Eagles Notes: Free Agency, Draft Buzz, the Read Option

A few different Eagles-related topics to get to on this Sunday…

FREE AGENCY STRATEGY

Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe writes a terrific Sunday NFL notes column every week. Today’s piece focuses on the start of free agency (March 12). Bedard notes that top players are still seeing big salary increases, but with the cap remaining flat, that will have a significant impact on the league’s middle class.

“More veterans are going to be on the street,” one NFC executive told Bedard. “There isn’t much cap space out there. That means that the supply of free agents is going to seriously outweigh the demand.”

The key is still to build through the draft, but the Birds currently have several (potential) holes to fill: two starting cornerback positions, two starting safety spots, nose tackle, SAM linebacker, offensive line depth and more.

The Eagles currently have about $32.4 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com, and that number could increase as they continue to make decisions on veterans like Nnamdi Asomugha.

In other words, they are in position to target young, top-tier guys at key positions like cornerback (some CB names to know here). And they can potentially add depth/competition at multiple spots as well.

This isn’t going to be a repeat of the summer of 2011 when the Eagles were looking for the final pieces to put them over the top, but this free-agency period offers a different opportunity to add young players who are either in their primes or approaching their primes.

MORE DION JORDAN BUZZ

We posted an in-depth profile on Oregon OLB/DE Dion Jordan last week. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post was impressed with Jordan at the Combine:

The most impressive body of the combine probably belonged to Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. At 6-6, 248 pounds, he checked into the Bod Pod with a body fat measurement of 3.8 percent—third lowest of any player at any position. What’s more, Jordan’s arms measured 33 7/8ths inches, and his hands were 10 inches.

One other name to know: Ziggy Ansah. The DE/OLB from BYU ran a 4.56 40 at the Combine, and Pompei notes that unlike most of the other prospects, Ansah did not train at all for the run. He kept attending class and never got got help from an outside trainer.

At 6-5, 271, the Ghana native only really played one year of college football. But NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he’s willing to “bet on the kid.” And in his most recent mock draft on NFL.com, Daniel Jeremiah had Ansah going No. 5 to the Lions.

THE READ OPTION

Several coaches and GMs at the Combine were asked about the read-option and its staying power. Tom Coughlin admitted that he’s going to have defensive coordinator Perry Fewell take a close look at how to defend it this offseason.

And Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley talked about the key to defending it.

“For us, it started off with having really good coverage corners, guys who can play press and obviously at the defensive end
spot, guys who can run,” Bradley said. “That’s so important in our philosophy – you need a defense built around speed. The corners that press, it allows you to bring an extra player into the box to account for all the different option aspects and that’s critical.”

Asked if the read-option has staying power, Bradley added, “It’s probably similar to the Wildcat in some ways. It made a lot of defensive coordinators nervous and how much you were going to see of it. I know in the off-season, we were going to put in extended periods of time into looking at what we need to do to slow that down a little bit.”

Is it here to stay?

“One of the things, in Seattle, they did a good job of, Russell was very sharp as far as executing – he would run out of bounds, he would slide, he would do things to keep him out of harm’s way. That’s the big thing with quarterbacks. – if they’re going to keep the ball and run on the perimeter, they’re really opening themselves up to some hits and injuries. Franchise quarterbacks are so difficult to find, you really need to protect them. Most teams will have a conscience about that.”

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  • ICDogg

    “Most teams will have a conscious about that.” …er, “conscience.”

  • PaoliBulldog

    Sebastian Vollmer of the Pats had his knee scoped recently and was playing through that injury down the stretch in 2013. He’s a UFA and would be worth a long look. Just keep him away from Bynum’s orthopedist.

  • limodriver27

    I’m on the Dion Jordan wagon also, but allowing that i’m not a draftnik like some, has his stock risen that much to rise to the #4 pick? I’m sure there’s value in trading down for an xtra pick to select him at maybe #8-12; maybe i’m wrong here.
    Read-option: im counting on CK’s vast versatility to adjust the offense when teams recognize this scheme being used too much.

