Cheat Sheet: 25 Free Agents the Eagles Could Pursue

On Tuesday at 4 p.m., the NFL offseason will kick into high gear with the start of free agency.

Teams around the league will make moves based on the following factors: need, age, injury history and value. The Eagles are currently $34.2 million under the cap, and after last year’s 4-12 season, there are plenty of holes to fill.

Look for Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and company to aggressively target young options – specifically in the secondary.

Keeping that in mind, here is a whittled down cheat sheet with 25 players who could be on the Eagles’ radar. Obviously, the Eagles are not going to sign all 25 guys, but this should serve as a good starting point in the days ahead.

These are in no particular order and are broken up by position with height, weight and age in parentheses.

CORNERBACKS

Sean Smith, Dolphins (6-3/218/25) -One point that Roseman has hammered home in the past couple months is that Kelly has specific requirements (height, weight, speed) he’s looking for at each position. Roseman didn’t want to offer up exactly what those requirements are, but considering Smith’s size, athleticism and skill set, it’s no surprise that he’s already been linked to the Eagles. The potential issue is there could be a big market for Smith, and while he’s an attractive option, he has been inconsistent. If the Eagles believe Smith can be a perennial Pro Bowler with the right coaching, they could be willing to spend big money to land him.

Derek Cox, Jaguars (6-1/195/26) - Like Smith, Cox has size, is young and possesses an attractive skill set. The issue with him has been injuries. Cox has missed 17 games the last three seasons and fought hamstring and back issues in 2012. But if the bidding for Smith gets out of hand, the Eagles could look in Cox’s direction.

Keenan Lewis, Steelers (6-0/208/26) – According to Peter King of SI.com, Lewis is drawing quite a bit of interest as an under-the-radar option. He’s only been a full-time starter for one season, but Lewis has good size and led the NFL with 16 passes defensed last year, per Pro Football Focus.

Greg Toler, Cardinals (6-0/192/28) – Here’s more of an under-the-radar option. Toler was a fourth-round pick by Arizona in 2009. And he spent his first two seasons playing for new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Remember, the Birds could very well be looking at a complete overhaul of their secondary. In other words, don’t be surprised if they add multiple corners in free agency.

Antoine Cason, Chargers (6-1/195/26) – The former first-round pick did not live up to his potential in San Diego, but he could present a nice value option. Cason is young, has size and has never missed a game because of injury.

Bradley Fletcher, Rams (6-0/200/26) – As you can see, there are quite a few cornerback options between 25 and 28. Fletcher has only started eight games the past two seasons, but like many of the others on this list, he’s young and has good size.

SAFETIES

Dashon Goldson, 49ers (6-2/200/28) – Roseman has talked quite a bit this offseason about the Eagles’ difficulties in identifying talent at safety. For that reason, I fully expect them to add a known commodity in free agency. And Goldson will likely be at the top of their list. He’s made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and has only missed two games since 2009. Safety is a need position around the league, but the Eagles will know Goldson’s strengths and weaknesses as well as anybody, now that Tom Gamble is in the fold. The bidding could get serious, given the market, but look for the Eagles to be involved.

Glover Quin, Texans (6-0/207/27) – According to reports, Houston is very interested in bringing Quin back, but a deal hasn’t gotten done yet. He’s a converted corner with a versatile skill set. If the Eagles pass on Goldson, they could very well turn their attention to Quin.

Louis Delmas, Lions (5-11/202/25) – The question is not production, but health, with Delmas. He’s still young, but the former second-round pick has missed 13 of 32 games the last two seasons. If the market is cool, the Eagles could take a calculated risk on his upside.

LaRon Landry, Jets (6-0/220/28) – We know the Eagles have had interest in him in the past. Landry got a “prove-it” deal from the Jets last year, played all 16 games and made the Pro Bowl. But that means he’ll likely want to cash in this offseason.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Connor Barwin, Texans (6-4/268/26) – With the Eagles expected to move towards a 3-4 or 4-3 under, Barwin could be a fit. He was an every-down player for the Texans last season, staying on the field for over 94 percent of their defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The former second-round pick (2009) saw his sacks drop from 11.5 in 2011 to just three last year. But he added 14 QB hits and 26 hurries, per PFF. Barwin has shown the ability to drop back into coverage too.

