Eagles Wake-Up Call: FA Options At Defensive Tackle

If there was any doubt that the Eagles  would be addressing defensive tackle this offseason, it was erased when both Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins were released Monday.

With Derek Landri poised to become a free agent, the Eagles currently have four interior linemen under contract: Fletcher Cox, Antonio Dixon, Cedric Thornton and Ronnie Cameron. No matter the eventual scheme, they will need to add players to the mix.

Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and company could look for reinforcements in April’s draft (Florida’s Sharrif Floyd and Utah’s Star Lotulelei could both go early), but also have the opportunity to bolster the position via free agency, which kicks off on March 12.

Evan Silva over at Rotoworld.com just released his top 50 free agents to be, five of which are defensive tackles. They are (by rank):

9. Henry Melton (Chicago)
Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6-3, 295
2012 stats: Six sacks, two forced fumbles, 43 tackles (14 games)

13. Desmond Bryant (Oakland)
Age: 27
Height/Weight: 6-6, 311
2012 stats: Three sacks, forced fumble (16 games)
* Bryant was recently arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. His mugshot is getting plenty of attention.

33. Randy Starks (Miami)
Age: 29
Height/Weight: 6-3, 305
2012 stats: 4.5 sacks, interception, four passes defensed (16 games)

44. Jason Jones (Seattle)
Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6-5, 276
2012 stats: Three sacks, four passes defensed, fumble recovery (12 games)

47. Terrance Knighton (Jacksonville)
Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6-3, 330
2012 stats: Two sacks, two forced fumbles (16 games)
* Knighton played college ball at Temple

It is important to remember that teams can use the franchise tag to hold onto a coveted player. The tag number for interior linemen this year is expected to be about $8 million.

One player not named by Silva is 49ers D-lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. Adam Caplan over at the Sideline View did a little digging, and discovered that there could be a market for the 26-year-old.

I asked three high-ranking NFL executives this week for a quick list of players some under-the-radar players for free agency. While their opinions differed quite a bit, one name that showed up on all three lists was San Francisco 49ers DL Ricky Jean-Francois.

Jean-Francois has only started five games in his career and hasn’t played in more than 27 percent of the defensive snaps in any season, but one of the executives noted that the fifth-year pro brings outstanding interior pass rush in nickel situations. And his versatility is a big reason why he could receive a lot of attention at the start of the new league year on March 12.

Jean-Francois has lined up at NT and DE in the 49ers’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

Given that former San Francisco personnel man Tom Gamble is now in Philly, the 6-3, 295-pounder could be worth keeping an eye on.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil takes a look at defensive prospects Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah.

The Eagles parted with  Jenkins on Monday. Then followed that up by cutting Patterson.

Could there be interest in Matt Barkley? The team met with him in Indianapolis, and came away impressed.

Kapadia offers three parting thoughts from his time at the Combine.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Niners have a deal in place for Alex Smith. Or they don’t. PFT sorts through it all.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that the 49ers don’t have a deal in place to trade Smith once the trading period opens at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.

Barrows notes at the outset of his tweet that it’s lying time in the NFL.  But if the Niners are letting it leak that a deal is “effectively done” (whatever that means) and not identifying the name of the team, there’s a good chance that there is no team — and that the tactic is aimed at smoking a team or two out of the weeds.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was forced to withdraw from the Combine because of an abnormal heart exam. Mike Garafolo of USA Today reports that Lotulelei has been told that he can work out on his own.

The person said it’s hoped that it’s not a heart condition but rather dehydration, too much sodium in his diet or rapid weight loss in a short timeframe that prompted tests to reveal his heart wasn’t pumping at full capacity. Lotulelei dropped almost 10 pounds in three days recently, in part because of the hectic schedule of traveling to the combine and the long days in Indianapolis.

Lotulelei did not fail his physical but rather was given an incomplete designation pending the consultation with the specialist, the person said, adding it was Lotulelei’s decision to withdraw from drills after hearing the doctors’ recommendation that he sit them out.

COMING UP

Plenty to get into with March coming up on us fast.