Eagles Wake-Up Call: Grading the Roster
While the Eagles’ undrafted free agents haven’t been announced yet, we have a pretty good idea of what their roster will look like this season with the draft and free agency frenzy behind us. Let’s break the team down position by position on offense and defense, considering only where they stand for 2016.
Explanation: This is a tough one to grade because of the uncertainty with Sam Bradford and the unclear impact his holdout will have on his standing with his teammates, but it’d be surprising if he’s not the starting quarterback this season. There doesn’t seem to be much (any?) trade market for him, and the Eagles aren’t interested in discarding him. As much of a long shot as it already is for the Birds to win the NFC East, it may drop down to virtually zero if Chase Daniel has to start 16 games — and Jeffrey Lurie has made it clear that he wants to be competitive.
If this grade took into account future prospects, Carson Wentz would probably bump it up to a B-, but it seems unlikely he’ll contribute anything this season. The Eagles intend to use 2016 as a redshirt year for him, but if he does have to play, the positive takeaways will be more about him developing than winning games.
Explanation: It was smart for the Eagles to draft a young running back because of the uncertainty at the position after 2016, but this isn’t that big of a need for 2016. Although Ryan Mathews is injury prone, he’s played in at least 12 games in five of his six NFL seasons. If he can give the Eagles around 13 games of high quality play, the overall body of work at running back should still be strong, even if some combination of Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood will be employed in the other few games.
Explanation: Although I think Nelson Agholor will noticeably improve in his second season, I’m not sold that the Eagles will get a ton out of their receivers behind Jordan Matthews. I don’t expect much from Josh Huff or Chris Givens, and I don’t think Rueben Randle will contribute much more than Agholor. If this group outperforms this grade, it will likely be because of Agholor.
Explanation: After locking up both Zach Ertz and Brent Celek for a few more years, this is the one position the Eagles don’t have to worry about in the near future. Trey Burton adds value not just as a receiving option, but on special teams as well.
Ertz accumulated 30 receptions in the final three games last season, setting a team record for the most catches over a three-game span. He also accumulated 450 yards over the final four games, joining Jimmy Graham as the only NFL tight ends with at least 450 yards over a four-game span since 2013.
Explanation: Much of this depends on Jason Peters’ health, as the Eagles seem to have a pretty good starting five with the addition of Brandon Brooks at right guard and a couple of offseason acquisitions who could battle for the left guard job. Andrew Gardner, Stefen Wisniewski and Isaac Seumalo all appear to be legitimate candidates to be the fifth starter.
But what happens if Peters goes down? He’s 34-years-old and he missed 34 percent of the offense’s snaps last season, so it’s a very reasonable question. Halapoulivaati Vaitai appears to be more of a project at tackle, so the Eagles would probably have to look elsewhere.
Explanation: Well, this is an easy one. It’s unclear how, exactly, the rotation will work at defensive end between Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham, but they have talent and the defensive tackles are good enough to give this unit the highest grade possible. One thing I’m curious about is how good of a chance Marcus Smith has to make the roster.
It’s unknown how many defensive ends the Eagles will carry, but the top three are already locked in. Bryan Braman is currently slotted as a defensive end, and I would take Braman over Smith — unless Smith looks a lot better in Jim Schwartz’s scheme — because of Braman’s special teams contributions. Plus, if he stays out of trouble, Alex McCalister has a shot at making the roster because of his pass-rushing potential — although he may just end up on the practice squad.
Explanation: Somewhat similar to the offensive line, this is a group with a pretty good starting unit, but with little depth behind that. One thing I’m interested to see is Jordan Hick’s consistency and if he can turn his seven-game stretch of high-level play last year into an entire season this year. I don’t think Najee Goode is a bad backup to have at middle or weak-side linebacker, but who will spell Nigel Bradham on the strong side?
Explanation: I was tempted to upgrade this to a B+ because of the safety tandem of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but I’m not sure how the cornerbacks will hold up. I expect Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll to start on the outside, with a tough battle breaking out at nickel corner. Leodis McKelvin, JaCorey Shepherd and Jalen Mills are all guys to keep an eye on, although it’s unclear if the Eagles prefer Mills and Blake Countess at safety or corner.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles agreed to terms with five of their draft picks.
“How could any rational human being look at that contract and think, Yup, they’ve invested in me for the long haul.” What They’re Saying.
We detail the report that the Eagles are zeroing in on a candidate for their head of personnel position.
Tim looks at the Eagles’ draft from a numbers perspective.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
ESPN’s Phil Sheridan thinks the Eagles’ three-quarterback plan is flawed.
A few days before signing Daniel in free agency, though, the Eagles worked out a two-year contract extension with Bradford. The deal included an $11 million signing bonus and a total of $22 million in guaranteed money.
If the 1998 Eagles had traded for Drew Bledsoe and then resigned him for big money in 1999, then Reid’s plan would look like the current plan. But none of that happened. Reid focused on two quarterbacks: Pederson and Donovan McNabb. He certainly didn’t invest millions of guaranteed dollars in a third quarterback.
But the key here is that the Eagles — not Bradford — created the situation. If they hadn’t offered Bradford the contract, he couldn’t have accepted it. He wouldn’t have taken the contract to mean that he had the chance to be the Eagles’ long-term quarterback.
The Eagles sent Bradford a very misleading message with that contract. They could have avoided that by allowing Bradford to walk in free agency.
Howie Roseman appeared on Colin Cowherd’s radio show to reflect on his past with the Eagles, including his relationship with Chip Kelly.
“I look back and there are certainly things that I could have done a better job with, there’s no question about that. I was with someone for a long time in Andy Reid. Professional and personally, couldn’t been closer and maybe then you take for granted sometimes relationships and how – like with your wife and hopefully she’s not listening right now – you gotta work on them. I learned a lot from it and I learned a lot from Chip, no question about it. Our organization is better because of some of the things he brought here.”
The Eagles will interview Joe Douglas for the personnel opening, and could hire him today.