Riley Flew the Coop

Posted: February 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 231 Comments »

The Eagles cut Riley Cooper today. Not exactly shocking news, but a transaction worth reporting.

Cooper wasn’t earning his contract and that made the cut pretty easy. Some people are going to talk about this as the Eagles trying to get rid of a Chip Kelly guy. I really don’t see it that way. Cooper was drafted by Howie Roseman and played for Andy Reid for 3 seasons. They liked his size and toughness.

Cooper’s breakout season and subsequent contract extension came on Kelly’s watch. I think the real reason he is seen as a Kelly guy is that Chip was so defensive about Cooper when the media would ask about his lack of production or any mistakes he might have made.

I don’t want to get too much into the whole race angle. I’ll just say this. Jason Avant and Michael Vick stood up in the locker room and spoke on Cooper’s behalf, asking other players to forgive him and to keep him around. If those two hadn’t done that, I don’t think Kelly would have tried to keep Cooper around. Anyway…that’s all water under the bridge at this point and I’ll be glad not to talk about Cooper or the incident.

He is now a part of Eagles WR lore, just like Na Brown, Michael Gasperson, Plaxico Burress (go ask Roob on Twitter if the Eagles should sign him) and Freddie Mitchell. How’s that for a trip down memory lane?

Now back to Earth.

The Eagles do have a young set of WRs in Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff. Bottom of the roster players like Seyi Ajirotutu, Jonathan Krause and Freddie Martino will be fighting for spots, but none are guaranteed to return.

I’m interested to see if the Eagles go for a veteran or another young guy to add to the mix.

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The Saints cut OL Jahri Evans today, which led to this.

https://twitter.com/MalcolmJenkins/status/696832658454749184

Evans is from Philly. He was the Saints RG from 2006-2015, making 6 Pro Bowls. Evans will turn 33 this summer and isn’t the guy you sign to make your OL younger.

That said, if the Eagles do want a proven OG to help for a year or two while a young guy develops, Evans would make some sense.

I wouldn’t see this as a likely move, but it is kinda cool that Malcolm Jenkins is openly recruiting old teammates to come join him. That is an encouraging sign since Jenkins is in the final year of his deal and could be a target for an extension. Sounds like he wants to stay with the Eagles.

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Schefter is not backing down from his weekend report.

I’ll write more at length about the franchise tag in another post. That’s a complex discussion.

As for Foles, notice the comment is that the Eagles will inquire about him. The Eagles clearly aren’t going to give up much to get him (a conditional pick or maybe some butterscotch pudding that no one in the NovaCare ate at lunch). The key with him is the contract. The Rams don’t want to pay Foles, but have to decide if they can make that work or if they have to just suck it up and keep him around a year as an overpaid backup.

I don’t have a problem with him as a band-aid QB. Someone has to start for the Eagles in 2016. I’d love to have Sam Bradford back, but not if he wants huge money. Having Foles start half the season until a rookie is ready to take over wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He is a good leader and locker room guy. If you’re going to have a short term veteran starter, that’s the kind of guy you want.

Don’t get too fired up about any of this. Someone is feeding Schefter a nugget. Might be the Eagles. Might be the Rams. Might be an agent. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

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Need your dumb laugh for the day?

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Nick Foles?

Posted: February 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 679 Comments »

I didn’t expect to read this when I woke up.

Are these agents playing games? Or Eagles leaks?

Jeff McLane indicates they aren’t true.

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to more of this nonsense for the next 30 or so days.

Howie Roseman will use the media to get info out in the open. Some of this is true and some not. The goal is to either confuse other teams on what the Eagles want to do or to help create leverage with agents when it comes to bargaining on contracts.

So you have Howie playing his games and agents playing their games. Add in the fact that the top free agent QB is Sam Bradford of the Eagles and you can see where this is going to be Rumorgeddon.

Some quick takes:

  • The Eagles should not tag Sam Bradford. He’s just not worth that money.
  • Jimmy Bama raised the idea of tagging and trading Bradford. I think the market for Sam will be so limited that I don’t think it would make sense to try this.
  • Bringing back Bradford at the right price would be ideal. Good player. Just not worth overpaying for, unless you feel like you’re on the verge of being a title contender. I doubt Howie and Doug Pederson will see the Eagles in that category.
  • Bringing back Nick Foles would be fine with me. I’m not talking about him as a long term starter. Foles has shown that he’s not a guy you build your franchise around. He could be Doug Pederson’s Doug Pederson, so to speak. Have him run the team until a rookie QB is ready to take over. Foles is a high character guy and has proven he can be an adequate starter, good under the right circumstances. I think he would be a good backup QB.

Expect all kinds of crazy rumors and reports in the next month. There are a lot of different scenarios involving the Eagles and the QB position.

