NFL teams shouldn’t go into the offseason without a specific plan. Things don’t always work out, but you need to have a plan to start with so that you can make adjustments. In order for the plan to make sense, you need to have specific goals. “Win the Super Bowl” or “Suck less” are probably a bit too generic.
Let’s take a look at the current roster. I’m going to list the key players at each spot and will leave some roles open if I don’t think we have a natural fit.
WR – DeSean Jackson …. Damaris Johnson …. Marvin McNutt
WR – Jeremy Maclin …. Riley Cooper …. B.J. Cunningham
slot – Jason Avant ….. Greg Salas …. Nick Miller
TE – Brent Celek ……. Clay Harbor …. Evan Moore
H-back – Emil Igwenagu …. Stanley Havili …. Derek Carrier
RB – LeSean McCoy …. Bryce Brown … Dion Lewis … Chris Polk
QB – Michael Vick …… Nick Foles … Dennis Dixon … Edwards / Kinne
LT – Jason Peters …… Allen Barbre … Matt Reynolds
LG – Evan Mathis …… Julian Vandervelde
OC – Jason Kelce …… Dallas Reynolds … Matt Tennant
RG – Danny Watkins … Nate Menkin …
RT – Todd Herremans … Dennis Kelly … Ed Wang
Pred – Trent Cole ……… Brandon Graham … Vinny Curry … Phillip Hunt
3-Tech – Fletcher Cox … Ronnie Cameron
NT – ________________ … Antonio Dixon
5-tech – Cedric Thornton
SAM – _______________ … Chris McCoy
WILB – Mychal Kendricks … Casey Matthews
SILB – DeMeco Ryans ……. Jamar Chaney …. Ryan Rau
SS – ________________ … Kurt Coleman … Colt Anderson
FS – Nate Allen …………… David Sims
CB – ________________ … Curtis Marsh … Chris Hawkins
CB – ________________ … Brandon Hughes … Trevard Lindley
slot – Brandon Boykin …
So…the offense looks okay, if not pretty good. The defense…not so much. Let’s set up some goals now:
* Find a backup LT. Jason Peters is coming off a serious injury. He’s also older. The Eagles need someone behind him. The overall OL could use youth and depth.
* The secondary needs at least 2 starters. I prefer 3. Lots of help is needed.
* The front seven needs 1 or 2 starters. You could make Dixon the NT. Or you could put Graham or Curry at SAM. Those aren’t ideal moves, but could be functional. The front seven needs better athletes and some bigger/taller guys.
* TE is a spot where Celek is fine as the starter, but Kelly is likely to want to add talent. Could be a good backup, a top flight receiver, or just a younger guy to push Celek. That player could also be an H-back.
* There is also the tricky matter of adding “Chip’s guys”. Is Jason Avant his idea of a slot receiver? Does he want a young QB to develop? Does he want taller ILBs? And so on.
The overall talent level of the team needs to be upgraded. If you can add a couple of starting DBs and one DL in free agency, you’ll have the freedom to truly draft the best player available. Ideally, that’s what you want to do. The Eagles have some good players in place, but very few guys that can’t be upgraded.
My goal is to add a CB, SS, and NT. I also would consider a 5-tech DE, backup ILB, and TE.
My fantasy scenario would go like this. Sign:
* TE Jared Cook – 6-5, 248 – TEN
* NT Roy Miller – 6-2, 310- TB
* CB Antoine Cason – 6-1, 195 – SD
* SS LaRon Landry – 6-2, infinity – NYJ
Backups / role players
* DE Leger Douzable – 6-4, 284 – TEN
* ILB Rolando McClain – 6-4, 255 – OAK
Now let me try to explain these moves.
Cook is a player unlike anyone the Eagles currently have on the roster. He is a TE technically, but lines up in the slot quite a bit. He has the speed to run by LBs and stretch the field. He has the size to overwhelm DBs who try to cover him. Chip Kelly is said to want to focus more on TEs. Cook is the kind of offensive weapon that you can move around and be creative with. The Titans were going to franchise tag him, but there was a dispute over whether he should be considered a TE or WR. The team decided to not tag him to avoid the situation possibly becoming a legal battle. This is the one player I would be okay with the Eagles spending big bucks for. He’ll turn 26 this spring and has tons of potential.
Miller is a pure run defender. He played less than half the snaps for Tampa last year because they were in sub-packages so much. Miller was a shade nose for the Bucs and that’s what he would play here. You’d be asking him to fill the same role. That increases the likelihood that he will play well. He isn’t huge, but is a good NT. He can take on double teams and hold his ground. He can shed blocks. He’s quick enough to be disruptive at times, although he’s not much of a playmaker. I would not pay big money for Miller. The price would have to be right.
The Eagles need a starting CB. They have several guys to choose from. I went with Cason because he’s well-rounded. Cason has good size. He runs pretty well. He has at least 2 INTs in each season. He’s averaged 15 PDs a year over the last 3 seasons. Cason has never missed a game and durability is an underrated aspect of player evaluation. He isn’t a star CB that you build a defense around. He’s just a solid starter. Right now, that’s what we need.
Why Landry at SS? I think the Eagles must add a physical presence to the secondary. I watched tape of a bunch of Safeties. Landry was the most impressive. First play I watched he walked down into the box and tackled the RB for minimal gain. A few plays later he shed the block of an OL and got in on the tackle of a RB. Landry is huge. His muscles have muscles. Last year I wrote about Landry as a player the Eagles should avoid. He had missed 15 games over the 2 previous seasons and had a bit of a run-in with Mike Shanahan. I just didn’t see him as a guy to hand money to. Landry had a good year in 2012. He played in all 16 games, had 2 INTs, and 4 FFs. I would not give Landry a huge contract, but I’d be willing to take a chance on him. The one good year Bill Davis has as DC (2009), he had a SS named Adrian Wilson. He is about as big as Landry and has similar skills. Landry is actually faster and better in coverage.
