Wake-Up Call: Offseason Outlook At Safety
This is the final installment of the offseason outlook series. We have covered the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, inside linebackers, outside linebackers and cornerbacks. Now it’s on to the safeties.
State of the roster
The Eagles have half of the starting equation figured out, which puts them ahead of where they were this time last year. The challenge now is to find a quality option outside Malcolm Jenkins.
Nate Allen, who started 31 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons, is a free agent. Earl Wolff showed some promise early on but has been hampered by a knee injury. He underwent microfracture surgery in November and hopes to be back to full speed come May.
Special-teamers Chris Maragos and Chris Prosinski, 2014 fifth-round pick Ed Reynolds and recent pick-up Jerome Couplin round out the current group of safeties on the roster.
What I think will happen
If the Eagles strike out in free agency, I suppose there’s a chance they entertain bringing Allen back. But it feels like the relationship has run its course.
Health will help determine Wolff’s fate. That said, he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Chip Kelly in their two years together, it seems, and likely faces an uphill battle.
Reynolds was released on cut-down day last August before being signed to the practice squad. He has plenty of work ahead of him. Couplin, who was plucked off the Lions’ practice squad, is an unknown. Maragos and Prosinski are on the roster because of their special teams prowess.
Help, it seems, is going to come from the outside unless a surprise candidate emerges. Jaylen Watkins is at least worth keeping tabs on. When the Eagles took him in the fourth round of last year’s draft, he was billed as a player that could potentially man one of the safety spots. In terms of body type he looked much more like a slot corner than a safety this past season, however, and would have to undergo a pretty significant offseason transformation to get into character.
The free agent list
Here are the top-10 safety options, per Rotoworld:
The consensus seems to be that McCourty will stick in New England. That leaves Moore atop a rather uninspiring crop of free-agent safeties. Moore (6-1, 195), who had to overcome something called “compartment syndrome” in his leg, had four interceptions and five passes defensed this past season for Denver.
Rolle, 32, had three picks, 87 tackles and nine passes defensed for the Giants this season.
Pete Prisco recently listed Kansas City safety Ron Parker as one of his under-the-radar free agents.
It’s not easy to upgrade the safety position, as we’ve learned. The Eagles will either need to take a big swing or get creative in order to make the most of a limited market.
They could always attack the position via the draft as well. Alabama’s Landon Collins heads the class.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Is Kirk Cousins on the move? That and more in the latest NFC East roundup.
“Count me as a believer in his ability to be a long-term starter at safety.” Some weekend reading.
“Hell yeah we could play together.” Getting to know Mychal’s brother, Eric Kendricks.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Geoff Mosher offers some thoughts on a possible Kendricks pairing.
The idea of Kendricks alliance featuring Mychal and his younger brother, Eric, is tantalizing for the Kendricks family and for Eagles fans. Eric, the former UCLA standout, won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top college linebacker.
If the Eagles believe he has first- or second-round value, I wouldn’t have any reservations about using a high draft pick on him, even if it means bypassing corner or safety in that round. If there’s someone else they like who can start right away, same deal. Take him.
It’s harder to find young, dynamic 3-4 inside linebackers in the draft than it is to find starting-caliber offensive linemen, so I wouldn’t blame the Eagles one bit if they came away with a future starting inside linebacker early in the draft.
Nick Fierro of The Morning Call lists a handful of linebackers the Eagles could have an eye on at the combine this week.
• Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida. Probably the best at his position who will be in the draft. He’s 6-3, 250, with a long wingspan and the versatility to also rush the passer from a three-point stance. Eagles would have to trade up in first round to get him and should consider it, because as of now that spot stands to be a huge hole on a defense that couldn’t defend the pass in 2014 despite generating excellent pressure on the quarterback.
• Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska. Played as a 4-3 end with Huskers but has all the tools to help a 3-4 team as an OLB. Excellent size (6-6, 240), speed and lateral quickness and can move inside to rush the QB on passing downs. Another high first-round projection the Eagles should truly consider moving up to get.
We’ll help get you prepped for this week’s Scouting Combine. Teams can apply the franchise tag beginning today.