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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  • Weapon Y

    Byrd and Bucannon as starters, with Wolff as first backup would be very ideal. Ward and Chris Clemons would be good Plan Bs in free agency.

    • GEAGLE

      Mr. Wolff, THE Bird and The Cannon is probably what I dream about twice a week..How much do you think it takes to sign Byrd? Is it safe to say worst case scenario would be 9million per year?

  • NickS1

    “I give’er, I give’er a TEN! A TEN!”

    • Alex

      “Awwww look, Billy Bob’s crying! Cry me a river, you fat f’n baby!”

  • NickS1

    Who the f**k is Jamar Adams?!?!?! Howie: Open. The. Check. Book.

    • Chris

      I asked myself the same thing haha

      • NickS1

        I thought Tim was just throwin random names in there to make a point!

        • cliff henny

          just google’d him…the real kick in the teeth is he has Seattle connections, udfa in ’08. just doesnt seem fair

          • NickS1

            By Seattle connections…. do you mean that he just won a SB, too? Because Thomas III was enough, this might put me over the edge.

          • GEAGLE

            Future hall of famer

          • cliff henny

            great tank night. 2sead is in the bag. NO is 11th now, maybe NYK or DET can get hot once they start playing more east teams. i’ll take the 2, 10, and whatever else is added.

          • GEAGLE

            Amazing Tank night!!! Say NO gives us the 10th pick, wonder how many spots trading Thad will allow us to move up on draft night? Gotta find a way to turn that NO pick into the 6th pick in the draft..could u imagine getting #2 and #6??? I know you are happy with pick 2 and you would prefer it to the top pick because u know that top pick is being used on Embiid. The 2nd pick ensures you get your boy wiggins…sneaky sneaky cliff…

    • jabostick

      That’ll be the final question in the first ever Birds 24/7 Pub Trivia Night

      • Clamdigger

        I’ll take Busts, Chumps and Jagoffs for $2,000, Alex.

    • macadood

      • NickS1

        What the hell happened to him in the NFL? Walking hit stick in this clip.

        • anon

          gets unempeded to qb every time and still cant get a sack?

          • NickS1

            He gets a sack in the second play shown and crushes Tebow in every other clip.

          • reb

            yeah, but most of those are unimpeded. I want to see a video with coverage skills and shedding blocks.

          • NickS1

            Agreed, however, I was thinking Bernard Pollard when I saw him, who has no coverage skills and is only good for the big hit.

  • cliff henny

    that is one gawd awful list. maybe Howie needs to go about this in a different direction. maybe try and pick the absolute worst safeties he can find, and it’ll work out….sort of like in golf, after you’ve blown thru handicap in 13 holes, start doing the IDGAF swing, and crush last 5 holes. something howie, anything…but do not parade chung or coleman out there as starters next season.

    • Chris

      The IDGAF swing for me usually comes out around hole 14 when i’m too drunk to care about my score anymore

      • cliff henny

        think Howie’s already tried picking safeties hammered. or, at least that explain some things

      • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

        I usually lose it at hole 8, the windmill consistently knocks me off. But with a good IDGAF, I can usually bank it off the clown on #4.

        • Chris

          ahaha plot twist. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a free game out of it.

    • NickS1

      I’m already going to have a serious issue if Chung’s back next season. If he starts? Fuhgetaboutit

      • cliff henny

        JD Drew and the battery episode will look like slow pitch softball.

        • NickS1

          Probably closer to being a Dodgers fan in SF…. Too soon?

        • Johnny Domino

          Snow around my house is so heavy and hard right now you don’t even need to add batteries.

          • GEAGLE

            My house is ruined..well not my house but my yard…I have big yard with a bunch of really big trees…and the snow and ice accumulating on all the trees, weighing them down caused literally about 20-30 HUGE branches to fall all around my property. Really fortunate a branch didn’t go thru the roof of my house or the windown of my car…Wednesday I woke up and so many huge branches and trunks had fallen, that I was literally trapped in my property, Branches were to heavy to move, and too big to drive over. What a friggin disaster but it could have been much worse. It’s a major inconvenience but ATleast it didn’t do the type of damage that costs a lot of money to fix…only property damage is some trees fell on my fence around my yard, which is a a hassle because now the fence is bent in a few spots and my Cane Corso’s are getting big so I have to worry about them jumping over the damaged parts of the fence…This winter is horrible, Hopefully everyone stays safe and isn’t losing too much money in damages

    • Jernst

      The George Costanza “Do the complete opposite thing that I’d ever do” theory…I love it

  • Beavis

    What’s the point of cap space if you’re not going to use it to fill the team’s most pressing need? Break. The. Bank.

