The Eagles have had a busy week so far, adding 5 new players and re-signing Donnie Jones. There is still more work to be done. I know some of you would still like impact additions, but I’m just not sure those players are available, if they ever were. The players that are available are more of the “solid” variety than the star variety. That’s not bad news, though. The right “solid” player can still offer impact.
Think back to last year. Was Danny Woodhead coveted? He had a huge year for the Chargers. Even King Dunlap played well for them. The Eagles got a steal in Connor Barwin, who I think was disappointed in how little interest he drew. Mike Mitchell turned out to be a great signing for the Panthers. I don’t think anyone made a fuss over Karlos Dansby going back to Arizona. He had a monster year for them.
Peter King had Paul Kruger as his #2 overall free agent. He had 4.5 sacks for the Browns. He was kind of their Connor Barwin, but not as good in coverage. WR Mike Wallace was #5 on the list. The Dolphins signed him to a bad deal and now can’t wait to get rid of him. Arguably the fastest man in the NFL averaged just 12.7 yards per catch. Greg Jennings was ranked 9th. He was 68-804-4 for the Vikings, hardly the impact they hoped for. Remember how Steven Jackson was going go be the missing piece for the Falcons? And so on.
Let’s look at the Eagles depth chart on defense right now.
DE Fletcher Cox …….. Vinny Curry
NT Bennie Logan …….. * damion square
DE Cedric Thornton ….. * joe kruger
RLB Trent Cole ……….. Brandon Graham
ILB Mychal Kendricks … Najee Goode
ILB DeMeco Ryans ……. Jake Knott / Jason Phillips
LLB Connor Barwin …… * Bryan Braman / Travis Long
SS * Earl Wolff ………….. Keelan Johnson
FS Malcolm Jenkins ….. Chris Maragos
CB Cary Williams ……. Roc Carmichael
CB Bradley Fletcher …. Nolan Carroll
NB Brandon Boykin
I put an asterisk beside the spots where the Eagles feel weakest. I think they need a veteran DL, whether a NT or DE. They don’t want to look for both spots in the draft. I don’t trust Square or Kruger as a top backup right now. Those guys might have great summers, but I think they need competition.
OLB needs help, whether in the form of a starter on the right side or a top backup for either side.
S is the one spot where the Eagles could still add a starter. I think Wolff could handle the job, but I’d like to add someone there to really challenge him. In my ideal world, the Eagles would add a veteran and still look for a Safety in the draft.
Let’s look at some of the Safeties left on the market and who could be of interest. First, what are the Eagles looking for? They added Malcolm Jenkins who is more of a cover Safety so I’m guessing they would like to add a bigger guy who can be more of a run-stuffer. We know the Eagles like players from successful teams. Who might fit?
* Nate Allen – I know many of you hate the thought of this. He’s not the physical S that I’m guessing they prefer, but he does know the system and the coaches know him. There is something to be said for continuity. As the old saying goes, sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Allen made big strides from 2012 to 2013. If the Eagles bring him back it will be because they feel he can improve even more. If they pass, they may feel he’s never going to develop the way they originally wanted.
* Chris Clemons – There were rumors yesterday that the Eagles had signed the veteran from the Dolphins. Those turned out to be bogus rumors. I watched tape and Clemons would be a slight upgrade on Allen, but not much more. He’s just a so-so player. In 48 career starts, he has 1.5 sacks, 4 INTs and 2 FFs. Heck, Nate Allen has better stats. Certainly not a player I’d be excited by, but he is a functional starter.
* James Ihedigbo – Very interesting guy. He’s played for the Jets, Pats and Ravens. First came on my radar when watching a preseason game between the Eagles and Jets. He played very well. It was against 2nd and 3rd stringers, but he was still impressive. Never started for the Jets. Did for the Pats in 2011 and the Ravens last year. Posted very good numbers. Had 11 pass deflections, 3 INTs and 2 FFs. Put on the tape and you see a physical Safety. Has good size at 6-1, 214. Downhill player who loves to attack the ball. Good blitzer. I saw him knock over the RT for the Steelers on a play. Good run defender who is at home playing in the box. Has limited cover skills. Is too upright in his backpedal and has to really play back off guys in deep coverage. The only downside is that he’s 30. Sign him to a short, cheap deal and could make some sense as a band-aid player to use while young guys develop.
* Major Wright – I haven’t had a chance to watch tape on him. Wright lists at 5-11, 204 and I don’t know if the Eagles want a guy with that build or if they prefer someone bigger. The big question with Wright is why the Bears are so un-interested in a productive young player who wouldn’t cost that much to keep. He turns 26 this summer and has started the past 3 years for them. Their hesitance in keeping him makes me nervous since Safety isn’t a strong spot for them.
Out of these players, Ihedigbo makes the most sense. The problem is his age, although that may not be a big deal if they see him as someone to start for a year or two and help Earl Wolff develop. Reports yesterday said the Lions were very close to signing Ihedigbo so he might not be on the market, although there hasn’t been much talk since those reports came out.
Things have been silent in regard to Nate Allen. I go back and forth on whether I’d rather keep him or sign Clemons. Allen offers continuity. Clemons is more physical.
There are no guarantees the Eagles will add a Safety, but it still feels like too weak of a position. I think adding one here and in the draft is the smart way to go. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
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I’ll cover the DL targets in the next day or two. Many of you want to know about interest in Vince Wilfork. I have very mixed feelings there. If he was willing to sign a 1-year deal, maybe. My guess is that he’ll go somewhere he’s got a connection and hope to finish out his career in that spot. I don’t see the Eagles wanting him for multiple years.