Eagles Wake-Up Call: DRC And the Corner Market

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed a one-year deal with Broncos late Wednesday night.

Nobody knows the holes in DRC’s game better than Eagles observers, but many believed there would be some competition for the talented 26-year-old. It never developed, and DRC finds himself on a prove-it contract in Denver.

His signing solidifies the fact that the Eagles will go into 2013 with two new starting corners. They inked former Ram Bradley Fletcher to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency to compete for a job, but the all-important position remains paper thin at the moment.

Where to go from here?

There are a healthy amount of corners still available, although the market appears to be heating up. Not only did DRC find a home late Wednesday, but so too did 26-year-old Derek Cox, who goes from Jacksonville to San Diego on a four-year deal. (We were told it was down to the Chargers, Saints and Browns for his services. The Eagles never got serious about him.) This could very well start a run on corners.

Ideally, the Eagles would land a young cornerback with decent size. Here are a few options that appear to fit the criteria, and what we know about them:

Sean Smith, Dolphins (6-3/218/25) -We were hearing at the start of free agency that the Eagles were not going to be players for Smith, as they were staying away from the hefty contracts and looking more at the next tier down. Unless his price tag really drops, we’ll continue to operate under the belief that they are not in on him.

Keenan Lewis, Steelers (6-0/208/26) –  Lewis has good size and led the NFL with 16 passes defensed last year, per Pro Football Focus. He was heading to New Orleans Wednesday to visit with the Saints.

Antoine Cason, Chargers (6-1/195/26) – The former first-round pick has 49 starts under his belt and has never missed a game in five seasons. He is reportedly scheduled to visit the Cardinals. 

Also of note: Aqib Talib (6-1/205/27) is supposedly on the Redskins’ radar, though it’s questionable whether they could fit him under their cap…There was a report that Brent Grimes (5-10/183/29) was heading back to Atlanta, but that proved to be erroneousAntoine Winfield (5-9/190/35) was recently released by the Vikings, but at 35, it’s hard to see him as a fit.

There are still some options out there, but the time to act is drawing near for the Eagles.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Ricky Jean-Francois left town without a deal.

What to make of the Geno Smith workout? Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman were asked about the QB.

Kelly references the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez when talking about his new tight end, James Casey.

Isaac Sopoaga promises that Eagles will “shock the world.”

The Eagles will reportedly look at tackles Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer.

A round-up of analysis and reaction to the Eagles free-agent signings.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Bill Barnwell over at Grantland talks about the Eagles’ approach early in free agency.

They added Bradley Fletcher from the Rams and Patrick Chung from the Patriots on relatively small deals, signing players who were out of favor in their old organizations but exhibited some signs of above-average play in the recent past. The sort of logic that went into those moves — buying low on a low-risk, medium-reward player — seemed absurdly out of place on the dumbest day of the NFL year. Some of the teams that made headlines Tuesday by following a now-infamous Eagles plan that didn’t work might have done well to follow the new Philadelphia brain trust’s lead.

Mel Kiper has an updated mock draft out. He sees the Eagles taking Alabama corner Dee Milliner.

Pick analysisNnamdi Asomugha won’t be wearing an Eagles uniform in 2013, and in a division with Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III, the Eagles can’t simply attempt to piece together the secondary. They need talent, and Milliner offers the best cornerback talent in the draft. Not a tough pick.

Free-agency factor: There isn’t much in the way of top-end talent available in free agency if you want to improve your secondary, so I’m not sure any shopping will change the basis for this pick.

COMING UP

Bradley Fletcher and Patrick Chung to meet the media at 4:15. Plenty of action before then.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On DRC And Secondary Questions

There is a host of pressing issues when it comes to the Eagles’ secondary, but you’ll have to excuse new defensive backs coach John Lovett if he doesn’t yet have all the answers.

“I don’t know how long everyone else has been here but I walked into the office today for the first time,” said the 62-year-old Lovett on Monday. “In fact I rode over here with [inside linebackers] Coach [Rick] Minter just so I can figure out how to drive over here and not get lost. We had a full staff meeting and a defensive staff meeting, then the phone guy comes in and a guy comes in to put a computer in. It’s been that kind of a day. Everyone is still kind of rolling around.”

That is the reality of the situation. The new staff has had little to no time to study tape of the Eagles from last season. That is Lovett’s goal this week — he will look at last year’s secondary, then will begin evaluating potential free agents.

