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.
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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.