Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 101 Comments »
Offseason activity has already begun. The only surprising move so far is the re-signing of Jason Peters. He’s older and pricey, normally a combination the Eagles don’t embrace. The fact they extended him caught many of us off-guard. Those are the kinds of surprises fans want to see.
Unfortunately, things don’t always work that way. If history tells us anything, it is that this offseason will feature a couple of decisions that are minor head-scratchers at the very least. Hiring Bill Davis didn’t make much sense last year. Bringing back Mike Vick was odd. And then drafting Matt Barkley didn’t make sense since we all knew Chip Kelly wanted a mobile QB. Oops.
During the offseason a lot of rumors and reports will pop up. I wrote about this last year in News vs Noise. You have to understand what the message is and who the message is coming from. Does the writer/reporter have an agenda? Does their source? Is the story passed off as fact or speculation?
Many of you got upset at Jimmy Bama the other day for his column that talked about the Eagles possibly trying to trade DeSean Jackson. Some of you got mad at me for writing about his writing. I can assure you that Jimmy didn’t just make this up to stir the pot and get attention. He studied the moves made by the Eagles and how they affected the roster and payroll. He then wrote about one possible meaning. Jimmy was very reasonable and logical in what he had to say. He also has generally been pretty positive about DeSean in the past. It isn’t as if Jimmy has something against him and is hoping this happens.
I have no problem at all with someone in the media speculating like that if they have logical info and present it correctly. Jimmy did both. If his theory was based on some ridiculous ideas, I would have ripped it to shreds. Jimmy and I love to argue. And I love to rip his bad ideas.
One reason that the offseason is so mysterious is that we simply don’t have all the facts. Remember the 2002 draft? The Eagles took Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis. At the time, the Eagles had the best secondary in football. No one expected the first 3 picks to be DBs. The Eagles saw the guys getting older and had the feeling that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign them once they hit FA. They drafted for the future and that turned out to be a terrific draft.
I remember being shocked when John Welbourn went nuclear right before the 2004 draft. The Eagles dealt him to KC on draft weekend because the relationship had gotten so toxic that they felt things couldn’t be worked out. Trading Welbourn would have been a shocking idea just a week earlier.
The offseason officially starts on March 11th. Be ready for a few surprising moves. These could come in the way of signings, cuts, extensions or draft picks. Things should be okay for the next few days. Think of it as the calm before the storm. Then again…I guess unexpected moves can happen at unexpected times.
The minute I hear that the Eagles are trying to trade Jimmy Bama, I’ll let you know.
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I watched some TJ Ward last night, but only 2 games. I’ll post my notes when I’ve seen more.
Some of you are asking about free agent CBs. I haven’t watched any. For whatever reason, I don’t think the Eagles are going to sign FA CBs. They already have a pair of veterans in place. My guess is that the Eagles would rather add CBs in the draft. I’ll try to watch a few CBs, but I’m not going to focus on them heavily unless we hear some direct rumors.
Peter King mentioned the Eagles should have interest in Alterran Verner, but that is pure speculation on his part.
Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »
The Eagles have released Jason Avant.
We knew this was going to happen. Avant is getting older and simply no longer fits what the Eagles are looking for on the field. Off the field, Jason Avant is everything any NFL team would want. He doesn’t get in trouble. He is a leader that understands you can get the job done leading by example or talking to your teammates. Too often in sports, volume is mistaken for leadership. That’s not the case with Avant.
I’m going to miss Avant making clutch catches and blocking for others. He still has some of the best hands in the NFL. Avant made his share of memorable catches over the years. He could go up and get the ball or pluck it just above ground level. He could extend with 2 hands and snare the ball or reach out desperately with one hand and make a phenomenal circus catch.
Avant really shined as a blocker in 2013. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing and piled up a ton of RAC yards in the passing game. Avant had a hand in many of those yards. Some receivers don’t function well when the ball isn’t in their hands. Avant took care of business. He didn’t care if he was blocking a LB, S or CB. Avant was going to go hit someone and do his part to spring a teammate for a big gain.
