I’m pinch-hitting for T-Mac on the mailbag this week. Without further ado, here are your questions and my answers on all things Eagles.
I’ve gotten several versions of this question in the comments section, so now seems like a good time to respond.
Yesterday I identified six safeties the Eagles could target in free agency (from high-profile guys to sleepers): Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Malcolm Jenkins, Mike Mitchell, Stevie Brown and Darian Stewart.
Among that group, Byrd and Ward are clearly the stand-outs. But I'd say Jenkins and Mitchell are pretty clearly better options than Nate Allen.
Brown is a bit of a wild card since he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Allen and Stewart are probably similar, although I'll admit I haven't watched a ton of Stewart.
Allen deserves credit for improving last year. He tackled better and got beat less. Allen is considered a high-character locker room guy who fits the culture Chip Kelly is trying to develop. But he hasn't proven he's capable of doing anything special. He's not a playmaker, a great blitzer or a big hitter. He doesn't possess elite cover skills or great range.
In other words, he's adequate.
Everything depends on how the market plays out, and the Eagles need bodies at safety. So I wouldn't rule out his return completely. But the guess here is that both Allen and the Eagles go their separate ways this offseason.
@SheilKapadia realistically, do you see the Eagles being a better football team than last year? What moves do you think they need to make?
— Brett Hower (@brett_hower) March 6, 2014
I'd be more comfortable answering this question on May 11 once we've seen what they do in free agency and the draft. But I think they're in great position to be better than last year.
Offensively, Nick Foles will be in his second season in Kelly's system. Matching last year's numbers will be difficult, but it's reasonable to expect that he'll be more comfortable. There's no reason LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson should take a step back. Rookies like Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson should get better. And they're adding Jeremy Maclin to the mix.
As for moves, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles add a versatile offensive lineman who can challenge Todd Herremans or fill a backup role. I'm also not going to be shocked if they add a wide receiver in the draft. Maclin is on a one-year deal, and Riley Cooper's essentially on a two-year deal when you look at guaranteed money. Howie Roseman referenced the Broncos last week when talking about the Eagles' offense. You get the feeling Kelly is never truly satisfied in terms of having enough weapons.
Defensively, we know safety is a need. They could use depth on the defensive line and at inside linebacker. Going into next year with Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as the OLBs wouldn't be the end of the world, but I think they'll look to upgrade there as well.
And of course, special teams is worth taking a look at.
But overall, I don't see any major losses from a year ago. If the Eagles add significant talent at safety and outside linebacker, I'll be ready to take my expectations to a new level.
@SheilKapadia what are chances that they trade Graham or Curry or anybody else for that matter for more draft picks?
— Chris S (@reddog2188) March 6, 2014
I'd say there's a decent chance either Graham or Vinny Curry gets moved.
Let's start with Graham. There has been some confusion about whether he's signed through next season or 2015. Per Joel Corry, it's the former. That could make it difficult to deal him. How many teams are going to want to give something up for a player who is essentially a one-year rental?
Curry actually might be the more interesting name. If I were the GM of a 4-3 team, I would absolutely have interest in Curry. He's shown ability to rush the passer, can make plays behind the line of scrimmage in the run game and seems like a great locker room guy. Curry is also signed at a low number through 2015.
He did an admirable job of putting weight on and tried to fit into the Eagles' two-gap scheme last year. And it's true that the Eagles played a lot of nickel with four down linemen anyway. But the sense I got last year was that the coaching staff still didn't see Curry as a great fit. Remember, there were multiple rumors at the trade deadline that they were open to dealing him.
Keep an eye on what the Eagles do in free agency. If they invest in defensive line depth, they could look to move Curry before the draft.