Cheat Sheet: 25 Free Agents the Eagles Could Pursue
On Tuesday at 4 p.m., the NFL offseason will kick into high gear with the start of free agency.
Teams around the league will make moves based on the following factors: need, age, injury history and value. The Eagles are currently $34.2 million under the cap, and after last year’s 4-12 season, there are plenty of holes to fill.
Look for Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and company to aggressively target young options – specifically in the secondary.
Keeping that in mind, here is a whittled down cheat sheet with 25 players who could be on the Eagles’ radar. Obviously, the Eagles are not going to sign all 25 guys, but this should serve as a good starting point in the days ahead.
These are in no particular order and are broken up by position with height, weight and age in parentheses.
Sean Smith, Dolphins (6-3/218/25) -One point that Roseman has hammered home in the past couple months is that Kelly has specific requirements (height, weight, speed) he’s looking for at each position. Roseman didn’t want to offer up exactly what those requirements are, but considering Smith’s size, athleticism and skill set, it’s no surprise that he’s already been linked to the Eagles. The potential issue is there could be a big market for Smith, and while he’s an attractive option, he has been inconsistent. If the Eagles believe Smith can be a perennial Pro Bowler with the right coaching, they could be willing to spend big money to land him.
Derek Cox, Jaguars (6-1/195/26) – Like Smith, Cox has size, is young and possesses an attractive skill set. The issue with him has been injuries. Cox has missed 17 games the last three seasons and fought hamstring and back issues in 2012. But if the bidding for Smith gets out of hand, the Eagles could look in Cox’s direction.
Keenan Lewis, Steelers (6-0/208/26) – According to Peter King of SI.com, Lewis is drawing quite a bit of interest as an under-the-radar option. He’s only been a full-time starter for one season, but Lewis has good size and led the NFL with 16 passes defensed last year, per Pro Football Focus.
Greg Toler, Cardinals (6-0/192/28) – Here’s more of an under-the-radar option. Toler was a fourth-round pick by Arizona in 2009. And he spent his first two seasons playing for new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Remember, the Birds could very well be looking at a complete overhaul of their secondary. In other words, don’t be surprised if they add multiple corners in free agency.
Antoine Cason, Chargers (6-1/195/26) – The former first-round pick did not live up to his potential in San Diego, but he could present a nice value option. Cason is young, has size and has never missed a game because of injury.
Bradley Fletcher, Rams (6-0/200/26) – As you can see, there are quite a few cornerback options between 25 and 28. Fletcher has only started eight games the past two seasons, but like many of the others on this list, he’s young and has good size.
Dashon Goldson, 49ers (6-2/200/28) – Roseman has talked quite a bit this offseason about the Eagles’ difficulties in identifying talent at safety. For that reason, I fully expect them to add a known commodity in free agency. And Goldson will likely be at the top of their list. He’s made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and has only missed two games since 2009. Safety is a need position around the league, but the Eagles will know Goldson’s strengths and weaknesses as well as anybody, now that Tom Gamble is in the fold. The bidding could get serious, given the market, but look for the Eagles to be involved.
Glover Quin, Texans (6-0/207/27) – According to reports, Houston is very interested in bringing Quin back, but a deal hasn’t gotten done yet. He’s a converted corner with a versatile skill set. If the Eagles pass on Goldson, they could very well turn their attention to Quin.
Louis Delmas, Lions (5-11/202/25) – The question is not production, but health, with Delmas. He’s still young, but the former second-round pick has missed 13 of 32 games the last two seasons. If the market is cool, the Eagles could take a calculated risk on his upside.
LaRon Landry, Jets (6-0/220/28) – We know the Eagles have had interest in him in the past. Landry got a “prove-it” deal from the Jets last year, played all 16 games and made the Pro Bowl. But that means he’ll likely want to cash in this offseason.
Connor Barwin, Texans (6-4/268/26) – With the Eagles expected to move towards a 3-4 or 4-3 under, Barwin could be a fit. He was an every-down player for the Texans last season, staying on the field for over 94 percent of their defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The former second-round pick (2009) saw his sacks drop from 11.5 in 2011 to just three last year. But he added 14 QB hits and 26 hurries, per PFF. Barwin has shown the ability to drop back into coverage too.
Victor Butler, Cowboys (6-2/245/25) – If the market heats up for guys like Barwin and Baltimore’s Paul Kruger, Butler could be a nice value play. He was stuck behind Anthony Spencer in Dallas, only playing 28.2 percent of the defensive snaps, but could be a nice option at SAM if the Eagles go to a 4-3 under.