The Eagles have Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox. Both can play the 5-tech DE spot. There is also the matter of the draft. The Eagles could find someone there. I still had them add Douzable as a depth move. He has played DE and DT since college. He got some starts at LDE for the Jags in 2011. Douzable missed 2012 with a shoulder injury. He’s nothing special, but is a solid run defender. He’s the kind of guy you want competing for a job.
I watched tape of Eric Winston against the Raiders. KC ran an end around and I noticed this LB fly to the far side of the field. I re-watched the play and it was Rolando McClain. I had forgotten just how good he could be at times. He covered a TE 25 yards downfield on a pass play. He had a delay blitz where he looped in and sacked the QB, also knocking the ball loose. McClain was a Top 10 pick by the Raiders, but has been a massive disappointment, mostly off the field. He got in major trouble last year in Alabama. The reason I would take him is to have him sit behind DeMeco Ryans for a year. Have him learn. Let McClain play STs and then fight for a starting job in 2014. He’s got big time talent, but must get his act together. I would only offer him a cheap deal. Risky move, but possibly worth it.
Other players I considered:
TE Dustin Keller – NYJ
TE Delanie Walker – SF
H-B James Casey – HOU
TE Ben Watson – CLE
TE Anthony Fasano – MIA
All 3 guys are versatile, athletic players. Keller is a gifted receiver. Walker is a blocker and STer. Casey is coming off his best season. Watson played for Pat Shurmur the last 2 years. Fasano is a solid RZ weapon. Both guys are older and would be purely backups to Celek so they don’t make much sense to me.
NT Terrance Knighton – JAX
NT Sammie Lee Hill – DET
NT Antonio Johnson – IND
NT Shaun Cody – HOU
NT Pat Sims – CIN
Knighton is the most interesting guy here. He’s big at 6-3, 330, but has some athletic ability. He’s an underachiever and that scared me off, but if the coaches think they can get through to him, he would be a really interested addition to the DL. Hill was a backup in DET, but has good size and potential. Sims has been a backup in Cincy for 5 years, but is a productive backup with size.
CB Derek Cox – JAX
CB Bradley Fletcher – STL
CB Sean Smith – MIA
CB Keenan Lewis – PIT
CB Greg Toler – ARZ
This is a good group of CBs. You can make an argument for all of them. Cox is probably the best all around, but does have some durability issues. Fletcher has the best cover skills, but was the #3 CB for the Rams this year. Smith is the biggest, but lacks ideal quickness and agility. Receivers can get separation when they make quick cuts. Lewis broke up an amazing 23 passes this year, but is just a 1-year starter.
SS William Moore – ATL
S Patrick Chung – NE
S Chris Clemons – MIA
S Rashad Johnson – ARZ
SS Craig Dahl – STL
FS Glover Quin – HOU
No Dashon Goldson? He’s more of a FS and will be looking for huge bucks. Moore is a very good player, but is also looking for mega-money. If we’re willing to get in a bidding war for a Safety, he’s the player to go after. Chung can cover, hit, and tackle. Clemons is solid and has good size. Johnson was a very good STer for the Cards. Quin is probably the best FS on the market. I’m hoping the Eagles focus on SS.
DE Desmond Bryant – OAK
DE Ricky Jean-Francois – SF
DE Ropati Pitoitua – KC
DE Jason Jones – SEA
Bryant is a guy I’d love to sign. Big, athletic. Can rush the passer. Can play DT, NT, and DE. Problem is that we can only sign so many starters and DE is a spot where we’ve already got some potential. Bryant has started 18 games over the last 2 years and some team may pay him big bucks. Jean-Francois is a career backup so far that is ready to become a starter. Tom Gamble drafted him and might push the Eagles to sign him. Pitoitua is huge at 6-8, 315. He shows potential as a pass rusher. Awkward run defender. Could be good value. Jones is more of a DT than a DE, but has potential. Very quick player.
ILB Lorenzo Alexander – WAS
ILB Larry Grant – SF
ILB Dan Skuta – CIN
ILB Zac Diles – TEN
The Eagles are set with starting ILBs. Unless you are more confident in Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews, adding a backup ILB is wise. Alexander is a great STer and role player. Grant is a good backup in SF.
It is possible the Eagles will go for a SAM LB. If so this is the group to look at.
LB Paul Kruger – BAL
LB Connor Barwin – HOU
LB Kyle Moore – BUF
LB Manny Lawson – CIN
LB Erik Walden – GB
Kruger is rugged and had 9 sacks last year. Barwin is a good athlete (former TE). Moore is a DE that has the potential to be a SAM. Lawson is a veteran that you would sign for a short term deal. Bill Davis was in SF when they drafted Lawson.
It would be great to see the Eagles come out of free agency with:
NT – starter
SS – starter
CB – starter
TE – starter or depth
DE – depth
ILB – depth
That would give them almost total freedom in the draft. They would still need a SAM, CB, and backup LT. Adding DL depth and another S would be good. There is also the desire for a QB if the right guy is available. If a really talented ILB, OG, or TE was on the board, you could take him. You’d have some freedom.
My fantasy scenario (for now) is trading back to the 7 to 10 range and adding 3rd and 4th round picks. That would give you the chance to really add some good bodies to the roster.
The Eagles have some serious holes to fill, but there will be lots of players available that fit what the team is looking for. The team has the cap room to add players and enough draft picks to get younger and better. Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly have a huge opportunity in front of them. Choose wisely, gents.
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