Offseason Outlook: Safeties

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This week, we’ll continue to offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. We covered running backswide receiverstight endsoffensive line, defensive lineoutside linebackers, inside linebackers and cornerbacks. Now let’s look at the safeties.

PRESSING QUESTION: Should the Eagles make a splash in free agency at this spot?

Kapadia: The signals coming out of the NovaCare Complex in regards to free agency so far have been fascinating. The company line (and take that for what it’s worth) is that the team is not looking to go big in free agency. They’ll follow the same methods as a year ago: see how the market plays out, add some mid-tier guys who fit the scheme/culture and are willing to compete, and go from there.

But I think safety has to be an exception. I won’t run through all the names that have been in and out of here in the past few seasons (but Tim, feel free to do so if you like). The bottom line is the Eagles have tried and failed time and again – in the draft, free agency, trades – to find adequate safety play.

So my answer is yes. Jairus Byrd is 27. T.J. Ward (who could get franchise-tagged) is as well. Both guys played their college ball at Oregon. If I’m the Eagles, I’m doing my homework on both free agents, and if I like what I see, I’m opening up the checkbook and trying once again to address an area of need.

McManus: Sure, I’ll list them. Since Brian Dawkins left following the 2008 season, these are the safeties the Eagles have rolled out there at one point or another: Macho Harris, Quintin Demps, Sean Jones, Quintin Mikell, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman,Colt Anderson, Jaiquawn Jarrett,  Jarrad Page, Jamar Adams, David Sims, Patrick Chung and Earl Wolff.

I understand the thinking behind the “batting average” approach to free agency that has been mentioned on a couple different occasions by Howie Roseman this offseason, but it can’t be lost on Roseman that the team is hitting below the Mendoza Line when it comes to safeties. Last offseason they signed Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung in free agency — 0-for-2.

It is one of the most difficult positions to adequately fill in the NFL, so you might have to bend your rules  a little bit to get what you want. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless. If you’re concerned about the plantar fasciitis in Byrd’s feet and believe his price tag is way out of whack, then you don’t pull the trigger. Maybe Donte Whitner or Antoine Bethea or Malcolm Jenkins or Chris Clemons is more appealing to them all things considered. Whoever the desired target is, the Eagles need to move aggressively to get him, even if that means spending a little more than they’re comfortable with.

The “splash”  we should be looking for is the one that a player creates on Sundays, not in March. The Eagles must identify and secure at least one difference-maker at the safety position this offseason.

PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5

* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.

Kapadia: On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m at a 10. And that’s no overreaction.

Plenty of teams around the league have trouble finding safety talent. That makes the benefits of having great players at the position (yes, the Seahawks apply) even more glaring.

Safeties are now asked to perform a variety of tasks: help against the run; match up with tight ends/slot receivers; patrol the deep middle of the field. It’s clearly a tough position to scout, so using free agency and signing guys who are already proven makes sense.

It’s not like the Eagles can’t use the draft as well. Going into next season with two new starters would be ideal. Let Earl Wolff compete and prove himself. Bringing back Nate Allen is the default move.

In other words, I see this as a position where you explore every avenue – big name free agents, early draft picks, etc. We’ll find out if the Eagles’ decision-makers feel the same way.

McManus: Big-time overreaction, Kapadia. I’m going 9.8.

Allen, Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman are all free agents, leaving Wolff, Chung and Keelan Johnson as the only safeties on the roster. They need to bring multiple safeties in. I would be OK if Allen was one of them — he already has a year of this defense under his belt and was steady in 2013 — but only if he is not the primary signing.

This is not considered a particularly good draft for safeties. The Eagles will have to stock up in free agency and then search for value in the draft come May.

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