Eagles Wake-Up Call: Hole Remains At Safety
Today’s question comes from reader Eric via email:
So, who is going to play safety alongside Malcolm Jenkins this year?
Ah, the annual tradition of trying to figure out the Eagles’ safety situation lives on.
Chip Kelly attempted to put that conversation to rest by making a big push for Devin McCourty at the start of free agency, but McCourty opted to stay in New England. Other safety options have since been gobbled up. Rahim Moore signed with Houston; Antrel Rolle went to Chicago; Marcus Gilchrist ended up with the Jets; and Ron Parker re-upped in Kansas City.
The top two free agent safeties currently on the market, per Rotoworld, are Louis Delmas and Stevie Brown, both of whom come with some injury concerns. No player remaining screams automatic upgrade. It wasn’t the most robust crop to begin with, and it’s gotten considerably thinner since the league year began. So, too, has the Eagles’ stack of cash. They have about $7 million of cap space left and need to set some of that aside for their 2015 draft picks. Given that they have other needs as well, they are not exactly in a position to go heavy even if they did identify a safety worth a hearty investment.
Speaking of the draft, it’s possible that the Eagles look for an answer there. The problem is that this isn’t a strong safety class by most accounts. Alabama’s Landon Collins is widely considered the top prospect at his position, and is projected to go right around where the Eagles are picking in the first round in many mock drafts. Collins, who idolized the play of the late Sean Taylor, is known as an aggressive, heavy-hitting playmaker. The Eagles have to decide whether he’s a match for their scheme.
“I don’t think he’s someone a defense is going to want to match up in man coverage on a down-by-down basis,” said NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah. “He doesn’t have elite cover skills, but he provides a physical presence and takes great angles to the ball. He’s more comfortable playing downhill and is like an extra linebacker on the field for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.”
As far as in-house options, the Eagles currently have Earl Wolff, Ed Reynolds, Chris Prosinski, Chris Maragos and Jerome Couplin on the roster along with Jenkins. Wolff is coming off “mini-microfracture surgery” and at last check was hoping to be back to full speed by April or May. Reynolds, a fifth-round pick out of Stanford, was released during final cutdowns last summer before being signed to the practice squad. The Eagles signed Couplin (6-1, 215) off the Lions’ practice squad in December. He’s a player that might be worth tracking this spring and summer.
Jaylen Watkins trained primarily at cornerback as a rookie, but he played some safety at Florida. The Eagles seemed to think he could play either position on this level when they drafted him.
Perhaps Kelly has another move up his sleeve that will net him a clear-cut starter to play opposite Jenkins. Maybe a Dashon Goldson will shake loose and catch the coach’s eye. What seems more realistic at this point is that they will add a reasonably priced veteran or two between now and camp to compete with the in-house candidates, which may or may not include a rookie draft choice. For now, that pesky question mark lingers over one of the safety spots.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles rewarded Connor Barwin with a pay bump.
We’re tracking all the prospects that the Eagles bring in for a visit. Be sure to bookmark this page.
Bradley Fletcher the latest ex-Eagle to latch on with another team.
Sheil and I go back and forth on the Nick Foles trade, the Jeremy Maclin decision and the Brandon Graham signing.
What’s the plan at wide receiver? Kapadia gives his thoughts.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Adam Caplan provides details of the Barwin restructuring:
In Barwin’s renegotiated deal: $750 K added to yrs 16-18 and fully guaranteed $9.4 m total ($6.4 m base in 2015 and $3 m of base in 2016).
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 19, 2015
Chip Kelly was in East Lansing Wednesday to take in Michigan State’s pro day. From MLive.com:
Many teams were on hand to get a look at projected first-round NFL draft pick Trae Waynes, who answered some questions about his quickness by dropping his shuttle time from 4.39 seconds at the combine to 4.22 seconds on Tuesday.
Waynes’ speed is not in question after he ran a 4.31-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine on Feb. 23, triggering the defensive backs coaches from Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego and the New York Jets to make the trip to East Lansing on Tuesday.
Let’s see what Kelly has in store for us today.