Eagles DL and Free Agency

Posted: March 2nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 39 Comments »

The Eagles need to fix the secondary and the OL needs some work, but the D-line also in a position unit that needs some attention.  Fletcher Cox is the 3-tech DT for now.  Antonio Dixon is the only NT on the roster.  Cedric Thornton projects to be the 5-tech DE.  Ronnie Cameron is the backup…the only backup.

I’m interested to see what the Eagles do on the DL.  This draft is deep on the DL.  The Eagles could try to build an amazing group.  They could add Sharrif Floyd in the 1st round and then go for a NT in the 2nd or 3rd.  They could add Star Lotulelei at pick #4 and then go for someone like Datone Jones in the 2nd.  This would give the Eagles a deep, versatile DL.  And young…very, very young.

That’s what makes me wonder if the Eagles won’t go for DL in free agency.  Do you want to load up on that many young guys?  There is very little money tied up in the DL.  The Eagles could add starters or backups.

We know Cox is going to start.  That’s the only guy we can point to.  He could be the 3-tech DT or 5-tech DE.  I prefer him at DT since he showed last year that he can play there.  Beyond him, everything else is up in the air.  I think the Eagles would like to have Thornton as a starter, but you can’t project him to do that without serious competition.  He must earn the job.

Thornton is 6-3.  He goes about 300 pounds.  He has long arms (33 5/8).  That kind of build means he can play the DE spot as well as DT.  Thornton actually played DE in college.  The 5-tech DE isn’t a normal pass rusher.  His first function is to be a run defender.  He must be able to hold his ground against the RT on plays that come to his side.  Thornton struggled with this in the summer of 2011, but got much better as a run defender in 2012.  He’s still got room to improve, but is at least a functional run defender for now.

There were some rumors last week of the Eagles being interested in Ricky Jean-Francois.  He was a backup DE for the Niners last year.  Bringing him in to compete with Thornton for the starting DE spot would make some sense.  You wouldn’t being paying him big money.  He’s a young, ascending player.  If he starts, great.  If he’s a backup, that’s okay too.  You must have depth on the DL.

The Eagles could look at someone like Jason Jones or Matt Shaughnessy if they wanted a player with better pass rushing ability.  Both guys are 6-5 or taller and have good speed.  You sacrifice some bulk as a run defender, but get increased athleticism.

The Eagles could go for a NT.  Roy Miller of Tampa is the guy who may be flying under the radar.  He played the shade NT for Tampa last year.  He only played about half the snaps during the year.  They rotated a young guy in with him and pulled Miller off the field in passing situations.  If the price is right, Miller could be a good addition.

Miller will turn 26 this summer.  He lists at 6-2, 310.  He is strong enough to take on double teams.  He’s also quick enough to get into the backfield and be disruptive.  Miller is not a playmaker.  He is not a pass rusher.  He’s just a good, solid young run defender.

Alan Branch is also a FA.  He lists at 6-6, 325.  He will turn 29 in December so he’s not young, but he’s only been a full-time player for the last 4 years.  He isn’t used up.  Branch played for Bill Davis in Arizona.  He was somewhat of an underachiever back then so I don’t know what Davis would say.  He had one good year – 2009.  The flip side is that DT is a spot where many young guys struggle.  Maybe Davis would tell you that Branch just developed slowly because of the difficulty of the position.

The tricky part is that Branch wasn’t a NT for Seattle the last 2 years.  Brandon Mebane played that spot.  Branch was a 3-tech DT.  Would you take the chance of projecting him at NT?

There are other guys the team could consider at NT.  I won’t go into all of them right now.  I’m interested in seeing how they approach the situation rather than obsessing on the specific names.  Building a young DL sounds really enticing.  But as I noted, that can be a tough spot for young guys to play well.  You would be counting on Cox and Thornton to improve and for the rookies to contribute right away.  If you add a couple of veterans in FA, they should be able to help right away.

I do not want the Eagles breaking the bank on star players, but adding players like Miller and Ricky Jean-Francois at the right price would make some sense.

Negotiating starts on Saturday the 9th.  Teams can then sign players starting on Tuesday March 12th.  Get ready for an interesting couple of weeks.

