Eagles Wake-Up Call: Free Agency Primer
With the legal tampering period — the negotiating time for prospective unrestricted free agents — set to start at noon today, the Eagles aren’t exactly in position to make a big splash in free agency.
Howie Roseman even joked about it with reporters on Thursday when he was asked if he feels good about the team’s cap space.
“Have any of you guys seen what the rest of the league has?” Roseman replied. “You always want more, but we’ll deal with what the reality is that we have and we’ll make the best of it and we’ll do whatever we can to try and help improve the team throughout the rest of the offseason.”
Free agency begins on Wednesday at 4 p.m., and the Eagles rank 22nd in the NFL in 2016 cap space at about $17.5 million, per Spotrac. The Jaguars have the most cap space by a wide margin, while the Giants rank 3rd, the Cowboys are at 29th and Washington is last.
With the available room Philadelphia has, it seems to be a safe bet they’ll use at least some of it on the offensive line.
“The o-line is a priority, period. It’s a priority today, it’s a priority tomorrow, it’s a priority next week, it’s a priority in April,” Roseman said. “Every day, we’re looking for offensive linemen. So if you have any suggestions, I’ll give you my email.”
Wide receiver and safety are other areas of need the Eagles will have to address at some point. The problem? This free agent class of offensive linemen and receivers is considered weak. Still, the Eagles need two new starting guards and the most experienced receivers on the roster have spent just two seasons in the NFL.
Rotoworld's Top Unrestricted Free Agents
|1||G Kelechi Osemele (Ravens, 26)||Travis Benjamin (Browns, 26)||George Iloka (Bengals, 25)|
|2||OT Russell Okung (Seahawks, 28)||Marvin Jones (Bengals, 25)||Eric Weddle (Chargers, 31)|
|3||C Alex Mack (Browns, 30)||Anquan Boldin (49ers, 35)||Reggie Nelson (Bengals, 32)|
|4||G Brandon Brooks (Texans, 26)||Rishard Matthews (Dolphins, 26)||Tashaun Gipson (Browns, 25)|
|5||G Alex Boone (49ers, 28)||Mohamed Sanu (Bengals, 26)||Walter Thurmond (Eagles, 28)|
Former Saints guard Jahri Evans, a Philadelphia native, has been linked to the Eagles as someone who could start immediately, but he’s 32. Another player the Eagles have been connected to, Kansas City’s Jeff Allen, makes the most sense among available guards.
Allen has the obvious Doug Pederson connection, but he’s also just 26 and is capable of starting at either guard spot, in addition to right tackle. Pederson only brought two assistant coaches with him from Kansas City to Philadelphia, but one is Assistant Offensive Line/Tight Ends/Run Game Coach Eugene Chung, who worked with the Chiefs’ offensive line for the last three seasons, so that may help Allen.
A couple of potential bargains on the offensive line — Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele, for example, is unlikely to sign with the Eagles because of how much money he’ll get — are tackles Kelvin Beachum (Steelers, 26) and Mitchell Schwartz (Browns, 26). Beachum is somewhat of a risk because he’s coming off of a torn ACL, but he could be a steal if he returns to form.
Schwartz, on the other hand, has made 64 straight starts since entering the NFL in 2012. Both NFL.com and The MMQB labeled him as a likely bargain in free agency, and he only allowed 11 knockdowns last season, per Pro Football Focus.
At receiver, a pair of Bengals – Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu – are projected to be overpaid, but Rishard Matthews (Dolphins, 26) seems like a good fit. If there’s one position the Eagles may target an older player, it’d probably be receiver, but Matthews’ 10.85 yards-per-target average is the highest in this year’s free agent wide receiver crop, according to Rotoworld.
At safety, San Diego’s Eric Weddle appears to be another guy primed to be overpaid, but Tyvon Branch (Chiefs, 29) is someone who could be a steal if his health holds up and he’s given the chance to be a starter. Dino Vasso, the Eagles Defensive Quality Control/Assistant Secondary Coach, is the other assistant who left Kansas City for Philadelphia, and he worked with Branch last season for the Chiefs.
Regardless of the position you’re looking at, don’t expect the Eagles to spend too much money. Their next huge contract will most likely be given to someone who isn’t even a free agent: Fletcher Cox.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Jerry Jones on Greg Hardy’s future, Robert Griffin III’s likely landing spots and more in our NFC East roundup.
“[Walter] Thurmond played well for the Eagles last season, but it doesn’t appear he will be around for 2016.” Weekend reading.
Several quarterbacks the Eagles could draft after the first round next month.
The Eagles tendered a one-year deal to Matt Tobin, and David Molk retired.
Video: Tim and I discussed the Sam Bradford deal and whether the Eagles will draft a quarterback.
Tim reported some interesting details on how Doug Pederson established a relationship with Bradford without ever meeting him face-to-face.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Howie Roseman says DeMarco Murray wants to be in Philadelphia, writes CSN Philly’s Dave Zangaro.
“My last conversation with him was just that,” Roseman said on NBC Sports Radio’s PFT Live on Friday, via ProFootballTalk. “That he wants to be here and this is the place he wants to have a tremendous amount of success like he had in Dallas. I think sometimes we forget a year ago at this time he’s coming off the NFL offensive player of the year. I mean that’s a tremendous honor, tremendous accomplishment to be able to do that and we’re not talking about five, six years ago. We’re talking about one year ago.”
The issue of Murray’s happiness is now a story because of an NFL Network report that said Murray was unhappy in Philadelphia and the Eagles would listen to trade proposals.
The Eagles can be ready to listen to trade proposals, but trading Murray would likely prove to be very, very difficult. The Eagles would save cap room if they traded the former Pro Bowler, but it will be hard to find a trade partner because of Murray’s salary. He has a fully guaranteed base salary of $7 million and a cap hit of $8 million in 2016.
The Eagles have needs to fill in free agency, but not a lot of cap room, says Les Bowen of the Daily News.
The history of free agency across the league suggests that the best value is in the middle of the market, the less-flashy names that maybe haven’t reached their full potential. Like Connor Barwin, whom the Eagles originally signed to a 2013 deal that guaranteed only $8 million over two years, though that contract subsequently was reworked, as Barwin became a key cog.
Generally, the objective in free agency is to address huge problems, so that you don’t go into the draft handcuffed to any particular need. For the Eagles this year, those “glaring problem” positions figure to be offensive line, safety and wide receiver. Expect some sort of signing, at some level, in each area. Roseman indicated last week that fixing the offensive line will be a long-term focus, through free agency, the draft, and whatever else might present itself. (Black magic? Roseman didn’t seem inclined to leave any stones unturned.)
The legal tampering period — the negotiating time for prospective unrestricted free agents — begins at noon.