Crystal Ball: Nate Allen
The Eagles have eight players that are set to become unrestricted free agents: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Michael Vick, Nate Allen, Donnie Jones, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Clifton Geathers.
Today’s focus is on Allen.
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN
Kapadia: The Eagles should look to upgrade at safety, while keeping track of how the market plays out for Allen.
The 2010 second-round pick deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back in 2013 and turning in his best year as a pro. His tackling was greatly improved (I guess coaching does matter, huh?), and he made far fewer mistakes in coverage. Allen passes Chip Kelly’s culture test too. He plays with effort and by all accounts is a good teammate.
Having said that, the safety position probably has more importance now than ever before. Teams need hybrid defenders who can cover tight ends, play the run and be ball-hawks when back deep. Those players don’t grow on trees, and as a result a lot of teams will be looking to upgrade at safety this offseason.
The Eagles should explore free agency and look to upgrade the overall talent level at safety. If they’re able to snag one of the top guys on the market, then you probably let Allen go. If an upgrade in free agency doesn’t seem likely, then you strongly consider bringing him back.
McManus: I think that’s a smart course of action, Sheil.
I thought Allen had a solid year. He’s not a big playmaker (he has just one interception in his last two seasons) but showed improvement in just about every phase of the game under Billy Davis. Part of that is directly related to coaching (credit defensive backs coaches John Lovett and Todd Lyght as well) and part of it can be attributed to scheme change. The safeties were overloaded with run responsibilities under Juan Castillo. And now?
“We’re pass first, pass second and then pass third,” Allen said back in December.
With those burdens alleviated, Allen was more decisive and assertive on the field.
If the Eagles can find more of an impact player in free agency, they should pounce. Otherwise they should lock up Allen, who already has a year in Davis’ defense under his belt.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Kapadia: My guess is they make a strong push for one of the big-name safeties this offseason and let Allen go.
Some will suggest just drafting a safety, but the problem is they can’t count on that. If the Eagles really are committed to sticking to their draft board, then there’s no guarantee they’ll even take a safety at all. Last year’s safety class was considered especially strong, and they didn’t take one until the fifth round. In other words, they need to make sure they’re covered one way or another before the draft in May. If they add talent at safety with a pick, they can figure things out from there and let guys compete.
Howie Roseman has been honest when discussing the organization’s difficulty in identifying safety talent. As Tim pointed out recently, a couple of the big-name free agents (Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward) have Oregon ties when Kelly was there. That should help at least a little bit in determining how they’d fit.
As for Allen, it’s really tough to gauge what the market will be for his services. The crew at Rotoworld has him ranked as the eighth-best free agent safety. Given the difficulty teams have in filling the position, it seems likely that Allen will be tabbed a starter somewhere.
But my inkling is the Eagles add a new name in free agency, continue to churn the roster, and Allen finds a home elsewhere.
McManus: I say they re-sign Allen.
Here’s the dilemma: The Eagles recently altered their free agent approach. They want to scoop up a bunch of “mid-level” players that won’t tie them down in terms of cost and commitment. If a guy proves to be a good fit for the system and culture, great, if not, cutting bait won’t sink them.
Byrd wants to be the top-paid safety in the league, according to one report. He could very well set the market for Ward. Both are probably going to do very well for themselves. If the Eagles pony up for one of them, are they going against the ground rules that they just set for themselves? On the other hand, safety has been their Achilles’ heel since Brian Dawkins left in 2008. How can they pass up the opportunity to finally stabilize the position?
I’m sure this is a debate that is being had inside the NovaCare walls. Ultimately, I think they’ll decide to stick to the plan, sign a couple mid-level free-agent safeties — one of them being Allen — and then turn their attention to the draft.