“I think what I have to do is take a look at those guys and see what kind of impact they had, and talk to them also,” said Lovett, who coached DBs at Texas Tech last season. “Then meet with Coach [Kelly] and Billy [Davis], and find out what they want to do. Chip and Howie [Roseman], they’ll make the decision on how all this is going to go down, all I can do is give input and my piece on what I see.”

There are critical decisions to be made at each position in the secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha is scheduled to make $15 million. Do you cut him and eat the guaranteed $4 million? Try to restructure? Do you try and sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent? How do you proceed at safety?

Rodgers-Cromartie is particularly interesting, as Davis was the defensive coordinator in Arizona when he went to the Pro Bowl. Do the Eagles want to keep him?

“That I can’t answer because I am new in the building, and  Coach Kelly and Howie will make those decisions ” said Davis. “I know DRC, we drafted him. As a young guy he went to a Pro Bowl [in 2009]. He made a lot of plays. We had some success in Arizona with pressure packages that got a lot of turnovers and we created some defensive scores, and Dominique was part of that.”

Because of how new the Kelly operation is, opinions on current personnel are not fully formed. But big picture, the staff knows what type of players they are looking for. Lovett said ideally his corners will be big and physical. The safeties need to be able to run stride-for-stride with a slot receiver one minute, and “sit people on the ground” the next. No wonder a good safety is getting harder and harder to come by.

The perfect players probably aren’t on this roster. The process begins now to figure out which ones will be good enough to hold onto.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil looks at the new offensive and defensive line coaches, and the “old-school toughness” they bring.

Michael Vick  believes he can run Kelly’s system effectively.

What does Vick’s return mean for Nick Foles? Kapadia takes a look.

Davis addressed the Philly media for the first time.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Behold, the 2013 NFL free agent list.

Are the Eagles still in the market for a QB after restructuring Vick’s deal? If so, they’ll likely be able to get a look at the top draft prospects  at next week’s combine. From PFT:

According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, [Geno] Smith will “do a full workout,” in Indianapolis, giving scouts a chance to see how he stacks up rather than making them wait for a pro day.

As Brandt points out, having Smith throw and do all the drills sets a bar for the other quarterbacks, and more will likely follow suit.

There’s a chance to not look as polished when throwing to unfamiliar receivers (unlike pro days on college campuses with guys you know, when 57-of-59 passing is more the norm), but taking that chance also speaks to competitiveness.

After Smith and Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley skipped the Senior Bowl, there wasn’t much to look at among the quarterbacks who played, but Smith’s going to give everyone something to talk about.

Marcus Hayes dissects Kelly’s performance at the podium:

Chip Kelly on Monday continued the construction of his image in Philadelphia. He explained, and sometimes defended, the hiring of 19 new assistant coaches and the retention of two from Reid’s staff.

As advertised, Kelly was, at times, informative; at times, glib; at times, abrasive. Several times, he bit his barbed tongue in deference to better judgment.

Sometimes, he spoke at length and said nothing at all . . . which, of course, was what Reid did nearly all the time.

Given time, polish and a great deal of self-restraint, Chip Kelly could be a legend of the lectern.

Or, if he submits to his baser instincts, he could alienate the public and the press, like his predecessors.

COMING UP

We’ll continue to feed you more from our conversations with the new coaching staff.

From ‘Dynasty’ To ‘Dream Team,’ It Was All Talk

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick

If nothing else, Eagles players have stayed on message over the past two seasons. They entered the 2011 campaign  bullish about the assembled talent (along with just about everybody else). And, despite an 11-15 record since, some continue to tout the team’s potency.

As the 3-7 Eagles get set to take on the 2-8 Panthers in a showdown of the two worst teams in the NFC, here is a “best-0f” compilation of quotes that prove confidence is not the issue on this club.

(There are surely some that we overlooked. Feel free to add them in the comments.)

July, 2011. The quote that started it all. Vince Young was asked to describe the talent being brought into the Eagles via free agency and trade.

“Dream Team.”

July 2011. Jason Babin, following the  free-agent frenzy:

“I feel like we are the Miami Heat of the NFL.”

July 2012. Michael Vick talks dynasty:

“When I look at our football team and what we have on paper, I think about when I was growing up and the great San Francisco 49er teams, the great Green Bay Packer teams, and the great Dallas Cowboy teams, how they just positioned themselves to compete and be one of the best teams out there,” Vick said.

“I think we have a chance to be that. I think we have a chance to develop a dynasty.”

October, 2012. Kurt Coleman believes defense can be best in Eagles history:

“Absolutely. I say it with a straight face. I believe it. I believe in the team that we have, the guys that I play next to. We can do it. We need to continue to build on this, and make our legacy.”

