The Eagles’ Safety Options In Free Agency

Howie Roseman offered an honest assessment earlier this offseason when asked about the Eagles’ struggles in identifying talent at the safety position.

“To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties,” Roseman said. “The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.”

The Eagles have tried and failed to fill the void left by Brian Dawkins for four seasons, bringing in guys like Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Jarrad Page, to name a few. Now they face another offseason looking for safety help.

The truth is, the position is changing. Teams are now looking for hybrid-type players who can line up opposite tight ends and slot receivers, play centerfield when necessary and also sneak down in the box to play the run (or the read option).

Take a glance at “offseason needs” articles around the league, and you’re going to see plenty of teams in the market for safety help.

For the Eagles, the search continues next week with the start of the free agency period (March 12). Currently on the roster are Allen, Kurt Coleman and David Sims. Allen, a second-round pick in 2010, has been a disappointment. Counting on him to take some kind of leap into a quality starter would be a mistake. The plan should be to keep him in the mix and see if he surprises.

Coleman has been given several opportunities to seize a starting job, but he is physically limited and would be better utilized in a backup role. And Sims has one career start under his belt. Colt Anderson, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent. He’s an elite special teams player, but not the answer to the team’s safety woes.

The good news is that the Eagles will have options to fill their needs in free agency and the draft. This year’s group of safety prospects is considered deep and talented. But as we’ve seen in years past, going into the draft searching for specific needs can lead to mistakes.

And this is not an either/or situation. The Eagles should look to identify young safety talent in free agency and address the position if possible in the draft. As we wrote about on Sunday, the Birds are in good cap shape and could be in position to take advantage of a market where the supply might very well out-weigh the demand.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal has a list out of the top 85 free agents, and it contains eight safeties (not including Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, who was franchised). Below is a breakdown.

 
Age
Ht.
Wt.
Games Started
Dashon Goldson, SF286-220064
William Moore, ATL276-022138
Ed Reed, BAL345-11205159
Glover Quin, HOU276-020760
Kenny Phillips, NYG266-221741
LaRon Landry, NYJ286-022079
Louis Delmas, DET255-1120249
Charles Woodson, GB366-1202203

Dashon Goldson – He’s the guy readers seem to be asking about the most, and it’s easy to understand why. Goldson has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons, is durable (has made 62 of a possible 64 starts the past four seasons) and is a versatile play-maker (nine interceptions, two forced fumbles the past two seasons).

He’ll turn 29 in September. That’s not exactly old, but teams will have to determine how many more years of top-level production Goldson has in him. That’s where the Eagles should have an advantage with Tom Gamble, who spent seven years in the 49ers’ front office.

Given the league-wide need at safety, the market for Goldson should be competitive, and he could be in line for a big pay-day. One NFL team official told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Goldson is looking for $8 million per season. The 49ers have until 4 p.m. today to use the franchise tag on Goldson for the second consecutive year, but according to multiple reports, they’re not going to go that route.

William Moore – He’s been a three-year starter for the Falcons and has 11 interceptions to go along with five forced fumbles the past three seasons. Moore ran a 4.51 at the Combine back in 2009. As a point of reference, only three safeties this year had a faster time.

The issue with Moore has been health. He’s missed eight games the past two seasons – four in 2012 because of a hamstring injury. The Falcons could still choose to tag him. Atlanta also recently cut ties with several veterans and could look to lock up Moore to a long-term deal.

Ed Reed – Given his age and the state of the Eagles, I don’t see this as a fit for either side.

Charles Woodson – Ditto.

Glover Quin – Like Moore, he could still get the tag. A four-year starter, he hasn’t missed a game since 2009 (his rookie season). Quin made the switch from cornerback to safety before the 2011 season, so there’s reason to believe he still has plenty of room for improvement at his new position. Given the way the league is trending, the ability to cover is at the top of the list of requirements for safeties, which makes Quin’s background intriguing. The Battle Red Blog published a good post about Quin’s versatility too, pointing to his 10-tackle performance against the Vikings in which Adrian Peterson averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.

Kenny Phillips – Eagles fans are familiar with Phillips, a first-round pick by the Giants in 2008. Age and production are non-issues with Phillips. The key is his health. He battled an MCL injury last season and only played in seven games. If healthy, he figures to have great upside, but that appears to be a serious if at this point.

LaRon Landry – Coming off an Achilles’ injury in 2011, Landry got a one-year “prove it” deal from the Jets. After playing in just 17 games his final two years with the Redskins, Landry played in all 16 in 2012 and made his first Pro Bowl, coming up with a pair of interceptions and four forced fumbles. Considering he’s 28 and coming off his first 16-game season since 2008, Landry could be looking to cash in.