Arguably the best compliment you can give an athlete is to say that he made the others around him better. Jason Avant did that on and off the field. He was a terrific player and I’m going to miss him.
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Avant will catch on with some team that uses the slot receiver in a more conventional way. He still has good short area quickness and runs excellent routes. Avant can get open and catch the ball. The problem is that he’s slow and isn’t much of a playmaker. Even if you get him the ball in space, he’s not going to make a play most of the time.
I’d love to see him go to KC and be reunited with Big Red or to go to a top contender. Avant is one of those guys you would love to see get a Super Bowl ring.
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Just for fun, here is my pre-draft write-up on Jason.
Excellent college player. Jason makes big catches and is very good in the Red Zone. Always seems to deliver in clutch situations. Nice size and good hands. Can make tough catches. Works the middle of the field well. Can adjust to poorly thrown balls. I don’t see a whole lot of athletic ability. Lacks top end speed and getting seperation in the NFL will be tough. Can take big shots. Hands catcher. Will run guys over, but lacks top speed. 2 time Big Ten All Academic. Catches a lot of 3rd down passes and balls in the Red Zone. Runs very good routes. Sells fakes well. On one play vs OSU, shuffled his feet prior to running a slant and got CB Ashton Youboty so off-balance that he fell down.
Jason is the most polished WR in the whole Draft. Could be an excellent #3 type WR. Despite the lack of pure speed and athleticism, Jason could develop into a solid starter in the right system. He knows how to get open and has excellent hands.
He pretty much became in the NFL what he was in college. The one big difference…the Red Zone. Jason never became much of a RZ threat in the NFL. I think part of that was on Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid. AR called some strange pass plays in the RZ and Donovan struggled with throwing the ball to players in traffic over the years. Had Avant played in a different offense or with a different QB, he might have been more productive in the RZ as a pro.
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Here is the PE.com story with some official quotes.
Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 197 Comments »
I spent a lot of last night and this morning watching Jairus Byrd. I wanted to get as good a feel for him as possible. And I think I did.
Let’s start with the basic facts:
Age 27 … will turn 28 in October
5 years in the NFL
Didn’t miss a game from 2010-2012
Missed 5 games in 2013. Had a foot issue, but also was objecting to the use of the franchise tag.
22 career INTs
11 career FFs
33 career pass deflections
10 career TFLs
3 career sacks
260 career tackles
Played CB at Oregon from 2006-08. Left a year early for the NFL. Ran poorly (4.6 range) so he was moved to S.
Byrd is a good Safety. He has outstanding cover skills and really impacts the passing game, but he is only an average hitter, tackler and run defender.
The Bills mostly had Byrd line up as the deep Safety. That’s where he is most effective. He doesn’t have ideal speed so staying deep and being able to read plays helps him to get to the ball. Byrd sees the field well and has good instincts. He has excellent feet and a very quick burst. Byrd has great ball skills. He is able to go over or around receivers and make a play on the ball without drawing a flag.
Byrd is more of a natural centerfielder than a man-to-man cover guy. He loves to watch the QB and jump routes. Byrd gets into proper position to play the ball even before the QB releases the ball. Veteran QBs know this and will avoid throwing his way. Byrd had 4 INTs in 2013 and 3 of them came off rookie QBs. The other INT was a deep ball thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. He made a poor decision and Byrd made him pay for that.
Byrd is not a physical player. There were plays in 2 games where receivers caught a pass inside the 10-yard line, got hit by Byrd, and still scored a TD. One of the players was Jimmy Graham so that’s somewhat understandable. The other player was Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas. Byrd tried to land a big hit on him instead of wrapping up. The hit wasn’t hard and Douglas shrugged it off and scored the TD.