Victor Butler, Cowboys (6-2/245/25) – If the market heats up for guys like Barwin and Baltimore’s Paul Kruger, Butler could be a nice value play. He was stuck behind Anthony Spencer in Dallas, only playing 28.2 percent of the defensive snaps, but could be a nice option at SAM if the Eagles go to a 4-3 under.

Note: You’ll notice that I left Kruger out. The guess here is that the bidding for him will stretch beyond what the Eagles perceive his value to be.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Ricky Jean-Francois, 49ers (6-3/295/26) – According to the Sacramento Bee, the Eagles have already expressed interest in Jean-Francois. The versatile defensive lineman only played 25.6 percent of San Francisco’s snaps last year, according to PFF, but he could line up in a variety of places – most notably at defensive end in a 3-4. Once again, the Eagles have the Tom Gamble connection with Jean-Francois.

Jason Jones, Seahawks (6-5/276/26) – You’ll notice that length and versatility are themes with this group. Jones has both qualities, and he’s young. The Eagles have parted ways with Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Darryl Tapp (assuming he’s not re-signed) from last year’s rotation. And remember, there’s a chance they could be looking to build a defense that resembles (schematically) the one Jones played in last year with the Seahawks.

Desmond Bryant, Raiders (6-6/311/27) – Again, length and versatility. Bryant played defensive tackle in Oakland’s 4-3 last season, but he could be a nice option to play the 5-technique (between the tackle and tight end) in a 3-4.

Alan Branch, Seahawks (6-6/325/28) – The former second-round pick (2007) didn’t do much with the Cardinals in his first four seasons, but he had success in Seattle in 2011 and 2012. You won’t find 6-6 nose tackles around the league, but Branch could be in the mix as an interior lineman. It’s worth noting that he too played under Davis in 2009 and 2010.

Terrance Knighton, Jaguars (6-3/330/26) – The man they call “Pot Roast” has the size to play nose tackle and is young. The problem? The production and consistency haven’t always been there for the Temple product. If the Eagles think they can uncover the potential from the former third-round pick, he could return to Philadelphia.

Isaac Sopoaga, 49ers (6-2/330/31) – He’s on the wrong side of 30, but if the Eagles are looking for a short-term fix at nose tackle, Sopoaga could fit the bill. Once again, there is the built-in Tom Gamble connection. Sopoaga only played 32.2 percent of the 49ers’ snaps last year and would be strictly a first- and second-down player.

Roy Miller, Bucs (6-2/310/25) -He would be a younger option at nose tackle. Like Sopoaga, Miller would be a two-down player and doesn’t bring much as a pass-rusher. But for the right price, signing Miller could make sense for the Eagles.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Eric Winston, Chiefs (6-7/302/29) – Les Bowen of the Daily News reported that the Eagles have shown interest in the right tackle. He could step in and take over for Todd Herremans, who could then move back in to guard. A lot depends on how effective Herremans, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters are coming off of injuries, but on paper, that could be an elite run-blocking unit.

Jake Long, Dolphins (6-7/319/27) -He’s probably a longshot, but I’m not ready to rule Long out completely. The two big factors to consider are Long’s medical history and the market. He’s only 27, but has missed six games the past two seasons. If the market isn’t what Long might expect it to be, perhaps the Eagles could get involved, plug him in at right tackle and move Herremans inside. Long is a four-time Pro Bowler.

Louis Vasquez, Chargers (6-5/335/25) – As of yesterday, the Chargers had yet to make Vasquez an offer, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. To be honest, I’m not sure how Vasquez would fit schematically, but on paper, the right guard could give the Eagles a nice, young piece on the interior of their offensive line. I didn’t include Buffalo’s Andy Levitre on this list because I figured he will command a large paycheck. That might end up being the case for Vasquez too though.

TIGHT ENDS

Jared Cook, Titans (6-5/248/25) – He fits all the measurables: young, fast and athletic. I made the case for Cook this morning. Don’t think of him as Brent Celek’s replacement, but rather a slot receiver (with 4.50 speed). There’s no doubt in my mind that the Eagles will show interest, but according to Adam Caplan, between eight and 10 teams could be in the mix for Cook’s services.