    • Tyler Phillips

      There isn’t much of a trade market right now. They isn’t s must have guy up there. Best bet is to get BPA at 4.

      • dmancine9

        Dee Milliner is BPA

    • theycallmerob

      I think his stock has risen significantly; many teams are still combine-crazy and value these hybrid “tweeners”, especially with the current read-option trends. The Raiders and Jags are the wild cards, since they are likely to draft for defense as well. It may also hurt the Eagles’ prospects at Jordan that not too many teams are clamoring over the QBs.
      At least to me, it seems the combine benefited the LB prospects more than the DT prospects (particularly re: Star). If Jordan is selected before #4, the Eagles may not value another OLB/pass rusher as highly and trade down (for a DT, OT, OLB, or S)

      • GGeagle

        first of all, just because we all read a bunch of different mocks, doesnt mean we have any clue about how NFL Gm/coaches view these prospects…Jordan hasnt risen at all! He has always have one of the highest ceilings out of all the prospects in the draft…anyone who drafts him does so expecting him to take a few years to reach his potential. WE SUCK, so i feel like might as well swing for the fences and go with a good with potential thru the roof…No playter has a higher Ceilingthan Jordan!

    • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

      I totally agree with you, the kid has potential but not top 5.

    • dmancine9

      If we stay at 4, take Dee Milliner. If we trade back, take an OLB like Jordan or Mingo, or even at OT like Lane Johnson,

      Gus Bradley emphasizes the importance of CBs who can cover and tackle to defend the read option. Dee Milliner fits that position perfectly. He can cover and tackles like a beast.

  • eagleknowledge

    I think if they like Jordan that much don’t gamble and trade down. If they can move a few spots down and still land him that would be great. i think he fits perfectly into what they want to do on defense

    • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

      If you take Jordan Trent Cole is out. What do you think his value is?

      • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

        Why? Cole plays the weak side/Predator, Jordan on strong side.

        • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

          Where does that leave Graham. Graham is much better suited for the transition and is younger. Graham would stay over cole. Could we realistically get a third round pick?

          • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

            I would use Graham as the starter and have Cole used situationally. If we can ship him then I would pull the trigger. Not a chance we’d get a third. Realistically, a 5-7.

          • GGeagle

            do your homework people….you cant trade or release Cole, this season without taking a 6million dollar cap hit…its almost cheaper to keep him!

  • ICDogg

    Thanks for the link to the overthecap site. Some really nice stuff there to look through.

  • ACViking

    A couple shots under chin on Russell, Kaepernick, and Griffin and the read option will be as dead as the wildcat.

    Cam Newton’s in class by himself, though. Good scheming required.

    • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

      I’d take RG3 over Cam any day, and twice on Sundays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

    It is very exciting to think about what we can do this offseason with the cap space available. I’m hoping for Agee impact players. I’m not sure how plausible it will be for us to trade Cole I personally love how he plays but the 3-4 could be a stretch of a fit.
    I’m not totally sold on Jordan from Oregon yet. He is super athletic, fast around the edge, and has decent coverage skills but he lacks strength. The more and more I look at this draft the more I think we should trade back. St. Louis has the 12 and 24th picks I think. If the fall in love with a player maybe we could target those two picks.

    • Graham

      That would be amazing trading for 12th and 24th, maybe St Louis wants to lock up Milliner or grab a beast OT at 4…..

      • nicksaenz1

        They wouldn’t trade both to move up, I don’t think. They’d swap their 12th for our 4th and prob either a 2nd or 3rd rd pick.

        • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

          I’m not so sure look at the King’s ransom that the falcons paid to move up to get Julio Jones

          • nicksaenz1

            That’s true, although that was to jump from 27th to 6th to get a game changing player, not 12th to 4th. Also, it was in a year when players couldn’t be included in trades due to the labor situation. I don’t want to say that it can’t happen, but there doesn’t appear to be that kind of game-changing skill position player. Lastly, the Dallas Cowboys traded their 1st and 2nd rd picks from last year’s draft (14th n 45th) to jump to 6th to get Claiborne (same number of draft slots moved up). I hope someone pays the king’s ransom to move to the 4th pick, but, I’d bank on something like Dallas’ trade last year.

