A few of you have talked about me comparing the free agent targets to some existing Eagles to provide some perspective on the situation. That’s an excellent idea so let’s do it.
For one of the Saints games I studied to see Malcolm Jenkins I used the wildcard game against the Eagles. That allowed me to see Jenkins and Nate Allen. There is no question that Jenkins is substantially better. And so are TJ Ward and Jairus Byrd, as you would expect. Allen does some things well, but his tackling is mediocre. If he were a top ballhawk, this might be okay. Allen does have good ball skills, but lacks the instincts and athleticism to make many plays in the passing game.
The x-factor with Allen is whether he’ll get better in 2014. Some of you will dismiss this idea in about .1 seconds. I get that mentality, but you have to remember that Allen made big strides from 2012 to 2013. His tackling went from very bad to mediocre. That is a jump. He was benched late in 2012 and I’m sure confidence had to be an issue for him heading into last season.
Allen finished 3rd on the team in tackles in 2013. He had an INT, a sack, a FF, 6 PDs and 2 TFLs. Those aren’t impressive numbers, but they are a step up from 2012, when he barely made any plays.
I think bringing Nate back makes sense and would be a smart move. Sign him for a couple of years and let him fight for a spot. Hopefully he’d be competing with Earl Wolff, a free agent signing and a draft pick. That’s the kind of competition the Eagles need at Safety. We’re not talking about giving Nate much money. If he is better and earns playing time, great. If not, cut him.
I have not watched Wolff since the season ended. He showed enough to make me think he can be a solid starter in the future, but you certainly can’t count on him being a starter right away. He deserves a chance to fight for a spot, but isn’t going to be given a job.
Let me be clear in reference to the other free agents I reviewed. Those guys would all be major upgrades for the Eagles. The Safety position last year was the weakest part of the whole team. The reason I didn’t write “the Eagles must get these guys!!!” is because I don’t know if they will be worth handing huge deals to. The Eagles could go sign both of them and instantly have a terrific pair of Safeties, but they’d also have about $20M invested in that position. Most teams don’t want to spend that kind of money at Safety.
The reason I like Malcolm Jenkins as a target for the Eagles is because of fit and value. Jenkins isn’t the kind of playmaker that Byrd is or the kind of hitter that Ward is. Teams looking for those type of Safeties will focus on Byrd and Ward. The Eagles may want a ballhawk. If so, Byrd will be the top target. Jenkins isn’t the same level of player, but he also won’t cost as much money. His skill set fits what the Eagles want to do on defense. Many free agent busts are due to players not fitting the new scheme.
The goal is for the Eagles to get better at Safety. It would be great to land an impact type of player, but it isn’t as simple as paying Byrd big money and instantly getting great play. Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t solve our CB problems did he? Look at the Panthers and S Mike Mitchell. He was an afterthought last March, but became a terrific player for Carolina. He fit their scheme and played the best football of his life. It also helped quite a bit that he had the right players around him.
These are all talented players who could help the defense. I prefer to focus on value since the top guys aren’t perfect fits, but the Eagles might covet Byrd’s ball skills and feel that he’s the kind of guy you adjust to. I have my doubts on Ward as a target, but I could be dead wrong. Starting next week, we’ll hopefully get some clues as to what the Eagles want at Safety. I won’t be bothered if they go for any of them.