There were a couple of other plays in the Falcons game that bothered me. They had TD runs of 27 and 38 yards. Byrd was playing back off the ball on both runs. He didn’t get anywhere close to making a tackle on either play. One of the benefits to keeping the FS that far back is that he generally will keep plays in front of him. Byrd’s lack of speed kept him from even getting close enough to the runners to dive at them.
Byrd isn’t a hesitant tackler. He does generally wrap-up his targets. The problem is that he’s not forceful. To put it in football terms, he runs to the target and not through the target. He will miss some occasional tackles in space. Byrd isn’t the most active run defender on inside runs. He generally stays back to see if the RB leaks out.
If you are looking for a FS to sit in the deep middle and play the ball, Jairus Byrd is your man. QBs fear him and hesitate before throwing in his direction. When they do, he’s able to make a decent number of plays. And you do wonder if playing on a winning team would help his numbers. If he’s sitting back in centerfield and the other QB has to throw due to trailing in the game, Byrd might thrive. The Bills haven’t finished better than 6-10 during his career.
Is Byrd the right man for the Eagles? That’s a tough question. Chip Kelly loves turnovers so he might strongly push for a FS that has great ball skills. At the same time, Bill Davis loves to have his DBs keep plays in front of them and then attack. Byrd can do that, but might not be as good a tackler as Davis would prefer. The Eagles were hurt time and again by sloppy tackling on 3rd and long situations in 2013.
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Some of you objected to the fact I didn’t call Byrd “great” in a previous post. Please understand that I choose my words carefully. I think the word great is thrown around far too casually in sports (and by society in general). Jairus Byrd has some great elements to his game, but is not a great overall player. You are welcome to have a different opinion, but understand that I’m hesitant to use the word great intentionally.
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While watching Byrd, I also took the time to check out a few other free agents in a less thorough manner. These are incomplete opinions since I didn’t see enough to make a thorough judgment, but figured you would enjoy knowing my initial thoughts.
Malcolm Jenkins – I like him quite a bit. Good man cover skills. Versatile. Physical player.
Chris Clemons – Didn’t stand out to me.
Thomas DeCoud – I was surprised by the fact he looked pretty good in coverage. Bad tackler. I know why they cut him.
Jason Worilds – Didn’t stand out as a pass rusher. Struggled with setting the edge. Surprised to see him cover TEs effectively.
I did not watch any of T.J. Ward. He will be my primary focus tonight. Looking forward to that.
Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »
Monday was the deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise and transition tags. So let’s talk about the moves and non-moves that could affect the Eagles.
Safety T.J Ward – no tag
Safety Jairus Byrd – no tag
OLB Jason Worilds – transition tag
OLB Brian Orakpo – franchise tag
The Eagles did not use either of their tags. There are no more free agents that the Eagles feel deserve it. The team will re-sign P Donnie Jones soon enough. The Eagles did get DE Cedric Thornton to sign his 1-year deal. Thornton was an exclusive rights free agent. That meant he couldn’t sign with anyone else so the deal was a mere formality.
I’m sure the Eagles would like to lock him up to a long term deal. Part of the issue with Ced is that he was so ineffective as a pass rusher in 2013. He’d like to improve there to raise his value. The Eagles love him, but the lack of pass rush skills does affect his value.
As to outside players, the news about the OLBs isn’t ideal. I was surprised the Skins hesitated in putting the tag on Orakpo. He’s the kind of player you want to draft, develop and then keep. Worilds is an ascending player that the Eagles are likely to have some interest in. The transition tag allows the Steelers to match any offer that Worilds gets. Pittsburgh has some cap issues so a creative offer could be tough for them to match.
Some people think that the Steelers will have to cut OLB LaMarr Woodley in order to keep Worilds. Before you get excited about Woodley, he is going to turn 30 in November and he is coming off consecutive years with declining production (4 sacks in 2012, 5 sacks in 2013). That’s pretty much the opposite of an Eagles target.