* * * * *

Jimmy & I finally recorded a new podcast.  Covered the DL cuts, GJ Kinne, the Alex Smith trade, and some draft talk.  A few people complained about the sound levels in recent shows.  Hopefully they are more even in this episode.  Let me know.


  • SleepingDuck

    Got this from BGN
    “Hey ya’ll, I work on the show “Path to the Draft” on NFLN while also writing and doing draft analysis over on BattleRedBlog.Just wanted to give you guys a heads up the Eagles front office has expressed (though not publicly) to us that Dion Jordan is at the very top of their board, and that if he is there at number four he will be the Eagles first round selection.But one of my colleagues on the show is an ex-Eagles scout and still has ties to their personnel department. He got it directly from them. The only thing that could derail any of this is Bradley taking Jordan at #2,which is a possibility.”

    Well, the guy is obviously referring to Daniel Jerimiah, but everyone knows he worked for the Eagles. I found this on his twitter bio “Draft analyst for Battle Red Blog. Underling on NFLN’s Path to the Draft every day at 3:00PM Pacific .OC, California ” OC refers to Orange County to those who don’t know.

    • TommyLawlor

      Jordan is the guy that I’m leaning toward so this would be great with me.

      Good nugget.

      • SleepingDuck

        The only concern I have with that piece of information is that we don’t actually know if he works with on NFLN. I managed to his personal Facebook page (as creepy as that sounds) and his listed location is within a driving distance of the NFLN studio in L.A. I’m personally hoping he does work for NFLN and that the info is true.

        • SleepingDuck

          I should mention I’m not completely sure I found the right Facebook though. The city listed on the Facebook page is in the OC, where the person’s twitter bio says he’s from, so I think it’s about a 60% chance I found the right guy on Facebook.

        • RC5000

          Don’t think it’s worth tracking down if poster is legit or not since Jeremiah essentially said this during his mock where he picked Jordan to the Eagles. Not really something I didn’t already know since Jeremiah said essentially the same thing.

    • Arby1

      Why would this leak so early if not simply misinformation?

      • SleepingDuck

        The second part where he says where he got the info from was a reply that to a suggestion it’s misinformation. Peter King, who has hit on several Eagles picks over the years, also had Jordan mocked to us in his mini mock draft. The Eagles maybe leaking that, but I’m personally hoping that it’s not since he is the guy I want at 4.

  • T_S_O_P

    What a great topic….

    How about Chris Canty as a name? Long as required and played his entire career in the NFCE.

    • TommyLawlor

      Will turn 31 this year. I’d be okay with signing him to a short deal so that Thornton could have time to develop. Canty may expect good money, though. That won’t happen from us. Too pricey for an older guy for a team that isn’t expecting to be SB contenders this year.

      • T_S_O_P

        I was thinking short deal so that his underling can take over when ready.

  • T_S_O_P

    Is there any chance that one of Cole, Curry or Graham is tried at DE? Curry played his Soph season in a 3-4 at DE. Was that also the same season that our assistant HC/DL coach was at Marshall?

    • TommyLawlor

      You generally want a 3-4 DE to be at least 290 pounds. Bruce Smith was only 270, but he was a freak. Curry is about 265. He’d need to add 25 pounds to be in the right neighborhood. Seems very doubtful, but with Chip Kelly in charge… never say never.

    • Anders

      Graham also played 3-4 DE when Michigan went to 3-4 looks.

  • nopain23

    Star RD 1 Elam Rd 2 or Dion RD 1 J. Williams RD
    i would be ecstatic with either of these two scenarios.
    Tommy I doubt Cole can play either DT or OLB in the new defense. Why not trade him for a pick say a 3RD or 4th RD pick and select a guy who better fits the new look defense??

    • TommyLawlor

      Can’t trade Trent. Age. Coming off poor season. Big price tag. Have to keep him and see what he can do.

  • http://twitter.com/Este_Ban912 Steven Marquez

    A name to keep in mind for the NT spot is Steve McLendon of Pittsburgh. I know he is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, but with the Steelers in cap hell they may be forced to non tender him allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. He played well for Pittsburgh this season, and is only 27 years old (just turned 27 in January)

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ll do some research.

