Wake-Up Call: On the Safety Front

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Some safety-related  free-agency activity to catch you up on:

TJ Ward is drawing interest from about 11 teams across the league, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Broncos, Jets and Lions have all been linked to the 27-year-old safety. Cabot mentions the Eagles as another team that might be on the list, citing the Oregon ties that Ward and Chip Kelly share.

They could very well be interested — but at what price point?

Of the 11 teams, interest is strong from at least several. Others might not be able to meet his asking price — which could be upwards of $8 million a year.

Howie Roseman noted at the combine a couple weeks back that even if an ‘A’ player makes it to the market, there’s a chance they’ll be commanding “A plus-plus” money. Inflated price tags are the norm in free agency. The numbers really seem to be up this year, thanks in large part to the $10 million salary cap increase. (For example, defensive end Everson Griffen got  a five-year deal to stay in Minnesota that is reportedly worth $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed. Cornerback Sam Shields received a four-year deal worth up to $39 million.)

This is not good news for Eagles fans looking for the mega-splash. True, the salary cap bump gives them the ability to spend more freely, but that’s not the only piece of the puzzle.

“When you talk about chemistry and rewarding your own players, when you bring someone in from another team and you’re paying A-plus money, how are your other players going to feel?” said Roseman.”That person has to be a special person on and off the field.”

Maybe Ward fits the bill. We’ll find out soon enough.

— It’s been pretty quiet on the Jairus Byrd front. There was a report that St. Louis is interested but not much else. Things are surely a lot more active behind the scenes. Largely considered the best safety on the market, Byrd has a big pay day of his own coming his way.

Despite the talent and production, there are a couple question marks that come with Byrd. One is in respect to the plantar fasciitis in both feet that kept him out of action for part of last season. The other involves his 4.68 40-time, and whether his speed will eventually be an issue. Count former executive Bill Polian among the concerned.

“He’s a speed-deficient safety,” said Polian. “Safeties don’t get faster as the years go on.”

An ESPN report says Byrd is “expected to fetch a deal worth at least $9 million on the open market.”

— Like several colleagues, I was told that the Eagles have inquired about Carolina safety Mike Mitchell. According to one report, the Redskins and Eagles are the most interested. Whether Mitchell ends up in Philly or not, chances are that the safety (or safeties) the Eagles acquire will be from that mid-level tier.

WHAT YOU MISSED

All the free agency chatter from over the weekend right here.

Sheil gets you ready for the opening gun with his free-agency primer.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor weighs in on Mitchell.

Mitchell showed playmaking ability in 2013. Safeties rarely have 4 INTs and 4 sacks in a season. Dawk never did. That really is an impressive combo. Now understand those stats in context. Mitchell played on a very good defense. Not only was there talent around him, but he was given the chance to make plays. Sean McDermott learned how to creatively use a S from his time with Jim Johnson. You can’t count on Mitchell to post those numbers on any team or in any scheme. But Mitchell did have to make those plays. How many times over the years have we seen a player drop an INT or whiff on a sack attempt? Too much. Mitchell was put in position to make plays and he did. He is a physically gifted player with solid size (6-0, 210) and athletic ability.

Mitchell would be an upgrade for the Eagles. That’s enough for me to have interest in him.

In his latest mock draft, Todd McShay has the Eagles taking Ohio State corner Bradley Roby.

The best values at this spot for Philadelphia are going to be at cornerback — outside linebacker and safety can wait until later, especially if the top two safeties are off the board as they are in this scenario. Roby needs to be coached up, as he got burned several times this season as a result of poor discipline, but his size, speed, athleticism and playmaking ability make him capable of developing into a shutdown corner on the outside.

COMING UP

Plenty more free agency buzz ahead. We’ll stay on top of it for you.

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