James Casey, Texans (6-3/240/28) – If the Eagles are looking for versatility on offense, Casey could be a nice option. He can serve as a lead blocker in the run game and a pass-catcher as well. Casey had 34 receptions for 330 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Dustin Keller, Jets (6-2/250/28) – If Kelly is seeking a tight end who can make plays downfield, and the Eagles can’t snag Cook, Keller might be the next best option. He played in only eight games last season, but had 65 catches for 815 yards in 2011. That included 12 grabs of 20+ yards.

Players who missed the cut: Giants safety Kenny Phillips, Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers, Lions cornerback Chris Houston, Jets defensive lineman Mike DeVito, Lions defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, Colts nose tackle Antonio Johnson, Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey.

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  • Eric Vee

    Sheil … You missed a FA tight end who I think WILL end up with the Eagles … The Raider Brandon Myers … Has the skill set to excel in Kelly’s offense … But, this is a GOOD list of prospects otherwise.

  • JettMartinez

    I won’t pretend to know a lot about any of these guys, but if they’re targeting younger players that could still be on the rise instead of big names on the decline, that’s a step in the right direction.

    • Graham

      HELLS yes.. step in right direction shows Howie and co aren’t making the same mistake

  • Token

    Jared Cook is just what the offense needs. A big body that can make plays.

    Id like to see a guard or tackle added to the line so they dont feel the need to get one at #4.

    Sean Smith seems like a bad move with low likelihood of working out. His name could be DRC. Except for DRC has high level cover skills when he actually cares to play. I dont think you can say that about Smith. He was one of the most abused starting corners in the league. He has size which is good. But if you cant cover anyone then whats it matter? A bad team like Miami letting him walk should be all you need to know. Giving guys that are lazy or “inconsistent” retirement money is a bad idea.

    Keenan Lewis seems like a more intriguing option. Will be cheaper and is the better player.

    The safeties all are nothing special. Quin is the only one id have interest in but I dont think he gets away. Please stay away from Goldson. One of the more overrated FA’s in recent memory by Eagle fans. A rising tide lifts all boats. He is not a hell of a lot better than what we have, just on a much better D. He misses tackles, gets abused in coverage, takes penalties…. no thanks.

    They can walk away from this draft with 2 good safety prospects. A guy like Bacari Rambo will probably go later than he should. Pair him with a more disciplined safety and it could be interesting.

    • JofreyRice

      Cook scares me a little. His hands are not that reliable, and he’s going to get a big payday. I don’t disagree that he’s a big body, and can run, and all that, but I don’t know if he’s ever put it all together yet. Do you know why the Titans are letting him walk? You’d figure with a young developing QB, the TE is often the comfort-throw, safety-valve.

      • theycallmerob

        The titans seem to be having a hard time figuring out his value, since he and his agent would rather be paid like a slot WR rather than a TE. Also, after some of the coaching shuffle this offseason, he questioned some of the firings (which is reported to have irked the management). And, as you said, he has yet to “put it all together”…..all of that taken into account, with respect to their cap situation, seems to have priced Cook out of their range.

        • JofreyRice

          Yeah, I think if you’re so inclined, you could probably make the case that Cook is leaving Tenn. in the same kind of conditions Finley is leaving GB in. In both cases, I think they have a point about the WR vs. TE franchise tag thing–they’re generally used the same way, split out wide of the formation, rather than in-line. I dunno, I just don’t see him as a slam dunk.

      • FMWarner

        Yeah, I am not sold on this guy at all for the price tag. I don’t want to pay that much for potential. That’s what the draft is for.

        • JofreyRice

          I’m just not sure he’s all that much better than Jermichael Finley, who isn’t getting any buzz, at all.

          • FMWarner

            I think Finley has scared teams off with his constant whining for the ball and his spat with Rodgers. Nobody wants that on their team, and he’s not produced enough to make it a non-issue.

      • Token

        Yes but really any FA you can ask yourself, why would a team let them go if they are any good. I think we have learned that the hard way a few times. I heard the Titans did want him back but the agent believes he is worth more elsewhere. Teams have been hesitant to use the tag in general this year.

