Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Free Agency Notes

NFL: New Orleans Saints-OTA

On the third day of free agency, we offer three thoughts on where things stand with the Eagles.

1. Greg Cosell of NFL Films joined Jon Marks and Sean Brace on 97.5 The Fanatic Wednesday afternoon and pointed out the four areas he focuses on when evaluating safeties: tackling (both in space and in the box), their ability to play single-high, their ability to play two-deep and their ability to hold up in man coverage.

So how does Malcolm Jenkins grade out in those four areas?

“Jenkins can do all four of those things,” Cosell said. “He does them in a solid fashion. He doesn’t do them at a high level. So he’s versatile, he can do a lot for you. He can allow you to be scheme-versatile. But he’s not a great player.

“The bottom line is he’s an upgrade over what they had… and he can do all the things you look for in a safety. He’s just not great at any of them.”

I think that’s a perfectly fair assessment and not far off from what I shared a few weeks ago. Jenkins is competent in several areas, not great in any.

The guess here is that the Eagles really value his ability to be the quarterback of the back end. That’s what the coaches love about DeMeco Ryans in the front seven. He gets everyone lined up, makes checks based on the look of the offense and serves as an extension of Billy Davis on the field. Chip Kelly and company likely expect Jenkins to do the same with the secondary.

2. The fan base seems to be split on the Eagles’ lack of activity so far. One side is glad they’re maintaining financial flexibility and not overpaying. The other side is furious that they had a chance to upgrade their talent in a number of areas on defense and failed to do so.

As is often the case, the most reasonable take is somewhere in the middle. But I think a certain degree of skepticism is justifiable. The Eagles entered the offseason needing to upgrade several spots on defense. So far, their moves have included a couple backups and a mid-level safety.

And they’re in firm “prove it” territory at that position. This is the sixth straight offseason in which the organization is searching for competency at safety. Maybe Jenkins will turn out to be a steal, but it’s perfectly understandable for members of the fan base to be skeptical.

We’ve only had two days of free agency, and while many of the big names are off the board, there are still moves to be made. On May 11, once the draft is complete, we’ll get a better idea of what the big picture looks like going into 2014.

3. So, who’s left? Here are three names to keep an eye on:

Corey Wootton – The 6-6, 270-pounder played defensive tackle in the Bears’ 4-3, but he could be a depth option as a defensive end for the Eagles. Wootton, 27, had hip surgery in January and could be looking at a short-term deal.

Willie Young – He’s played defensive end in the Lions’ 4-3, but Young could be an option as an edge rusher for the Eagles. At 6-5, 251 with 34 1/2-inch arms, Young has the length Kelly covets on defense. Young reportedly had a visit with the Jaguars.

Alex Carrington – Another option for defensive line depth. Carrington (27) played only three games last year because of a quad injury. He can play 3-4 DE and move inside in four-man fronts. Carrington has reportedly drawn interest from the Rams and Browns so far.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Mushrooms, dreads and special teams: Meet new Eagles OLB Bryan Braman.

Roundup of all the news and rumors from Wednesday.

The Eagles signed athletic safety/special teamer Chris Maragos from the Seahawks.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Matt Williamson of ESPN.com offers his thoughts on Jenkins:

Those who like Jenkins describe him as a highly versatile player who can help a defense in many ways. Jenkins has size and straight-line speed. He can play the deep middle or deep half. He is a good blitzer and can walk down and cover a slot receiver. He can play some man to man against wide receivers. But I contend that he isn’t well above average in any of these particular areas and is a player whom quarterbacks should target. He can make quarterbacks pay by converting big plays but also can take too many risks. His hips are not fluid enough to keep up with the typical slot receiver and Jenkins is at his best in a straight line.

Is he a bad player? No, but I don’t see him as this highly versatile do-it-all star, but rather close to a jack of all trades but master of none.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting has the Eagles taking Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in the first round:

Even after adding Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, don’t overlook the Eagles looking to add another top safety onto the roster. Chip Kelly already toyed with three-safety looks last year and Pryor can provide help at both free and strong safety in this Eagles defense.

COMING UP

More free agency coverage, plus we’ll meet Braman and Maragos.