Eagles Wake-Up Call: On the OLB Market
The deadline for teams to designate franchise or transition players is a week from today (March 2). By that time, the expectation is that the Chiefs will either lock up or place the franchise tag on Justin Houston, preventing the top pass rusher in this free-agent class from getting loose.
The three next-best edge rushers, per Rotoworld — Jerry Hughes (Buffalo), Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) and Greg Hardy (Carolina) — will be coming out of 4-3 defenses if they come out at all. It’s not until you get to the middle of the list and Washington’s Brian Orakpo when you will find an active 3-4 linebacker that might actually be available. Here are players 5-10, all of whom most recently played in a 3-4:
5. Brian Orakpo (Washington)
Height/weight: 6-4, 257
2014 stats (7 games): 24 tackles, .5 sacks
6. Pernell McPhee (Baltimore)
Height/weight: 6-3, 280
2014 stats: 7.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed
7. Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland)
Height/weight: 6-3, 264
2014 stats: 44 tackles, 2 sacks
8. Jason Worilds (Pittsburgh)
Height/weight: 6-2, 262
2014 stats: 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, INT
9. Brandon Graham
Height/weight: 6-2, 265
2014 stats: 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
10. Derrick Morgan (Tennessee)
Height/weight: 6-3, 261
2014 stats: 6.5 sacks, 7 passes defensed
Quality pass rushers are always at a premium, and those that do make it to free agency will be paid well.
That includes Jason Worilds. Word out of Indianapolis was that upwards of 20 teams have expressed some level of interest in the five-year pro. There will be far fewer serious contenders when it comes time to put pen to paper, of course, but it’s telling nonetheless. Assuming the Steelers don’t place the transition tag on him again (a move that would cost Pittsburgh more than $11 million), Worilds will have his share of suitors and should get himself a nice deal.
The Eagles will likely be monitoring Worilds’ situation closely. Meanwhile, the lines of communication between the team and Brandon Graham remain open, we’re told. Back in December, the Eagles expressed interest in bringing Graham back on a four-year, $24 million deal ($6 million average). Graham’s camp is looking for something in the $7-8 million per year range. They are in the process of gauging the market. One source put the chances of Graham re-signing in Philly at 50-50, though others close to the pass-rusher offered significantly longer odds, believing a 4-3 team would ultimately win out.
Graham’s numbers are comparable to his free-agent peers despite playing just 43 percent of the snaps this past season. Given his high production rate, special teams contributions and familiarity with the program, it’s understandable why Chip Kelly might want him back. But how badly?
Whether it’s Graham, Worilds or anyone else in the top 10, there’s bound to be competition. And competition inflates the dollar amount.
One of the reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to give Graham his asking price originally had to do with Connor Barwin. The team’s starting “Jack” linebacker is averaging $6 million per season. How could they justify giving Graham — a part-time player to date — significantly more than that? As they’ve learned before, salary discrepancies can create issues in the locker room.
Do they take their chances? Or should they roll with Barwin, Trent Cole (at a reduced price), Marcus Smith and a lower-level free agent? No clear-cut answers, and just a couple weeks to figure it all out.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The latest on the Giants and Jason Pierre-Paul and more in this week’s NFC East roundup.
Marcus Mariota shows off his speed as Chip Kelly looks on.
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah shows that he’s a student of the NFL game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Domo on corner Marcus Peters, who may drop to the Eagles at 20 because of character concerns. He was dismissed from the University of Washington’s football team last November.
Peters referred to it as a “miscommunication’’ earlier today when he met with reporters at the scouting combine. Said he “didn’t take the coaching transition too well’’ when Petersen replaced Steve Sarkisian, who left to take the Southern Cal job. Sarkisian had recruited Peters.
While Peters’ dismissal doesn’t raise the kind of red flags that other more serious issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault and drugs might, it still makes NFL teams wonder whether the kid is a hothead and whether he is coachable.
“I made some immature decisions and I have to live with them and learn from them and go (forward) as a man,’’ Peters said.
“There are going to be some things that aren’t going to go right. I went through one of the worst things that’s going to happen to me in life. I got kicked off my team. I wasn’t able to finish my college career with my teammates. I own up to that, man up to that, and am moving forward.’’
Doug Farrar of SI.com listed Oregon tackle Jake Fisher among the “risers” after his performance in Indy .
Fisher’s 4.33-second 20-yard short shuttle was the third-fastest by any offensive lineman since 2006, per Rotoworld, and Fisher wasn’t just a workout wonder. He was outstanding in the drills, and though he expressed a bit of dismay at his overall drill times (not sure why, when he ran a 5.01 40 at 6’6″ and 306 pounds), Fisher proved in this particular arena that he has the tools to become a top-level tackle over time. A right tackle for the Ducks in his first two seasons, Fisher was moved to the left side after an injury to Tyler Johnstone, and Fisher made the most of the switch despite the fact that he was playing in pain from a knee injury of his own. Fisher might not be a starter on the left side from Day 1, depending on his NFL system, but he showed here that he can help any team right away.
More from a busy week at the Combine.