        You can say the same about Keenan Lewis who I like too. The Steelers need talented corners. Why is he being let go? You just have to assume its different schemes, fits etc…. and that our scouts are able to tell if a guy has real talent or not.

        I like him better than any TE in the draft. I think he is ready to breakout and Kelly could really utilize him. He hasnt had very good QBs throwing him the ball. Of course, I cant say he will here either for the time being. But he is the mismatch that teams are looking for.

        What is his market? 6 mil? Id certainly pay that.

  • CJ

    No Vollmer on this list?

  • JofreyRice

    If they can sign Sebastian Vollmer for what Will Beatty got in NY, I think they should absolutely do it. He’s 28–same age as Beatty, and has shown he can play both Left and Right Tackle at a high level. To be able to scoop up a guy that young and that good is kinda rare. He’s already a finished product, and you can put him in right now on the right side, and remove the need to spend a draft pick. An under the radar pickup that could help is Geoff Schwartz from Minn. Can play G or T at a good level, but hasn’t gotten a fair crack at starting–reminds me of Evan Mathis’ situation.

    I’d like to add a corner as well. Keenan Lewis would be my first choice, but I’d kick the tires on Bradley Fletcher as well. I’d definitely check out Kenny Phillips, he could be a great pick up if he passes the medical, but otherwise I’d like to draft the safeties and have them develop with the defense; I think this is a great year for that.

    I also think they’d give themselves flexibility by adding a NT. I like Knighton for the Temple angle, but also because he moves really well for a 330 pound guy. Roy Miller or Sammie Lee Hill could do the job as well. Desmond Bryant is the most talented of this bunch, but I think you have to consider his legal trouble, and what kind of locker room guy he’d be.

    • CJ

      We agree on Vollmer, I’ve heard a possible move like that equated a move like that with what Reid did when he got Runyan in here at RT to stabilize the O-Line for years. That seemed to work well, and doing that again, while moving Herramans inside seems like a good idea and allows the 4th pick to be spent on D or traded down for more help.

      I like all those names, I think the Bryant thing is overblown. It’s a misdemeanor, and the dude went to Harvard. Unless there’s another Harvard I’m not aware of, you have to think the guy just had a stupid moment, a fantastic mugshot, and he’s smart and embarrassed enough to be more careful in the future.

      • JofreyRice

        If that’s true, I’d love for the Eagles to get Bryant. He’s definitely a smart guy, but I think he was an outsider at Harvard, and had a lot of social issues there. Who knows, I’m not Dr. Phil or anything, I just want the Eagles to sign a dude that plays football without mental issues, and fits in the locker room.

        • CJ

          For as long as that program’s been around, they’ve had 29 guys make the NFL. He was clearly smart and behaved enough to get in, but had other priorities. It’s not like he was out of place at a party school. He was told early on he’d have a shot at the pros and probably didn’t have that in common with anyone else on the campus, so he didn’t interact much. I wouldn’t exactly be comfortable around a bunch of Ivy Leaguers, either.

          The guy shows up drunk outside of a neighbor’s house and starts yelling. Angry neighbor calls cops on inebriated Harvard grad at 9:30 am in the offseason he happens to be a free agent. Dude puts up a hideous mugshot, and all of the sudden he has character issues and is a question in the locker room. I’d say a good sized minority of the people on this board have done worse, and most are just lucky enough to have neighbors that couldn’t care less. Nothing to see here expect poor timing and a cheaper price tag, neither of which is a bad thing.

          • JofreyRice

            You could very well be right, but I don’t know it’s such a non-issue that he got arrested in an offseason where he was a free agent looking for a big payday. This could literally cost him millions of dollars.

            I think you do have to consider the chemistry and locker-room effect of everyone you bring onto the team right now, and err on the side of caution. This is not a finished product, they will be laying the foundation, here. Kelly’s trying to build a culture, and the ship was rudderless last year. That shows you that right now, whatever leadership guys like Vick, Avant, Ryans, or McCoy were able to provide, was not enough to counteract the deleterious effect of the bad apples. I don’t know if Bryant’s a bad apple or not, I just know he made a really boneheaded decision at the worst time, so if I’m the Eagles, I’m making sure it was only that, and not indicative of some larger issue.

