cornerback in the 2021 NFL draft next month. Regardless of how they do it, the Eagles need to find a corner to pair with Slay, especially with Nickell Robey-Coleman becoming a free agent.

    Will Philadelphia to find a way to re-sign Mills and add a free-agent cornerback? Like its other potential moves this offseason, it could come down to the finances.