Wake-Up Call: The Eagles’ New Needs
It was an unimaginable reunion just 10 weeks ago. But with Chip Kelly fired, Byron Maxwell reportedly traded away and Nolan Carroll potentially leaving in free agency, Brandon Boykin may return to Philadelphia in the next few days.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Zach Berman named Boykin as someone to “pay attention to” when free agency starts at 4 p.m. today, before the cornerback told Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Goldich that he’d be open to rejoining the Eagles.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to going back to Philadelphia,” Boykin said yesterday. “That’s where I was drafted. We’ll see what happens as far as the communication with them. Seeing as they got rid of their corner, Byron Maxwell, who I got to know a good amount before I got traded. I don’t know what their M.O. is or what they’re trying to do, but it wouldn’t be something I would rule out for sure.”
Although Boykin had a messy exit from Philadelphia, it’s clear his issue is with Kelly, and not the franchise. When asked if he’d be open to signing with the 49ers, Boykin chuckled, before saying: “I’m absolutely not interested in going to San Francisco.”
But what a potential Boykin return also represents — outside of a coaching change — is the increased need the Eagles have at three positions. With Maxwell, Kiko Alonso and DeMarco Murray all reportedly traded away, Philadelphia could be a bigger player than initially expected for free-agent corners, linebackers and running backs.
Rotoworld's Top Unrestricted Free Agents
|1||Janoris Jenkins (Rams, 27)||Danny Trevathan (Broncos, 25)||Matt Forte (Bears, 30)|
|2||Prince Amukamara (Giants, 26)||Jerrell Freeman (Colts, 29)||Doug Martin (Buccaneers, 27)|
|3||Casey Hayward (Packers, 26)||Derrick Johnson (Chiefs, 33)||Lamar Miller (Dolphins, 24)|
|4||Sean Smith (Chiefs, 28)||Mark Barron (Rams, 26)||Bilal Powell (Jets, 27)|
|5||Adam Jones (Bengals, 32)||Tahir Whitehead (Lions, 25)||Alfred Morris (Washington, 27)|
Although Eric Rowe flashed potential in his rookie season and the Eagles signed veteran corner Leodis McKelvin yesterday, further moves are expected. One of those could be bringing back Boykin, who said he was “angry” about his lack of playing time in Pittsburgh last season. He attributed his few snaps to the Steelers wanting to only give up a fifth-round pick instead of a fourth-round pick, as the trade compensation hinged on whether he played 60 percent of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps.
Boykin also said Eagles fans are “flooding” his social media feeds in hopes of a potential reunion, but he seemed uncertain whether teams would sign him to play nickel corner or outside corner.
“I think teams are looking at me to be slot, and possibly play outside as well, but I haven’t been given the opportunity [to play outside a lot]. That’s really all it comes down to,” Boykin said. “You look at my statistics and you look at somebody that plays outside, and they’re comparable, if not better. So it’s just about getting opportunity and if somebody wants to give me that, that’ll be great. But if somebody wants me to come in and play nickel for them and it’s the right fit and it’s the right amount of money, then I’m all for that as well.”
Although this free agent class is considered to be weak at other areas of need including offensive line and wide receiver, some say defensive backs and running backs are deeper position groups. Kansas City’s Sean Smith is a guy who makes sense at corner because of the Doug Pederson connection and the assistant defensive backs coach who followed Pederson to Philadelphia. However, the Eagles may not want to match the $8-$10 million per year Smith is expected to command.
Instead, one name to keep in mind is Patrick Robinson, who is projected to be a bargain. The 28-year-old Charger was a first-round pick in 2010 who didn’t have consistent success, but he had what some callled a “breakout season” in San Diego last season. ESPN’s Josina Anderson also reported that the Eagles were one of several teams who showed “preliminary interest” in Robinson.
As for linebacker, many expect the Eagles to target 25-year-old Tahir Whitehead, who played in Detroit under Jim Schwartz for two seasons. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane also reported the Eagles “reached out” to 26-year-old Nigel Bradham. The former Bill played in Buffalo under Schwartz for one season and had the best statistical year of his career. According to Rotoworld, Bradham “should not cost more than $5 million per year.”
At running back, we’ve heard more about who the Eagles don’t want than who they do want; Ian Rapoport tweeted on Monday that Ryan Mathews is also on the trade block. While Mathews averaged a career-high 5.1 yards per carry last season, he has only played in all 16 games in a season once in six years.
Looking at the top of the market, the Buccaneers are reportedly “nearing a deal” to bring 27-year-old Doug Martin back for around $6.85 million per year. The Texans, meanwhile, are pushing hard for 24-year-old Lamar Miller, whom the Houston Chronicle says could cost around $6.5 million annually.
However, with how much running backs have become devalued in the draft, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles want to instead add a ball-carrier next month. Regardless, with the extra cap space Howie Roseman has created for the Eagles, Philadelphia looks like they’ll be more active than we originally anticipated in free agency.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Open thread: Day 2 of the legal tampering period featured plenty of news.
Leodis McKelvin discussed why he signed with the Eagles, Jim Schwartz’s scheme and more.
T-Mac on the trades that will reportedly send away Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
So far, so good for Howie Roseman, but his biggest test looms, writes CSN Philly’s Dave Zangaro.
Howie Roseman dropped a lot of dead weight Monday when he shipped Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray out of town. The moves will save the Eagles about $10 million in cap room in 2016, but more importantly, Roseman acted decisively to get rid of the wrong players.
But can he find the right ones?
That’s really the big question.
And because the Eagles will get draft picks back as compensation in the deals and have more cap room to work with in free agency, it’s a pretty pertinent one as well.
The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane wonders whether Roseman can bring in a shutdown corner.
And cornerback, perhaps more than any other position, has been an Achilles’ heel for Roseman since he became general manager in 2010. Even he probably would admit that his record, in both free agency and the draft, is checkered with more whiffs than hits.
Only once did Roseman dig deep into the salary cap and sign one of the top free agents on the market. In the lockout-shortened 2011 offseason, the Eagles made Nnamdi Asomugha the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
Burned by that decision, Roseman has since acquired mid-tier free agents. In 2013, it was Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. And a year later, it was Nolan Carroll, who will hit free agency at 4 p.m. Wednesday if he can’t come to an agreement with the Eagles.
Free agency starts at 4 p.m. It’s going to be a busy day.