Free-Agent Contracts Eagles Must Pursue After Preseason

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IISeptember 6, 2021

Free-Agent Contracts Eagles Must Pursue After Preseason

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Can the Philadelphia Eagles go from worst to first in the NFC East in 2021? They will begin their quest for a bounce-back year Sunday, when they go on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons in the first game of the new season.

    There were some big changes in Philadelphia over the offseason after its disappointing 4-11-1 campaign in 2020, as it hired a new coach (Nick Sirianni), traded its former franchise quarterback (Carson Wentz) and brought in some improved talent via free agency and the draft.

    However, it's possible that Philadelphia's 53-man roster, which was set ahead of Tuesday's deadline, could still undergo some changes between now and Sunday—or soon after the season begins. That's because there are still some talented players without teams who could be signing free-agent deals in the near future, and the Eagles could be in the mix to add some depth.

    Here's a look at several players Philadelphia should still consider signing for the 2021 season.

Rick Wagner, OT

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    The Eagles have their starting tackles in place with Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, so they have those spots filled. However, Mailata is still fairly inexperienced, and one of Philadelphia's only backups is Andre Dillard, who hasn't played since 2019 and is again dealing with injury concerns this year.

    So Philadelphia could benefit from adding a proven tackle to serve in a backup role, and Rick Wagner is one of the top options available. If the 31-year-old would be willing to join the Eagles at a low price, it's something they should strongly consider.

    Over eight NFL seasons, Wagner has played 118 games and made 96 starts. He spent last year with the Green Bay Packers and played 16 games for the first time since 2015.

    However, Wagner has dealt with some knee issues in recent years, and he's remained unsigned after getting released by the Packers in February. Still, he should still be a valuable depth player, and Philadelphia could be a place where he could prove it given some of its own durability issues up front.

Avery Williamson, LB

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    It can never hurt to have too much linebacker depth. NFL defenses typically rotate these players to keep fresh bodies on the field. So while the Eagles have some solid, young players at the positions for 2021, it could be wise to add another linebacker for the upcoming season.

    Philadelphia could use a veteran to come in and bring some experience to the position group considering all seven linebackers on its roster are 27 or younger. Avery Williamson is 29 and could bring a boost to the defense, as he's had success everywhere he's played in his NFL career.

    Last season, Williamson played seven games with the New York Jets and eight for the Pittsburgh Steelers, finishing with 111 total tackles. It marked the fourth time since 2015 that he recorded more than 100 tackles in a season, and he also had one interception and one sack.

    The Eagles already improved at middle linebacker when they signed Eric Wilson earlier this offseason. By adding Williamson, it could take that unit to yet another level.

Desmond Trufant, CB

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    Brian Westerholt/Associated Press

    Philadelphia needed a No. 2 cornerback to start alongside Darius Slay, and it filled that need by signing Steven Nelson in late July. But it could be enticing to the Eagles to also go after Desmond Trufant, who was released by the Chicago Bears ahead of Tuesday's roster deadline.

    Behind Slay and Nelson, Philadelphia could add a bit more cornerback depth. If rookie Zech McPhearson makes a quick impact, that would be less of an issue, but the 23-year-old could take some time to transition to the NFL level.

    Trufant is a former Pro Bowler who spent his first seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and played for the Detroit Lions in 2020. When he's healthy, he's been an effective defensive back. However, he's played nine or fewer games in three of the past four seasons, including a career-low six last year.

    This season, Trufant will need to prove he can stay healthy and can keep contributing, even though he turns 31 on Friday. By joining a solid Philadelphia secondary, he could fill a complementary role and show that he can still be a strong player, which could lead to more defensive success for the Eagles.