Louis Delmas - Speaking of “prove it” deals, that’s what Delmas might have to settle for. If health wasn’t a concern, the Lions would almost definitely lock Delmas up to a long-term deal. The former second-round pick (2009) turns 26 in April and is productive when on the field, but knee injuries have been an issue. Delmas has missed 13 of 32 games the last two seasons. Interested teams will have to do their due diligence on him medically, and while the upside is intriguing, counting on Delmas as a starting safety would carry quite a bit of risk.

***

A few other names on the market:

Patrick Chung (Patriots) – His specialty is playing the run, but Chung has been unable to stay healthy, having missed 12 games the past two seasons.

Chris Clemons (Dolphins) – The 27-year-old started 16 games for Miami last year. At 6-0, 208 pounds, he ran a 4.41 coming out of Clemson in 2009 and was drafted in the fifth round.

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  • JofreyRice

    George Wilson was a great fit as a huge upgrade and 2-3 year stopgap, but the Eagles let him go to Tennessee. Dumb.

    Out of this bunch, I’d kick the tires on Kenny Phillips. He’s a pretty decent all around player with very good size. If they can make sure he’s healthy, they can focus on drafting just one other safety, since he’s such a young player.

    • ICDogg

      I agree. I would bring Kenny Phillips in for a look. He’s flying under the radar a little bit.

    • Token

      Guy is always battling injuries.

      • ICDogg

        Yeah, that’s the risk with him. But when he’s in there, IMO, the Giants D looks better.

      • JofreyRice

        Yeah, you’re right, unfortunately–but if he wasn’t I don’t think he’d even be available; he’s a difference maker on the field. I mean, that was the knock on Matt Stafford a few years ago, and he kind of settled out and got healthy.

        They have to fix safety, somehow, but I’m worried they’ll just draft more mid-round guys. I want a dramatic improvement. Someone like Vaccaro, Rambo, Swearinger–even Phillip Thomas. If they don’t sign someone in FA, I want them to draft 2 guys.

        • Mitchell

          I still like tj McDonald. I’m no evaluation expert but when I compared him to other safeties he wasn’t that far off. Mcdonald is projected to go in the fourth. He has good ball skills and is an excellent s.t.er

          • JofreyRice

            I’m no expert, either, but my take is that TJ McDonald would be a good guy to bring along as a developmental S, but I think there are better “finished products” if you’re drafting in rounds 3-5. He’s got a little Taylor Mays to his game, IMO.

    • A_Baoa_Qu

      I’d take Laron Landry before i’d take Kenny Phillips. I kind of feel Phillips is way overrated the same as Antrel Rolle. With that said, I’d still take a safety high in the draft, lets go Matt Elam!!

      • JofreyRice

        haha, I feel Landry is way overrated! Landry’s just a big bulky guy that lines up kill shots on defenseless receivers and hurts his teams with penalties, but is actually not as good at open field tackling as he should be–misses way too many. He’s not all that impressive in coverage, either. Seems like a very self-centered player.

        I don’t think Phillips and Rolle are similar at all. Rolle is a terrible coverage safety, where Phillips is pretty fluid and instinctive. The big knock on Phillips is the health–and that’s totally valid. If healthy, though, I like his game a lot.

        Don’t like Elam, but I like the sentiment! I’d love to see the Eagles try and fix the deep middle of the field!

        • A_Baoa_Qu

          I do feel that Landry is not as good as where he was drafted but I think he’s better than both Giants safeties. The guy played at a pro bowl level last season. His coverage ability has always been in question but he certainly wasn’t a liability last season. He would be my in the box guy which he is VERY good at, unlike Kurt Coleman who was used in that role and was not very good.

          What’s your beef with Elam? I like his grit and aggressiveness albeit he can be overaggressive at times, but I would rather have that than the soft mentality that we’ve had over the last couple of years. The guy was pretty good coverage skills and appears to be pretty rangy to me. And one of the biggest things is that he plays with an Edge which I feel has been lacking big time on our defense, a utter lack of swagger.

          • JofreyRice

            Yeah, you hit on it with Elam. Extremely undisciplined at times, to the detriment of the defense, just doing his own thing. Reminds me a little of Ernie Sims in that way. One killshot for every 3 missed tackles isn’t a good thing, IMO. Kind of undersized at 5’9, too. I don’t think you’d want him matched up against the bigger TE’s in the League. I don’t feel like he’s got that “psychic” ability in coverage, that the really good safeties, have, either; seems a bit slow to react.

            Elam reminds me a lot of Donte Whitner–for some people, that’s good, for me, not so much. I keep thinking about Donte Whitner getting abused by Jimmy Graham in the ’11 divisional game against NO. A lot of people remember that big hit on Pierre Thomas, but Whitner was also directly responsible for SF almost losing that game, giving up the last 2 TDs to Graham, IIRC. Whitner made the probowl this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if SF drafts a safety to take his job sooner than later, the guy gave up 8 TDs in coverage this year–most in the NFL, and a QB rating of 128, which was the highest of any safety that didn’t get benched. Kinda just illustrate what a farce the Probowl has become, at this point.