  • Ascher Levy

    Since the CBs in the draft are a deeper position, would it be possible to convert Cary Williams or Curtis Marsh to a safety and draft there?

    • cliff henny

      where’s token?

      • Johnny Domino

        In Boulder.

        Sorry, meant tokin’

    • NickS1

      I got skewered for even suggesting as a “no way it happens” hypothetical that we convert Boykin so our best DB can be on the field for more than 50% of the snaps. Good luck with this one. Also, I downvoted you, simply to pay it forward.

      • GEAGLE

        ….

        • NickS1

          What?

      • jabostick

        I’m surprised more backup corners aren’t actively trying to convert to safety. I know it is less money at the position but the prospects have to be way better

    • pjcostello

      No… Williams isn’t enough of a tackler, and Marsh is a converted running back — not enough time in the secondary to read offenses, anticipate plays, take proper angles. He’s a corner because it’s an easier position for an athlete to play than safety.

  • NickS1

    Sheil/Tim…. I’m going to need you to redact the names of all but Wolff and Mikell. The rest are just too painful to look at. The point is made and well known that we’ve had awful safety play. The list is salt in the wound.

    • GEAGLE

      What’s wrong? You don’t miss Macho Harris patrolling centerfield?

      • NickS1

        I’m still trying to figure out when the hell Jamar Adams played safety for us haha.

  • Rambler

    Mendoza Line? Please do not even disparage that poor Mario Mendoza shlup with this list of awfulness that has been our safety rotation. I would more liken it to a massive police lineup where you can point at any single person and be guaranteed that they have committed a crime…

  • GEAGLE

    1) FA safety signing ???

    2) Wolff makes $500k

    3) Rookie we draft in rounds 2-5 will make say $600k

    4) Chung will get his salary slashed to 1.5-2milnper year
    ..
    5) 5th safety is a cheap ST guy. 7th round pick, or Undrafted guy still on a rookie deal let’s just say he makes $500k.

    So basically we will be investing like a grand total of 3million dollars in 4 safeties combined…and I’m supposed to believe we can’t sign better than a 6mil per year Clemons type?
    ,,,,
    Even if you pay your FA safety 10mil per season which would NEVER happen, you would still only have like 13million invested in the safety position. I don’t see how the hell that could be too much. half the teams have two starting safeties who both make 4-6mil…

    • anon

      Might not be a choice. you willing to make byrd highest paid safety? ward will prob get franchised.

      • GEAGLE

        I don’t know why people keep saying that…Ward can be franchised, but I don’t get where people get the “probably” from? Is there an announcement from a browns executive that I missed? Not being sarcastic, I’m seriously asking why people say he PROBABLY gets franchised when their is some devils advocate intel that could possibly suggest otherwise:
        ..
        1) Banner is historically not a fan of the franchise tag

        2) Question, why do people say “Ward probably gets Franchised” instead of saying, “the browns will use the franchise tag on top rated center, Mack”??? Ward is one of the best young safeties in the game, Mack is one of the best young Centers in the game..why is the assumption Ward and not Mack getting the tag? Don’t quote me on this, but isn’t the franchise Tag Cheaper for Centers then safeties? And the words: “Cheaper”, “banner”, “browns” sure seem like they are often associated with each other.

        3) Did they Extend Joe Haden yet or is he still playing on his rookie deal? if he hasn’t been extended yet, he will be due one very soon, and is NOT going to be cheap..dont know that I see banner and THAT owner having one of the highest paid corners and one of the highest paid safeties in the same secondary…Byrd and Ward are phenomenal young players, if a team even let’s it get to this point with Elite Young players they drafted then you can bet they are giving some serious thought to letting them walk and replacing a 40million dollar player with a rookie contract..

        Look I don’t know what’s going to happen. Your guess is as good as mine, I’m just curious as to why so many people are assuming that Ward is franchised and Mack isn’t? I wouldn’t be surprised if neither gets the tag. I wouldn’t be surprised if both walk(banner is that cheap)…but what I do question is how could buffalo and Cleveland ever let it get to this point with Byrd and Ward? Could you Imagine if the Eagles ever let it get to this point with Dawkins when he was 26 years old coming off his rookie deal. I think if you draft a kid, and he develops into an Elite player at his position by the age of 26/27 and you don’t extend his deal long before he hits free agency, you are just a poorly run franchise. If you can even consider losing a top player at a position, in his prime that you drafted, then there is something wrong with you and you are a poorly run franchise…and POORLY run Franchises are Eactly the types to screw up and let a guy like Ward leave.
        ….
        Could you Imagine if Joe banner was the one that drafted Dawkins, and when he was 27 years old in his prime, we were a month away from Dawkins having the power to leave us and sign with another team? banner would have been hanging upside down from City hall looking Like Mussolini

    • Giorgos Kassakos

      I agree in general, but have this in mind:

      1. Byrd/Ward/Clemons
      2. Allen
      3. Wolff
      4. Mid-round rookie (Bucannon or Dixon would be great)
      5. Coleman
      6. ST-guy

      Cut Chung, one million dead money is no big deal for the Eagles. He is bad and in the definition of injury-prone. Get these six guys to training camp, let the 1-4 compete for the starting jobs and the 5-6 compete for the last spot.

