The Eagles have needs in several areas. They are thin at wide receiver after releasing DeSean Jackson. The hunt for an effective safety duo is ongoing. It’s essential that they build depth at cornerback, inside linebacker and along the offensive front. But outside linebacker is the spot that requires the most immediate attention.
That’s because there is only one proven, natural, starting-caliber 3-4 OLB on the roster, and that’s Connor Barwin. Trent Cole did an admirable job switching to linebacker after eight seasons as a 4-3 defensive end. He finished with eight sacks and three forced fumbles on the year. Still, he is entering his 10th NFL season and will turn 32 in October. Even if you’re sold on Cole, reinforcements are necessary.
It does not appear Brandon Graham is the answer. As we’ve discussed previously, the Eagles recognize at this point that he is best suited for a 4-3 and are open to moving him if the price is right. Bob Grotz’s report that the Eagles offered Graham and a second-round pick for Dion Jordan is no surprise to us. We have heard similar whispers and agree with the sentiment that Graham and the No. 22 overall pick gets it done.
There is little question that Chip Kelly is a big fan of Jordan. Tom Gamble reportedly covets the former Duck as well. Enough to part with a first round pick in a supposedly loaded draft? Not so sure about that. But I don’t think these talks are dead necessarily.
Another option is to invest a high pick in an edge rusher come May 8. Brian Baldinger made a case for UCLA’s Anthony Barr in a recent podcast on the team’s website.
“I know Bill McGovern, the outside linebackers coach, went out and worked him out at UCLA,” said Baldinger.
“Say he’s there at 15 or 16. And I’m well aware that the Eagles only have six draft picks, they don’t have a whole lot of ammunition. But if that’s your biggest glaring need — and to me, the right outside linebacker position would complete this defense in some ways — why wouldn’t you be aggressive?”
There are a few edge rushers that are projected by some to go around where the Eagles are picking in the first round, including Missouri’s Kony Ealy and Auburn’s Dee Ford.
The Eagles got a total of just 13 sacks out of its starting outside linebackers last season. It stands to reason that 3-4 edge rushers are atop their priority list, and they’ll continue to explore both the trade market and the draft crop for answers.
WHAT YOU MISSED
What other Eagles could be on the move? That and more in the latest Twitter Mailbag.
In the latest installment of Draft Daily, Sheil looks at Penn State receiver Allen Robinson.
Kelly with a nice gesture to honor a Navy football player who passed away.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
In his latest mock draft, Todd McShay has the Eagles taking Marqise Lee in the first round and Florida State safety Terrence Brooks in the second.
Lee would give the Eagles’ receiving corps a shot in the arm. Right now it’sJeremy Maclin (who is coming off of a torn ACL), Riley Cooper and a few question marks. Lee isn’t the burner that DeSean Jackson was for this offense, and he struggled with drops in 2013 much more so than he did his first two seasons, but he has good field speed and is a threat after the catch. Lee did some serious damage to Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012, with a combined 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns…
Brooks is something of a reach for the Eagles here, but they need a safety and Brooks brings good playmaking ability.
Don Banks projects that they will select Odell Beckham, Jr. at 22.
Beckham features both DeSean Jackson’s burst and elusiveness, as well as the added element of being dangerous in the return game. There are defensive needs for a pass-rushing end or cornerback that could take precedent in Philly, but Chip Kelly is running this show, and he likes offense. What better way to turn the page on the Eagles’ Jackson era than by replacing him with a younger and hopefully better version?
We’re now less than a month away from the draft. Plenty to get into.