Ideally the Eagles will find a long term solution to the QB position, whether that is a draft pick or getting Bradford or some other quality veteran signed to a long deal. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

One thing we have to remember in all of this is that Sam Bradford has something to say about where he plays. Yes, the Eagles can tag him. But they should only do that if he wants to be here. Per Tim McManus:

We made a case for placing the franchise tag on Bradford last week, a move that would likely cost the Eagles $19-20 million in ’16. It would allow them the opportunity to put their best foot forward this year while leaving flexibility long-term should they land their quarterback of the future in the upcoming draft.

Bradford, we’re told, isn’t dying to come back to Philadelphia, which might be part of the equation here. But there are worse fates than banking $20 million in a familiar setting for a season, and Bradford is a professional. It’s hard to picture him not investing himself in a season just because he’s not in his ideal setting.

I’ve also heard some hints that Bradford might not be in love with coming back. The key is that he has to find a suitor that wants him and that he is interested in. If the right teams don’t reach out to him, maybe returning to the Eagles will suddenly be the best option.

It is going to be interesting to see how this QB circus plays out, for the the Eagles, as well the other teams and all the QBs involved.

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Everybody Wants Some

Posted: February 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 633 Comments »

Having good players is a good thing. Being able to keep good players around is a great thing. Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin got new deals last year. Vinny Curry just got a new deal a couple of days ago. Fletcher Cox is in negotiations with the Eagles and might land the richest contract in franchise history. Because of the amount of money involved, there is no definitive timetable for that deal.

Those deals mean two things. First, the Eagles are a happy organization because they were able to keep their best players around. Second, but just as important, a lot of happy Eagles players. Apparently football players like money.

Those deals actually mean something else. Other guys want to get paid. Everybody wants some.

The DT position is now very tricky.

Cedric Thornton is a free agent. Bennie Logan is in the final year of his deal. Cox is also in the final year of his deal, but if anything goes wrong in negotiations they would just use the franchise tag on him. He will be an Eagle in 2016 and 2017 at the very least.

I think Jim Schwartz would like to have 4 DTs to regularly rotate. He’ll have Cox and Logan starting this year. There are no clear backups. Beau Allen is more of a 3-4 NT. The Eagles have to figure out if he can be effective in the new system. Taylor Hart has the kind of frame that Schwartz loves, but he might not be DT material. Hart may need to go to a 3-4 team where he is a natural DE.

Travis Raciti was on the practice squad in 2015, but he could be an excellent fit in the new scheme. Here is something I wrote on him last spring when he was signed as a UDFA.

DE Travis Raciti – San Jose State – 6-5, 285

Athletic DL who has played DT and DE. Played in both 3-4 and 4-3. At his best in 2012, when he was an attacking 1-gap DT. Some think he could lose weight and play OLB. I watched the Shrine Game, where Raciti played LDE. Did not look good playing in space. More effective playing in traffic. Has 2-gap experience, but still needs work. Has the potential to challenge for backup role.

Raciti is completely unproven and may not pan out at all, but he is a good fit for the new scheme in terms of size and skill. He might challenge for a roster spot this year.

The key to all of this is Logan.

I think of him as a natural 1-gap player who was talented enough and worked hard enough to be a good 2-gap player. Logan could be really good in the new scheme. The problem is that I think he will be good and will price himself out of the Eagles range. I’m sure they’d love to keep him, but they can’t afford to pay everyone big bucks. Logan isn’t a great player and isn’t worth great money, but all it takes is one suitor to overpay him.

The Eagles may talk to Logan about an extension now, but if I were him, I wouldn’t do a deal. I’d want to show what I could do in the new system and then go test the market. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll do a deal, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Thornton is the man who gets lost in the shuffle. He was a starting DE the last 3 years, but right now would project to being a backup DT in Philly. He’s not coming off his best year so I’m not sure he’ll have much market value. I’m sure he will test the market. If he can’t find any takers at a reasonable price, maybe he signs a one-year deal with the Eagles and then hits the market again next March. That doesn’t seem likely, but Thornton’s agent could see the big picture and expect Logan to be gone in a year. Thornton would then have a starting role open in Philly.

All of this might be a significant issue if not for Fletcher Cox. When you have him at one DT spot, you can build around him. It is much easier to build around a star than to build from the ground up.

People expected the Eagles to load up on O-linemen in the draft, but they also might be adding multiple D-linemen. A lot will depend on Schwartz and what he thinks of Allen, Hart and Raciti as backups. If the team can get Thornton to re-sign, then the DL could be fairly set. Chances are they’ll be spending at least one pick on a DL this April.

Free agency is also an option. You can find veteran backups for a reasonable price. Still, with the rest of the DL costing so much, the Eagles may prefer to go with the draft. That would lock them into a cheap deal for several years.

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Just writing about the 4-3 gets me excited. Can’t wait for August to get here.

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Hopefully the post title made some of you think of John Cusack’s great comedy Better Off Dead and this classic scene.

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Curry’s Turn

Posted: February 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 253 Comments »

The Eagles continued their recent spending spree, this time giving DE Vinny Curry a new deal.

Great news.

Curry is the kind of disruptive force you want on your team. One of the big disappointments with Bill Davis and his staff is that they couldn’t make better use of Curry. In Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme, Curry will play DE in the base defense. When they go to the Nickel or Dime, he can play DE, DT or even NT.