      Chris Maragos from Seattle is a beast in special teams. I hope the Eagles find a way to add him.

  • Andy124

    So I see the headline and immediately plan on mocking Sheil and Tim for not rating this a 10 out of 5. Glad I read first. Good job guys.

  • Imix Shish

    IMO, it goes back farther than Dawkins leaving. It goes to Michael Lewis. I mean, was Sean Considine really such a force at Safety? NO.

    • OldDocRoss

      Michael Lewis for me is Exhibit A in the much too long list of players who were let go/hated on in recent years because of perceived deficiencies in one area of the game only to be replaced by players who were deficient in multiple areas.

      Of course Sean Considine was still Ronnie Lott compared to Chung, so…..

  • JofreyRice

    YES

    • GEAGLE

      You love arguing with me..so do me a favor and put it to good use. Please help me see the light and play Devils advocate to why it would be a bad idea to pay for Byrd or Ward, if your other 3 safeties are Wolff, 3rd round pick, Chung with his pay slashed. I don’t see how it’s a bad idea to pay a safety 8mil per year, if you are only investing like 3million dollars combined in your other 3′safeties? I don’t get it…help me see the light..Cliff CAP Henny? Rob? Andy? Tim? Sheil? Sweet, infant baby Jesus?(not to be confused with Adult Jesus, or Hay-Zeus).. ANYONE?…..Can someone help me understand why it is a Dumb idea to invest like 12 mil in 4 players combined?

  • Maggie

    Just a little something about some NFC teams. Haven’t looked at AFC yet. All from SBNation, but all different writers. Point is, it is not as easy to draft or pick up or sign the players some commenters want. HALF of the NFC also want them, and I have a feeling that even more teams in the AFC want the same guys.

    Dallas
    The secondary features two corners who did not play up to the
    investments the team made to acquire their services and there is still
    not a proven center-fielder SAFETY on the roster. Even with a solid
    2014 draft, the defensive coaches will have to try to work miracles.

    Chicago
    The Bears had HORRIFIC SAFETY PLAY, a
    SEVERE LACK OF A PASS RUSH, and LINEBACKERS WHO WERE OUT OF POSITION
    .
    Green Bay
    Pryor is a guy who flew under the radar earlier in the
    season, but closed out his career at Louisville extremely well, and teams are
    beginning to catch up now that it’s evaluation season.

    It’s tough to argue that SAFETY is not the biggest need on this team, so
    the pick makes sense from a positional standpoint. Pryor’s abilities both in
    pass defense and run support probably make him one of if not the most balanced
    safeties in this draft class, and he would be an instant starter for this
    Packers squad.

    Carolina
    Also, the strategies and schemes that they used to get through this season with minimum salary players – from way past their prime veterans to undrafted rookie free agents – in the secondary are not sustainable.
    This team has 4 problem areas right now (RT/LT, WR/TE, RCB/LCB, SAFETY
    with coverage skills)

    New Orleans
    Positions most needing to be filled

    O Line, WR, Safety, OLB.
    And for depth:
    Safety, Cornerback, Linebacker, Defensive Tackle. Tackle, Guard, and Center.
    At SAFETY, Keith Tandy had a few career saving interceptions last season but still might find it hard to make it out of training camp. A decent backup SAFETY could be a solid addition with the often in trouble Dashon Goldson.

    Cardinals
    Their overwhelming expectation is that the Cardinals will find a SAFETY to shore up the position, but there are some specific things the Cardinals are “allegedly” looking for in a safety. Is the prospective safety at least 6’1″?
    Right off the bat that eliminates certain free agents that are very good players: Jarius Byrd, T.J Ward, among others.
    You may be asking, “Why does it matter if the safety is at least
    6’1″?” Well, the Cardinals love having Tyrann Mathieu at safety….
    Chris Clemons, S Miami Dolphins,
    Calvin Pryor, S Louisville,
    Deone Bucannon, S Washington State

    San Francisco
    The big issue for Whitner remained the penalties. He is a big hitter, and unfortunately, in this era of “safety first”, he received numerous personal foul penalties. He avoided fines all season long, but they team still lost 15 yards each time he was flagged.

  • reb

    For this position, the scale needs to go to 11.