  • http://twitter.com/LuvJones1987 Malcolm Jones

    Jared Cook(TE), Quin(the cheaper safety), Smith(bigger Corner in size), Knighton(NT), Winston(T)….fills major needs and gives Eagles a big offensive weapon. It also gives us room to go BPA in the draft which I think we go OLB(jordan), S(Cyrprien), QB(Matt Scott), OL(pugh), NT(Kwame Geathers) and so on

  • Graham

    Amazing read….
    thanks a bunch.

  • dcwildcat53

    Cowboys just released local boy Dan Connor because of cap problems. Andy almost brought in the Strath Haven and Penn State grad last time, and it seems to me he makes even more sense now with our need for a backup ILB who can start when needed and play great ST’s. What are your thoughts?

    • JofreyRice

      I’d definitely bring him in as a backup thumper to DeMeco. He can absolutely play that role, and contribute on STs. Right now, DeMeco is the only guy that fits that LILB role, so it’s either FA, or the draft.

    • MAC

      Love this idea at the right price.

  • jabostick

    Is DRC somewhere else a foregone conclusion? Not that I’m advocating for it but, if the thought is that Smith could develop consistency through coaching, the same logic would apply to DRC. I know tackling is a big issue too but he’s still young, tall, super athletic.

    It’s a deep CB market. Maybe DRC tets the market a la Mathis last year. Just seems like the kind of guy (i.e. potential) Chip would want to get a chance to coach.

    • FMWarner

      I don’t understand why it’s seen as a foregone conclusion. DRC is talented with issues, which is the same reason all those free agents are free agents. He’s got more talent than those other guys…if you can get him for a reasonable price I’d roll the dice.

      • Token

        Eagle fans really love misery and never learn…..

        • FMWarner

          You’re right. I should really stop considering adding talented players to the team.

          • Token

            If you havent seen enough of DRC Im not sure how to move forward with the discussion. His play speaks for itself. He is a lazy soft quitter who is about to get retirement money from someone. He quits now. You expect that to improve when he is paid?

            The Eagles can not move forward with those kind of guys in the locker room. I used to really undervalue the whole “high motor” or “try hard” aspects of a players game. But I was wrong. You need guys who love the game and play hard every game. Guys who always work to improve.

            DRC is such a special talent that he is about to be on his 3rd team in his young career.

          • jabostick

            I agree, but I think the point is that some of these other guys we’re targeting seem to have the same characteristics. When the guy is on your team, he is an underachiever, when he is on another team, he’s untapped potential.

            The question, then, is why get in a FA bidding situation for a guy that has the same skill set as the one you let walk out the door (and could’ve negotiated without any competition).

            Smith has a leg up in tackling and I understand the interest in culture changes, but if the interest is more around ceiling and potential, that seems specious to me given our consensus on DRC

        • MAC

          EXACTLY. Guy gives little to no effort in a contract year!! This is been the Eagles fan’s way of thinking for a while now. Flash over production. See our QB for a perfect example!! No more guys that do not care about the team or winning. DRC is a prima dona and once gets $ good luck getting him to play hard and focus. Look at New England with Talib. Good franchises do not put up with that kind of season/effort!! No thank you.

  • Wilbert M.

    If Grimes and Kenny Phillips would come cheap I would bring them in. The Birds need quantity as much as quality in DB’s. Grimes could be back to All Pro level and Howie would have a home run. They could have done it last year with Landry and blew it.

  • Guest

    I feel like there’s still a few names not on this list that could/should be.

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    I like the Keller kid he’s a big play tight end, Cook is a hybird, more a slot receiver with speed and a big body but as a tight end he gives you nothing blocking. The Casey kid is intriguing given his multiple talents, he’s a receivers that is also serviceable in the backfield with Brown as a lead blocker. I enjoy the idea of being a bruising and punishing rushing team that can go vertical and kill you with Shady.

  • MAC

    Boldin for a 6th rounder. It must be a birthday gift from brother to brother. To bad Eagles are not a real contender bc that is a deal. We need to go after young guys though since we are not ready to really compete for anything significant this year.

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