October, 2012. Nnamdi Asomugha after 30-17 loss to the Falcons:

“The game was bad, this team isn’t bad, though, This is a good team. Unfortunately, we show stuff like that and the question is, well, are you? But we believe in ourselves, we know we’re a good team.”

November 2012. LeSean McCoy isn’t talking dynasty, but uses the other “D” word on the heels of the Eagles’ fifth straight loss:

“I believe that once we get it all together, we should dominate. We have the players here and Coach [Reid] is a winning coach.”

 November, 2012. DRC says nobody has more talent than the Eagles following Sunday’s loss to the Redskins:

“Nobody has lined up and just beat us. No, it’s just mental mistakes.”

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Buzz Is Back

When the locker room opened up to reporters Thursday afternoon, the place was humming. Nnamdi Asomugha and Kurt Coleman were engaged in a passionate conversation. Mardy Gilyard was chasing an unidentified victim around with a towel. Music blasted from Trent Cole‘s stall. (At one point an Oldies song came on and everyone began looking at Cole sideways. “It’s not me!” he said. “It’s Pandora!”)

There were signs of life for the first time in weeks.

Marty Mornhinweg foreshadowed these developments earlier in the day.

“There’s quite a bit of excitement, I think, in this situation, because of a couple things,” said Mornhinweg. “Number one, the situation we’re in. Can we get it done and make a run here? Secondly, with a rookie quarterback there is certainly some excitement there.”

There was a noticeable bump in energy when Foles entered the game against the Cowboys. It was short-lived, of course, as Dallas dried up all enthusiasm with a punt return and an interception for a touchdown. But the feeling is back this week.

“Everyone, especially on the offensive side, has to take their game up another notch just because Nick hasn’t seen all the different looks he’s about to see this week,” said Coleman. “Everyone has to raise their level of play just so they can help him out. It’s not that we weren’t playing hard, because Mike [Vick] does so much for this team and he’s able to play through so many different circumstances. But I think everybody’s level of play has to rise another notch because they know it’s going to be Nick’s first start. He’s not going to be perfect so we have to be able to take our game up another notch to try and help him out.”

Andy Reid told the players this week just to go back to having fun. Judging by this week’s atmosphere, they are heeding the advice of their coach.

“We’ve still got a chance, man, you have to be fired up,” said Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “You get another chance to go out there and right all the wrongs.”

Added Coleman: “It’s been getting lost, because you go through a loss, a loss, a loss,  and you lose kind of your identity or what this game’s about. It becomes not fun playing when you’re losing. We’re not worried about trying to win, we’re not worrying about maybe if we lose,  we’re just worried about, let’s play our best ball and have fun.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

In my Twitter Mailbag, I try to answer this all-important question: Can Foles attract a big-name coach?

As Kapadia points out, finding a QB is more important than finding a head coach.

Bobby April points the finger at himself for the Cowboys’ punt return Sunday.

Foles has the second-biggest shoe on the team, and other fun facts courtesy of Trent Edwards.

Sheil takes a look at whether it’s finally Vinny Curry time.

DRC will not get a new deal before the end of the season. Here’s why.

The latest coaching buzz, including some quality insight into Chip Kelly.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Winston Justice chimed in on the state of the Eagles during a recent interview with an Indianapolis radio station. Via the 700 Level:

“I’m not really watching the games that much but you can’t help but hear them going through stuff and I mean every year there is always some type of drama with Philly. Something was going to happen. 

RGIII enters the matchup against the Eagles with a new title: Team captain. From the Washington Post.

Shanahan said he could not recall one of his teams ever electing a rookie as a captain previously.

“It’s very hard to vote a rookie to be your captain,” Shanahan said. “But midway through the season, you say, ‘Hey, he’s our leader.’ ”

COMING UP 

One last practice for the Eagles before the Redskins game. We’ll have you covered.

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All Is Quiet On DRC Contract Front

There is nothing brewing on the Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie contract front, and that is not expected to change any time soon.

Nothing personal against the eccentric cornerback; the Eagles are not negotiating with any players at the moment, choosing instead to focus their energies on the season at hand. They have tried to stick to the policy of no in-season contract negotiations for the past few years. With a new coaching staff likely coming in, there’s even less reason to go away from that policy now.

The Eagles have some serious decisions to make when it comes to the corner position. DRC is poised to become a free agent at the end of the season. Nnamdi Asomugha is scheduled to make a base salary of $15 million next year (and another $12 million for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons). Only $4 million of next year’s salary is guaranteed, meaning the team could walk away if they are OK with swallowing that amount.