    • ICDogg

      He was an undrafted player originally so if they tender him at the “original tender” rate, they would get no compensation if another team signed him away. So there’s no point to them tendering him unless they put him at a higher level, which they may not want to do.

    • bridgecoach

      A 280 lbs NT?

  • Anders

    Tommy what is your thought on Desmond Bryant as SDE? I mean besides his awesome mugshot.

    • TommyLawlor

      That mugshot raised his FA price. Classic.

    • TommyLawlor

      Watched some tape of him earlier tonight. Still doing research. No definitive opinion yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.parker.1044 Jamie Parker

    What about Jon Jenkins, the mountain from UGA? No one speaks of him any more. Did something happen to him or does everyone think he’s just fat?

    • Anders

      I think people have realized he is nothing more than a 3-4 NT there plays a 2 gap system and there is maybe only the Steelers left

    • TommyLawlor

      Jenkins is huge (6-4, 359), but doesn’t always play to that size. Terrence Cody was a dominant DL at Alabama. Jenkins has moments, but isn’t a guy that eats up blockers and controls the LOS. To be fair, UGA did play him at NT and DE.

  • phillychuck

    Hi tommy,

    Any reason why Trent Cole or Brandon Graham couldn’t play the 5-technique DE? That seems a lot like what a 4-3 DE plays on the strong side.

    • phillychuck

      I see Tommy addressed this below. I’d still like to see Cole tried there–he may not be 290, but he’s strong as an Ox.

    • Duracell

      This is something I’ve been thinking about as well. I have a pretty good familiarity with the 4-3 under, but most of that comes at the college level, so I could be off-base.

      From my experience, the 5-technique in the 4-3 under is closer to a traditional DE than a 5-technique in the 3-4. At least at the college level, a 4-3 under SAM has more responsibility against the run than a 3-4 OLB. The SAM does blitz a lot, he is usually tasked with edge contain as well. (FWIW, this may be different at the NFL level, where there are significantly fewer running quarterbacks.

      I think Cole may be able to handle the 5-technique if he can add 5-10 pounds of bulk to his frame (which is a legitimate question). He’s always been strong against the run and his pass rushing skills seem to be on the decline as he ages. I don’t think he would be the long-term answer at the 5-technique (both due to age and him not being an ideal fit), but I think he could play there for a couple of years.

  • ian_no_2

    I think Sharrif Floyd is going to be one of this year’s draft busts.. like
    Floyd=Brodrick Bunkley
    Sheldon Richardson=Trevor Laws

    I mean this to say that Floyd will have a couple years as an above average run defender but not be dominant as with Bunkley.

    • TommyLawlor

      Floyd isn’t a run stuffer. UF played him at DT and DE. Very good athlete that could attack up the field or play off the edge. Bunk was an attacking DT at FSU, but got heavy in the NFL and became a run defender.

      Richardson is a much better athlete than Laws.

      • http://twitter.com/danmats1 Dan Mats

        Thats because in the NFL Bunkley didn’t have to keep his cardio up so he could get away with playstations.

      • ian_no_2

        To be more specific: my predictions are that Floyd won’t be a good NFL pass rusher and Richardson busted it for one year in college and like Laws will count his money.

    • RC5000

      Don’t know if Floyd will bust but I’m having trouble seeing him as the best value for us though you can make cases for and against every possibility.
      Kawann Short put up good numbers, is strong, has athleticism and a big wingspan. You also have some players who aren’t as big as Floyd but have bigger wingspans who could be available later.
      There is also waiting on the medicals with Star.

  • Patrick Hanley

    Tommy, what are your thoughts on Ezekiel Ansah?

    When I heard he was like a less finished, even more raw JPP I did not even bother considering him at 4th in the draft. But after looking at some video I am more than a bit intrigued. The physical skills no one is doubting. But i am getting a sense that, even with is incredible limited football career, he has above average football instincts. He seems to have his head involved in the whole play on the field, not just his one on one battle with the guy in front of him. He seems to be aware of where the ball is, where he is, and what he can do at any given moment to affect the play. This might mean spinning in the direction of the ball carrier or jumping to bat a ball down when he has no shot at getting at the QB.

    I expected, given how raw he is or is supposed to be, that he would be exactly opposite in terms of instincts, than what I think I am seeing.