Curry should thrive in the 1-gap, attacking defense. He has the initial burst to beat blockers off the ball. He can also win by using a good rip move or by shooting hard to the inside. He mixes things up with power moves from time to time.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles use Curry. Will he start at LDE? No matter how he, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are used, there will be more of a natural rotation because of the 4-3. All 3 guys played DE in certain sets under Davis, but Graham and Barwin were LBs in the base 3-4. That made the rotation a bit more complicated.

This is another good move by the Eagles. It is critical to find DL that can get to the QB or at least affect him with pressure. Just think about the Giants. Their DL struggled to get pressure and the team only had 23 sacks for the year. The 4-3 is predicated on having rushers that can penetrate and pressure. Curry has played well in a limited role the past few years, but he now has a chance to shine.

There is some risk. Curry has never been  a starter or guy that played a ton of snaps. You are paying him good money based on potential. There is an interesting point of comparison.

Griffen got paid based on potential and he has thrived as a starter for the Vikings. He has 22.5 sacks since getting paid and becoming a major part of the defense. Curry has the potential to be even better than Griffen.

Next up, Fletcher Cox. That deal is a bit more complex since it will involve a lot of dead presidents.

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Homegrown is Best

Posted: February 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 299 Comments »

The Eagles have done new deals with Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson. I think that is a big deal. I’m a big believer in the value of signing your own guys.

Jimmy Bama and I discussed this in Mobile and he wasn’t as sold on the importance of it. With that in mind, I wrote this week’s PE.com column on the importance of keeping homegrown talent. I mixed in some history and some football history to help make my point.

It is funny how some outsiders so quickly can feel like Eagles. I remember the team signing Brian Mitchell in 2000 to be a backup RB and key RS. He had been a lifelong Skins player, but immediately felt like an Eagle. Maybe it was just the fact he played so hard and did all the little things well. Some free agents play for money. Mitch was all about kicking some ass.

My two best Brian Mitchell memories involved injuries. One of the Gramatica brothers tried to tackle him on a kickoff in an Eagles-Cardinals game. Mitch took up straight up the field. Gramatica was between him and the end zone. Rather than dance, Mitch ran straight at the PK and went full speed. Gramatica reached out to tackle him, but Mitch ran right through the attempt and separated the guy’s shoulder in the process. That’s fantasy material for STs coaches.

I also remember LaVar Arrington coming down to cover a KO when he collided with Mitch. Arrington had a great combination of size, strength and speed. But he hadn’t learned to play a man’s game quite yet. He and Mitch hit head-to-head and Arrington is the one who left the game with the concussion.

Among current Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins and Connor Barwin felt like lifelong Eagles pretty quickly. I’m sure Jenkins is still a Saint at heart. They drafted him and he won a Super Bowl there. Barwin? He’s been here 3 years and has played his best ball with the Eagles. He might just feel like a lifelong member of the Midnight Green.

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Let’s hope this is one of those times that Howard is right.

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Q&A

Talk about the QB situation (draft, FA & Bradford).  This will be handled in a lot of posts over the coming weeks and months. One thing you need to keep in mind is that there is no slam dunk solution. Last year going for Mariota made the most sense, but moving from 20 to 2 just seemed like an impossible task.

Some want Bradford back and that just might happen, but there is a strong argument for and against keeping him.

There are 3 key targets in the draft. Each has flaws. Any of them could turn out to be terrific pros. Or all could be busts. There isn’t one that feels like a guy “the Eagles have to find a way to get”.

Who does Shawn Oakman compare to? Someone asked me if Oakman, a 6-8, 267 DE from Baylor, reminded me of Jevon Kearse. Not even remotely. Oakman is more like Jon Harris, one of the biggest draft busts in Eagles history. Oakman could turn out to be a very good pro, but he was an underachiever in college and failed to stand out in Mobile. I’d only have interest in him if the price was right.

Can Barwin play DE in the 4-3 or is that a waste of his ability? Barwin can absolutely play in the 4-3. The first thing you have to realize is that a lot of his snaps in the old scheme came as a 4-3 DE because that was part of the Nickel defense. The Eagles used some 4-2-5 looks with him at LDE. Barwin played DE as a Senior in college and was drafted by Houston to play DE for them. Barwin is more versatile now so you’d love to find a way to use all his skills. It is possible the Eagles could trade him to a 4-3 team, but Barwin is a productive player and key team leader. There is a lot of wisdom in keeping guys like that around.

Where does Marcus Smith fit in the new defense? I wondered about Smith losing weight and playing SAM in the new scheme, but it really feels like his best bet is playing DE. Smith seemed to struggle with OLB in the 3-4 in part because he was asked to do a lot of things. Think about those times when he had success (few and far between to be sure). Smith was usually rushing the QB in a known passing situation. He didn’t have to think, just to attack.

Check out #91 on these college highlights.

Smith might struggle just as much in the new scheme, but this does provide him with a chance to show that he can play in a different system and for a new staff.

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