Asomugha has failed to live up to the billing in his 1 1/2 seasons with the Eagles. The 31-year-old has one interception through nine games in 2012. Quarterbacks have a rating of 109.5 when throwing in his direction, per Pro Football Focus.

The quarterback rating against Rodgers-Cromartie, in comparison, is 62.4. That said, his play has dropped off in recent weeks. He has not had an interception since September. Teams are taking advantage of his below-average tackling ability by routinely running to his side.

While both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie have their imperfections, they are better than the alternatives on the roster right now. Leaving one of the outside spots in the hands of Brandon Hughes or Curtis Marsh would be a big risk. Given how highly the Eagles value the cornerback position, it’s unlikely they will leave the cupboard bare. Whether it be through free agency, the draft or retaining their own, they will try to stay stocked.

Rodgers-Cromartie’s price tag needs to be taken into consideration. His cousin, Antonio, received a four-year, $32-million deal in 2011 from the Jets. He was right around Dominique’s current age (26) at the time. The Giants’ Antrel Rolle inked a five-year, $37 million deal in 2010. Perhaps the former Pro Bowler could end up in that ballpark.

The Eagles are projected to be well over the cap for next season, though they have a sizeable amount of cap money that they can carry over from the current campaign.

The safest bet is that rookie Brandon Boykin will be part of the cornerback equation next year. From there, it’s much cloudier. Will both Asomugha and DRC be back? If it’s just one or the other, who will it be?

With all contract talks expected to be on hold until the offseason, the answers won’t come for weeks.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: DRC On Asante

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel are cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways. Both Florida boys. Both cornerbacks, obviously. Both funny, eccentric. Both playmakers.

In another set of circumstances, it would be no surprise if the two ended up being good friends. But the situation last year had the two prideful vets pitted against one another to a degree.

“Of course it’s going to start off awkward. Everybody wanted to be on the field,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “But as time went on we started to open up to each other and talk a little bit.

“I’ll shoot him a text every now and then, saying ‘Man, I see you out there.’ But that’s about it.”

Samuel’s departure is directly connected to DRC’s arrival from Arizona via trade. Last season, Rodgers-Cromartie — with Samuel as the established left corner and Nnamdi Asomugha brought in to play on the right side — was forced to play out-of-position in the slot. The results were not pretty. Rodgers-Cromartie never adapted to life on the inside, Samuel spent the whole season feeling slighted and the defense disappointed overall. In the offseason, Samuel was dealt to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick.

Now he returns to Philadelphia wearing the red and black of the 6-0 Falcons. Rodgers-Cromartie mans his old position. Does that get the competitive juices flowing all the more?

“Not with me,” said Rodgers-Cromartie, who has three interceptions to Samuel’s one this season. “It might be on his end, but I don’t think like that. I’m just trying to go out and play ball, man.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, Michael Vick is showing marked improvement against the blitz. Sheil uses the All-22 tape to illustrate.

Could Jason Peters return during the regular season? Andy Reid says there is a chance. 

Two days after saying he wasn’t talking, Danny Watkins talked.

Defensive ends Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are trying to stay patient.

The linebackers talk about their new defensive coordinator.

 Fletcher Cox was fined for throwing a punch against the Lions. And Brian Rolle gets a workout.

If you missed our show this week, here’s a link to the podcast.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Andy Reid comes in at No. 3 this week on Mike Florio’s coaching hot seat list.

“This feels like  a game Andy Reid finds a way to win because he can’t afford to lose. He can’t afford to go to 3-4. He can’t afford another embarrassment, or he won’t be back for a 15th season.”

The top-5:

5)  Romeo Crennel
4) Mike Mularkey
3) Andy Reid
2) Pat Shurmur
1) Ron Rivera

Graham is the latest to speak about the defense’s predictability late in games under Juan Castillo. From CSN Philly:

“That’s what he talked about, not being predictable in the fourth quarter, because by the fourth quarter everybody knows what we’re going to do, and that’s how we get beat,” Graham said.

“I think Coach Bowles, it’s going to be fun to see what he’s going to be doing, because I think everything we run in practice we’re going to actually really run in the game.”

Sports Illustrated recently asked 180 NFL players to identify the most overrated player in the league. Tim Tebow (34 percent) was the overwhelming winner, followed by teammate Mark Sanchez (8 percent) and Tony Romo (8 percent). Michael Vick placed fourth, receiving four percent of the votes. Ray Lewis (3 percent) rounds out the top 5.

COMING UP

Practice today at 1:50. Todd Bowles will address the media today.