          • http://www.facebook.com/todd.orange.1 Todd Orange

            Other examples could be made; however I completely understand your cautious outlook.

          • Graham

            Agreed ya it is a bit much.. I guess it all really depends on how much they value a guy at 4 that will be long gone by 8 let alone 12… Highly unlikely tho yes.

  • Brown Mamba

    Ansah ran a 4.63 according to NFL.com site, that may have been his unofficial time.

  • http://twitter.com/JerryP2375 Jerry Pomroy

    I really see the Eagles mimicking the 49ers strategy. Rebuild the defense, field a serviceable & simple offense to start predicated on running the ball. The name of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. That’s where a defense becomes an offenses best friend. Its a good strategy for a team rebuilding with a new coaching staff, that doesn’t have a clear cut franchise QB. It buys time to find a QB and allows you to still be a competitive team. The good thing for the Eagles is that with the offense having much more pieces already in place, you can focus on the defense & add to the offense when you can. So I think that this draft & FA needs to be focused on defense, while adding pieces to the offense.

    • Mr. Magee

      Agree Jerry, but I’m not so sold on the eagles “having so many pieces already in place” on the offensive side… I think the birds should go with best player available, regardless of need.

      Also, read Bradley’s comments on QB play and the read-option…. How does Mike Vick fit with his description? I’ve heard/read all the explanations, but I still can’t figure out how it makes sense for the Eagles to bring him back, AND Foles, too…

      • http://twitter.com/JerryP2375 Jerry Pomroy

        My point is that due to not having the franchise QB firmly in place, that’s why you build the defense. I’m not sold on Vick or Foles, but I do believe that CK will get the most out of them, if just for one year. The defense is the Achilles heel of this team. Particularly the secondary. Add in a scheme change on the defensive fronts and its screaming for attention in the draft and FA. The RBs are in place, the WRs should flourish in CK’s offense, the TE could use an upgrade and the OL is aging, but when healthy was a very good one.

    • Be like Dawk

      The offense isn’t complete until the O line is finished – that can be accomplished by drafting Eeic Fisher @ # 4. Not only is he super athletic – he’s got a Jon Runyan mean streak. (Damn I miss that guy!) We need more nasty on this team!!!

      • http://twitter.com/JerryP2375 Jerry Pomroy

        I loved Runyan! I do think that they need to start rebuilding the OL due to age. However, when healthy they were a very good line and that’s much better than can be said for the defense, particularly the secondary. I wouldn’t be mad if they went with a OTackle at 4. I just want them to make solid picks/FA signings, and the defense fixed, especially if we don’t have a bonafied franchise QB in place. I personally like Ziggy Ansah at 4 though. Guy is gonna be a MAJOR disruptive force in the NFL with top level coaching & conditioning, and would fit nicely into the “attacking” style defense CK described we’d have.

  • Dmancine9

    The #4 pick MUST be Dee Millliner. He’s a cover corner who’s also a great tackler. He’s best player available and fills a huge need. Hopefully he’s still there at 4

  • 1972

    alot of people are falling in love with jordan but we have more pressing needs.. ot or nose tackle should be the pick.. or milliner. we have pass rushers. graham , curry,cole(situational only) .

    • ICDogg

      OK… first of all, I’m not necessarily for or against Jordan at that pick, but he’s not what I would consider primarily a pass rusher. He’s a guy who can cover a lot better than a typical 4-3 DE converting to a SAM.

      Ziggy is more of a pass rusher than Jordan.

  • dusk2k3

    How’s this for a thought? Eagles trade their first round pick for a teams first rounder next year and a second rounder this year. Putting then in position to trade up and draft Johnny Manzeil. This would give them a great franchise QB for years to come.