    So, what do you think of his potential and does he have any role with the eagles, where would he fit in on the DL?

    • nickross23

      Ziggy really compares more favorably to SF Aldon Smith then JPP. JPP is far more athletic then ziggy although ziggy did test very well at the combine. The best thing about raw players sometimes is that they really don’t have too many bad football habits to correct coming in. You can take a guy like JPP and Ziggy like a unmolded piece of clay and with the right coaching in place form a beast of a
      Hybrid DE/OLB edge rusher. Question is how much are you willing to gamble on him at 4 and if not at 4 how much are you willing to gamble that one of the post combine fast risers will be available if you trade back.

      • RC5000

        JPP may be more athletic but no one is far more athletic than Ziggy at that size. Ziggy was expected to do what he did at the combine. He was also all over the field at the Senior Bowl, only a great athlete at 6-5, 270 could do that.

  • SteveH

    Sigh, this is going to be a rough year for the D (not like last year wasn’t lol) but you could basically say we know for sure we need 4 new starters in the secondary, a new starting nose tackle, we’re projecting 2 new starters at OLB that we have no idea if they can handle the job, and on top of that we have 0 depth along the defensive line (and its not like the secondary or LB’s have great depth either).

    It took me a little while to accept the fact that we’re REALLY going to be completely rebuilding this defense rather than just trying to fix the secondary, but now that I have I see this as a multi-year project. Unless we hit grand slams in free agency and the draft I just don’t see how the defense could be good this year. Maybe we won’t be very worst in the league bad, but I really think its going to be rough sledding for that group. I’m still of the opinion that this is a terrible time to choose to switch to a 3-4 but hopefully it pays off down the road.

  • ACViking

    Re: Dantone Jones – UCLA / “D-lineman U”?

    T-Law threw out the name of DE Dantone Jones as a possible Eagles selection.

    I say “no” . . . please, “no”!

    _____________

    The last time the Eagles chose from the UCLA basket for a D-lineman was the ’94 draft.

    With the 37th overall pick — think about that, 37th overall — the Eagles selected Bruce Walker — a huge DT who’d flashed some in college during his red-shirt sophomore season.

    But UCLA suspended Walker for his junior season after he pled no contest to knowingly receiving stolen property. So he’d played only 2 years of college football.

    Before the draft, OURLADS rated Walker the 59th best D-lineman — not 59th best player — the 59th best D-lineman. OMG.

    On draft day, the Eagles actually traded up to get Walker — comparing him to Detroit Lions All Pro DT Jerry Ball.

    At the end of his first rookie camp, the Eagles cut Walker. CUT HIM. (The Patriots picked him during the ’94 season and cut him loose late in the ’95 season.)

    _________________

    Walker’s failure is actually consistent with UCLA’s historical failure to produce any D-linemen of note.

    In the 46 years of the common draft (following the AFL/NFL merger), only 2 D-lineman from UCLA who lasted more than a couple years in the NFL to make any real impact. One was DE Dave Ball — originally a 5th Rd pick by SD, cut after 1 year, then on to the Jets for 1.5 season, then onto Tennessee and D-line guru Jim Washburn. Ball never started more than 11 games in a season and started a total of only 24 games in 9 seasons. The other was DT Mike Lodish, a 10th Rd pick by Buffalo, who was principally a back-up DT during an 11 year career with the Bills and Denver (in which he played in 6 SB).

    That’s it. Just 2 UCLA D-lineman in 46 years doing much of anything.

    UCLA is not “D-lineman U” (as compared to Penn State during the Paterno era legitimately being “Linebacker U”.)

    _________________

    If you want to got with a UCLA player . . . go with a RB.

    Since 1966, the Bruins have turned the likes of Mel Farr Sr., Freeman McNeil, Wendall Tyler, Theotis Brown, Gaston Green, Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar, DeShaun Foster, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

    _________________

    Or take a UCLA OLB like Jerry Robinson . . . who, come to think of it, was built along the lines of Oregon’s Dion Jordon. Not as tall. But also come to college, like Jordan, as a receiver.

    And the guy who recruited Jerry Robinson to UCLA? Eagles HC Dick Vermeil.

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