Weekend Reading: Free Agent Fits For Eagles

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

With the legal tampering period set to open Monday, here are some free-agent related Eagles links to pass along for your reading pleasure:

ESPN’s Phil Sheridan lists a few possible targets for the Eagles, including Cincinnati receiver Marvin Jones.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones may wind up out of the Eagles’ price range, but they should kick the tires on him. The 25-year-old Jones probably is the most attractive free agent wide receiver on the market, now that Chicago has tagged Alshon Jeffery.

Jones caught 69 passes for 848 yards for the Cincinnati Bengals last season. The Eagles would be paying him based on his ability and a projection of how he would fit in Doug Pederson’s offense.

They also would be paying him based on the mediocre production they got from their wide receivers in 2015. Jordan Matthews was fine, but the since-released Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff did not give Bradford much to work with.

Perhaps the recently drafted players will blossom into stars. Until they do, Bradford will need someone reliable to throw to. Jones is the best of a lackluster market.

Safety George Iloka would be an excellent partner for Pro Bowler Malcolm Jenkins. The Cincinnati Bengals safety is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He can play strong safety if Jim Schwartz prefers to deploy his safeties that way.

Iloka is good in coverage and against the run. He also is just about to turn 26, so he will just be entering his peak seasons.

Jenkins has endorsed the return of Walter Thurmond, but Thurmond also could be back as a nickel cornerback. That would strengthen two spots on the Eagles’ defense.

Reuben Frank offers his take on veteran Bengals safety Reggie Nelson, who is 32 but coming off a career year.

Scouting report 

Nelson has always been a solid player but in his ninth NFL season had his best year, picking off an NFL-high eight passes and making his first Pro Bowl. Nelson has 30 interceptions since coming into the league in 2007, third-most of any safety during that span. Nelson, a former first-round pick out of Florida, spent the last six years with the Bengals after three years with the Jaguars.

My take

Nelson did have a ton of interceptions this year, but he’ll be 33 years old when the season begins, and those who watched him on a daily basis last year said he’s actually lost a little range. The Bengals have made it more of a priority to sign their other free-agent safety, George Iloka. So Nelson should be available, but I’m not sure how much sense it makes to spend the approximately $5 million per year it would cost to sign Nelson when — despite big numbers this past season — he’s at the age where defensive backs often begin regressing.

Jimmy Kempski has compiled a list of free agents that could interest the Eagles, including Baltimore guard Kelechi Osemele.

Osemele, at a minimum, is already a very good starting LG in the NFL, and perhaps the best available guard in free agency this offseason. Obviously, that matches up nicely with the Eagles’ desperate need for starters at guard. He is particularly good in the run game, and Doug Pederson’s Chiefs were the sixth-most run-heavy team in the league a season ago…

Speaking at the Senior Bowl in January, Pederson noted what he’ll be looking for in his offensive linemen.

“You love offensive linemen that are versatile,” explained Pederson. “You love to have tackles that can play left or right. You love to have guards that can also play center. The more you can have that flexibility with your guys up front, the more combinations and rotations you can have because not everyone is going to stay healthy for 16 games and you have to mix and match that. Guys that are athletic who can get out on the perimeter and run, aggressive up front, have a little, as they say, ‘piss and vinegar’ in their neck are guys that you look for.”

Osemele checks the versatility and ‘piss and vinegar’ boxes, and he’ll be 27 in June.Unfortunately, Osemele is going to get paid, especially since teams are beginning to recognize the need for better guard play.

Mark Eckel of NJ.com thinks the Eagles are going linebacker.

The free agent they are most likely to sign is: Tahir Whitehead, LB, Detroit.

It just makes too much sense. He can play inside or outside. He knows coordinator Jim Schwartz’ defense. He went to Temple. He could be an Eagle by Wednesday night.

The free agent they are most likely to lose is: Walter Thurmond, CB/S

Thurmond played well for the Eagles last season, but it doesn’t appear he will be around for 2016. He could join Chip Kelly with the 49ers, or his old defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, from Seattle, with the Atlanta Falcons.