  • David Mullin

    I’m puzzled on the Sam linebacker comment. If I’m understanding the 3-4, all of last years defensive ends and linebackers are now linebackers. So guys like Cole and Graham and Curry and Tapp are linebackers. Are all those guys all weak side linebackers? None of them play Sam in the new system?

  • GoBirds1

    I don’t get the Jordan love. I like Mingo and I am going to start to pound the table on him. Just because he hasn’t played the OLB position, does not mean he can’t and we have time to develop him. My concern on Jordan is he is a competitor, but lacks nastiness. That is not something you can coach. He seems to avoid would be blockers instead of blow them up. As good as he may become as a cover guy, if he can’t get off blocks he can be game planned for and marginalized. Mingo is a beast, 6-4 240, but will go to 265-270 easily, and outperformed both Jordan and Ziggy at the combine.

    • ICDogg

      I’m a Ziggy guy myself. I think he plays with the kind of nastiness you describe, outright violence, and I think his upside is tremendous.

      • nicksaenz1

        If we go D in 1st round, I think I’m on the Ziggy train myself.

  • trinieagle

    The best thing about Jordon imagine the Jimmy Grahams and Gronk ‘s of this league Jordon has covered slot receivers and TE in college we would actually have a player with size to defend against these guys not a 5’07″-5’08″ player tryinh to defend.

  • dmancine9

    DEE MILLINER at 4th pick. Draft a S later in the draft. Sign another CB and S in free agency. Also sign a SAM linebacker and OT/OG in free agency.

  • MAC

    Gus Bradley said what i fear. The read option could go the way of the wildcat. That is why i have been weary of the whole Kelly hiring. I am hoping he can adjust. I just see the keeping of Vick as a sign that he wants to implement a read opiton system where the threat of a QB running occupies a defender. Just think that the read option being a big part of team’s philosophy and basing the direction of your franchise on it can be a scary thought. I hope I am wrong and will always back my team. So we will see with Chip how he adapts bc keeping Vick is a huge strike in my opinion and gives insight into his intentions at QB. It’s all speculation at this point bc it’s March and that’s all there is.

    • Mr. Magee

      Bingo Mac, I’m totally with you (btw, I think the word is ‘leery,’ not weary).

      Kelly was certainly the sexy hire – and I will remain open-minded and hopeful (it’s very early days) – but his first significant decision (re-signing Vick AND not trading Foles) is a head-scratcher for me…

  • http://twitter.com/JerryP2375 Jerry Pomroy

    Had the day off so I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching as much as I could find on both Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah. I’m sorry, but if I’m choosing between the two, I’m going Ansah all the way.

    Yes, Jordan is versatile. But while i see the guy lined up all over the place and all over the field once the ball is snapped, he’s very rarely the player that makes the play or the tackle. He seems to hesitate being the first guy in even when he’s the closest to the ball carrier & is out of position most times. When pass rushing he is often pushed out wide VERY easily by the Tackle and has a hard time getting back into the play. If the QB steps up into the pocket, or releases the ball quickly, he’s too wide to have any impact on the play. He has zero bull rush skills. If you’re looking for a LB that run the field like a gazelle, he’s you’re man. I just don’t see him having a dramatic immediate impact outside of coverage as NFL tackles will eat him alive once they get a hand on him.

    Ansah is almost the polar opposite of Jordan. He is quick but incredibly strong. He has an impressive bull rush even against double teams and is relentless in pursuit. Just when you think he’s out of the play, his quickness allows him to run down the ball carrier, even if its 20yds downfield. His unique blend of strength and quickness allows him to blow up plays in the backfield with sacks, tackles for loss /minimal gain or just disrupting the QB enough to make a mistake. Didn’t see him in coverage at all, but with his size and speed, he’s definitely capable. As stated numerous times by scouts and talent evaluators, he’s raw and you can see that he would benefit immensely from some solid coaching. But with that coaching and getting a better feel for the game to improve his instincts, he has all-pro written all over him.