Note: You’ll notice that I left Kruger out. The guess here is that the bidding for him will stretch beyond what the Eagles perceive his value to be.
Ricky Jean-Francois, 49ers (6-3/295/26) – According to the Sacramento Bee, the Eagles have already expressed interest in Jean-Francois. The versatile defensive lineman only played 25.6 percent of San Francisco’s snaps last year, according to PFF, but he could line up in a variety of places – most notably at defensive end in a 3-4. Once again, the Eagles have the Tom Gamble connection with Jean-Francois.
Jason Jones, Seahawks (6-5/276/26) – You’ll notice that length and versatility are themes with this group. Jones has both qualities, and he’s young. The Eagles have parted ways with Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Darryl Tapp (assuming he’s not re-signed) from last year’s rotation. And remember, there’s a chance they could be looking to build a defense that resembles (schematically) the one Jones played in last year with the Seahawks.
Desmond Bryant, Raiders (6-6/311/27) – Again, length and versatility. Bryant played defensive tackle in Oakland’s 4-3 last season, but he could be a nice option to play the 5-technique (between the tackle and tight end) in a 3-4.
Alan Branch, Seahawks (6-6/325/28) – The former second-round pick (2007) didn’t do much with the Cardinals in his first four seasons, but he had success in Seattle in 2011 and 2012. You won’t find 6-6 nose tackles around the league, but Branch could be in the mix as an interior lineman. It’s worth noting that he too played under Davis in 2009 and 2010.
Terrance Knighton, Jaguars (6-3/330/26) – The man they call “Pot Roast” has the size to play nose tackle and is young. The problem? The production and consistency haven’t always been there for the Temple product. If the Eagles think they can uncover the potential from the former third-round pick, he could return to Philadelphia.
Isaac Sopoaga, 49ers (6-2/330/31) – He’s on the wrong side of 30, but if the Eagles are looking for a short-term fix at nose tackle, Sopoaga could fit the bill. Once again, there is the built-in Tom Gamble connection. Sopoaga only played 32.2 percent of the 49ers’ snaps last year and would be strictly a first- and second-down player.
Roy Miller, Bucs (6-2/310/25) -He would be a younger option at nose tackle. Like Sopoaga, Miller would be a two-down player and doesn’t bring much as a pass-rusher. But for the right price, signing Miller could make sense for the Eagles.
Eric Winston, Chiefs (6-7/302/29) – Les Bowen of the Daily News reported that the Eagles have shown interest in the right tackle. He could step in and take over for Todd Herremans, who could then move back in to guard. A lot depends on how effective Herremans, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters are coming off of injuries, but on paper, that could be an elite run-blocking unit.
Jake Long, Dolphins (6-7/319/27) -He’s probably a longshot, but I’m not ready to rule Long out completely. The two big factors to consider are Long’s medical history and the market. He’s only 27, but has missed six games the past two seasons. If the market isn’t what Long might expect it to be, perhaps the Eagles could get involved, plug him in at right tackle and move Herremans inside. Long is a four-time Pro Bowler.
Louis Vasquez, Chargers (6-5/335/25) – As of yesterday, the Chargers had yet to make Vasquez an offer, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. To be honest, I’m not sure how Vasquez would fit schematically, but on paper, the right guard could give the Eagles a nice, young piece on the interior of their offensive line. I didn’t include Buffalo’s Andy Levitre on this list because I figured he will command a large paycheck. That might end up being the case for Vasquez too though.
Jared Cook, Titans (6-5/248/25) – He fits all the measurables: young, fast and athletic. I made the case for Cook this morning. Don’t think of him as Brent Celek’s replacement, but rather a slot receiver (with 4.50 speed). There’s no doubt in my mind that the Eagles will show interest, but according to Adam Caplan, between eight and 10 teams could be in the mix for Cook’s services.
James Casey, Texans (6-3/240/28) – If the Eagles are looking for versatility on offense, Casey could be a nice option. He can serve as a lead blocker in the run game and a pass-catcher as well. Casey had 34 receptions for 330 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Dustin Keller, Jets (6-2/250/28) – If Kelly is seeking a tight end who can make plays downfield, and the Eagles can’t snag Cook, Keller might be the next best option. He played in only eight games last season, but had 65 catches for 815 yards in 2011. That included 12 grabs of 20+ yards.
Players who missed the cut: Giants safety Kenny Phillips, Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers, Lions cornerback Chris Houston, Jets defensive lineman Mike DeVito, Lions defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, Colts nose tackle Antonio Johnson, Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey.
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