Tuesday Open Thread: Free Agency Begins

USATSI_7624012_168380503_lowres
Free agency officially opens at 4 p.m. today. We’ll keep you up to date with the latest buzz (and there is a lot of it) as we wait for the starting gun.

8:56: According to Jason La Canfora, TJ Ward is drawing “strong interest” from the Eagles and Lions. Ward is largely considered one of the top safety free agents in this class and will likely be paid quite handsomely. Howie Roseman said that if you are going to hand over big money to a player in free agency, “that person has to be a special person on and off the field.” We’ll see if Ward qualifies.

Around noon Monday, we were told that the Eagles weren’t in on the Ward sweepstakes. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: On the Safety Front

USATSI_5008890_168380503_lowres
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? Read more »

Six Safeties the Eagles Could Target

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

It’s time to ramp up the free agency coverage. In the coming days, we’ll take a look at some key positions of need, starting with (what else?) safety.

Below are six players who could be options, starting with the highest-profile and ending with the sleepers. Read more »

Free Agent Update: Options Open For Byrd, Ward

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

As recently as a couple days ago, it appeared the top two potential free-agent safeties would never get a chance to test the market.

But things have changed.

The Bills and Browns opted not to tag safeties Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, respectively. Both players can continue to work on negotiating long-term deals with their teams. But neither will be hand-cuffed. In other words, if they want to test the market, they will be allowed to do so. Read more »

Three Free Agents That Fit

USATSI_7631382_168380503_lowres
We asked NFL analyst Brian Baldinger to identify three free agents that are a match for the Eagles in terms of both need and scheme fit. Here are the three players he would go after (assuming they hit the market):

OLB Brian Orakpo

Baldinger: I think he’s just a solid outside linebacker. I believe he’d be a great fit opposite Connor Barwin. He plays the run well, he’s strong at the point. I know in 2012 he got hurt but for the most part he’s been very durable. And when he’s durable he’s giving you 10 sacks or more a year and I think that’s what you’re looking at. I think Connor and Orakpo, if they lined up and played 80 percent of the snaps next year, I think you would get 20 sacks out of those guys. Read more »

All-22 Free Agent Profile: T.J. Ward

ward1c_all22_940

T.J. Ward is exactly the kind of player the Browns should be looking to keep in Cleveland.

With the franchise having once again undergone major changes at the top, Ward is a homegrown talent (drafted in the second round of 2010) who has started 30 of 32 games the last two seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2013.

The Browns have the franchise tag in their back pocket, but with new decision-makers leading the charge, the possibility exists that Ward hits the open market.

Considering the team in Philadelphia is in dire need of safety help, we went to the All-22 to get a better idea of what Ward brings to the table. Read more »

Twitter Mailbag: Safety Needs

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @pmeredith77: Why are people saying the Eagles won’t pursue Jairus Byrd or TJ Ward when mid-level safeties haven’t gotten it done in the past?

Many view the message coming out of the NovaCare as a smokescreen, but I really believe the Eagles have changed their thinking when it comes to free agency. They’re wary of sinking a large chunk of their available cash into a single player. On multiple occasions, Howie Roseman has likened free agency to an arranged marriage: you don’t know whether team and player are truly compatible until after pen has gone to paper.

The fact that Chip Kelly‘s time at Oregon overlapped with both Byrd and Ward’s takes some of the guesswork out of it. He has spent time around the players, and has a basic understanding of how they would fit into the Eagles’ defense and culture. That alleviates some of the concern. Read more »