            Don’t get me wrong, I like big hits, and I think they set a tone for a defense, but I think there is a big difference between guys that do it within the framework of the system (Bernard Pollard, TJ Ward, Ryan Clark) and guys that are out there headhunting for the highlight reel.

  • Token

    Ive said before, none of these guys are worth pursuing People are in love with the name Goldson. The guy will be 29, draws penalties, misses tackles and gets burnt in the pass game. We have those guys already. The 49ers are letting him go for a reason.

    This draft is very interesting at safety. Stick to that plan.

    • ICDogg

      Here’s the deal. The Eagles need a lot of players. They have 8 draft picks, only a few of them are likely to be of starter quality. They do not have the luxury of only relying on the draft especially for players in positions of which they need more than one.

      They have lots of cap space available and they should be bringing in guys who are 28 or under who have a good chance of being able to help us, while for the most part staying away from big names, big contracts, and big commitments. These guys are not going to be perfect candidates. They will be, in some cases, medical risks, character risks, or have not performed as well as hoped, otherwise they wouldn’t be out on the street.

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

      To say none of these guys are worth pursuing is a little much. I agree you have to find a guy that has youth and production who is capable of staying healthy, this crop while not the best could offer that. Goldson is a little old for what we are looking to do, but Philips if healthy could be a decent addition along with possibly Smith from Miami and we are looking at a decent start to the offseason. I personally would love to see Landry because the guy is a beast and would be entertaining to watch.

      • Token

        Smith seems too much like DRC to go after. They have to stop with these players that want to half ass it all the time. Paying guys like that is a mistake.

  • Anthony G

    I like Glover Quin a lot. Strong Safety. I also like a few safeties in the draft. Zeke Motta from ND appears to be a similar player to Harrison Smith. I also really like Baccari Rambo of Georgia. Hopefully we can draft both players in round 3 or 4.

    • jdimagg55

      I agree with all of your statements. I really like Quin, especially because he is only 28. Rambo would be a good pick in round 3 or 4 as you said, but I would rather grab Matt Elam in round 2. Also, I’d take Shawne Williams, Rambo’s GA teammate, ahead of Rambo. I’d stay away from Motta. He’s 4.8 forty time has turned me off.

    • JofreyRice

      Not a big fan of Quin or Motta, but I really do like Rambo. He’s probably my second favorite safety in this draft, and you can probably grab him for a good value. I’d be thrilled to get Vaccaro in the first and Rambo in the 3rd, with a CB in the middle.

  • Scott J

    Who in the Eagles organization evaluated the talent of Earl Thomas?

  • Billy the kid

    The eagles need to forget about every player on this list. Unless chip wants to bring Chung in for a look I don’t think any of these guys are worth the money or the risk. The best bet it to draft Jonathan Cyprien(as long as he falls to the second round) and then take a guy in the 4th and let him compete with one of the guys on the current roster.

  • http://twitter.com/Null_0 Blaise

    Goldson will be an Eagle,no doubt. He’s got that punch you in the mouth quality. Dawk Ver.2

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Of all the names listed, I personally like Quin & Phillips. I want talent & youth. If we could pair one of these two with a Matt Elam in the draft, we’d have the safety position locked up for at least the next 5yrs & if Elam continues as the playmaker he is in college, this could end up being a top 5 safety tandem for years to come at reasonable dollars.

  • Tom W

    Forgot about the safety from Zona the eagles have been linked too … Rashad johnson. Need 1 in draft and 1 in free agency. Same w corner

  • FMWarner

    I really like Delmas as a player. He hasn’t stayed healthy, but that’s the case with a few of these guys. If they really can get him on a “prove it” deal, I’d pull the trigger.

  • Scott J

    You have to wonder if the Eagles can attract top FA’s now that Reid is gone.

  • Thomas Kotanchick

    I always thought safety was a very important position. That’s why I scratched my head when the Eagles drafted Graham over Earl Thomas. What were they thinking?!

    • JofreyRice

      “FASTBALLZ!!”

  • Explorer51

    As others here have noted, this isn’t an either/or (draft vs FA) issue; when you need to replace your whole backfield, you can’t just rely on the draft. Both at CB and safety, one draft pick and one FA…and the draft picks have to start! Hopefully, with Tom Gamble on board that’s not a ridiculous assumption but even so, expecting rookies at multiple positions to step in and make you competitive is a risky strategy.

  • defroe81

    would hate to see anderson go i would rather get rid of all and keep anderson. good special teamer and when he started was good at stopping the run from what i saw very physical. oh well…

  • defroe81

    we will pick up who ever is injured the worst…