There could be a healthy market for Worilds. While I think the Eagles will have some interest, he’s not a player you go all-in on. Worilds best years are ahead of him. The question is how good those years will be. Is Worilds going to become a top flight pass rusher or is he going to level out as a solid pass rusher? Think of the difference in James Harrison vs Clark Haggans (both Steelers LBs that developed over time).
The news on the DBs is interesting. We heard Byrd would be hitting the market. I wasn’t so sure about Ward. We haven’t heard anything about a bad relationship between him and the Browns. They have the cap room and the franchise tag price for Safeties isn’t that high compared to other positions. The Browns weren’t able to get a deal done with C Alex Mack so they decided to use the transition tag on him. They’re going to keep talking to Ward, but there won’t be any tag for him.
The Eagles will have interest in both guys. I’m just not sure how aggressively they’ll go after the players. Ward is the better hitter/tackler, while Byrd is more of the ballhawk. One x-factor in all of this is that we don’t know what Bill Davis would ideally want in a Safety. Does he want physicality or ball skills? The moves the Eagles make this offseason (free agency and the draft) will give us a hint about what Davis and Kelly are looking for.
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Someone brought up Nate Allen’s situation in the previous comments section. I still think the Eagles have interest in bringing him back, but obviously only at the right price. Allen might want to test the market himself. He knows he won’t get big bucks, but it only takes one team to give you a better deal than you were originally expecting.
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This situation remains highly confusing. I’m expecting the Sixers to start inquiring about him soon. He is 6-6, after all.
Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 156 Comments »
Free agency starts next week. The Eagles have the money to be big players. They clearly have holes on the roster so logic would tell you they could go spend some money on big free agents to shore up the roster.
But is that the smart thing to do?
The Eagles signed several big name free agents in 2011 and got very mixed results. Last year the team went a different route and focused on mid-level guys. The results were much better. One of the big differences in the groups was character. The Eagles got team guys last March. Connor Barwin, team leader. Cary Williams, team leader. Bradley Fletcher, good locker room guy. Even a player like Isaac Sopoaga who flopped was a good locker room presence.
I’m real curious to see how Howie Roseman handles free agency this time around. Last year the Eagles were making a big transition on defense and they needed volume. They were smart to go after several mid-level guys rather than a couple of stars. The circumstances are different this year. The needs are more specific. Targeting high dollar players makes more sense.
But you do have the Chip Kelly factor. He wants the right kind of players. Kelly needs guys that will buy in to his program. Not all free agents are open-minded. Many come with a major sense of entitlement, which is greatly helped by the huge contract the team just handed them. The scouting department will put together detailed reports on the free agents, but just as important as their play on the field will be what kind of guys they are.
I have no idea if Jairus Byrd is a good guy or flaming jerk. Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon during Byrd’s final 2 seasons there. They won’t be close, but Kelly will have some idea what kind of guy Byrd is. That will affect the Eagles interest. Safeties like Mike Mitchell, Chris Clemons, Malcolm Jenkins and Thomas DeCoud could be total mysteries to Kelly. The Eagles will have some info on them, but there will be some guessing involved.
OLBs like Brian Orakpo and Jason Worilds will probably be mysteries as well. You can bet the Eagles will do lots of research on them.
Howie Roseman is aggressive. That’s just the kind of person he is. But he’s not reckless. He’s shown that he can sit back and be conservative in the draft and free agency. He prefers making big moves, but you can’t force them. And after the success of the last 2 drafts and last year’s free agency, I’m sure Roseman is trying to learn from what he did right in those cases.
The Eagles have signed some elite free agents over the years and gotten great results. The Andy Reid era wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without Jon Runyan at RT. The Eagles made him the highest paid OL in league history back in 2000. That was money well spent. The Eagles don’t go to the Super Bowl without Jevon Kearse. The Eagles got good production from Asante Samuel. You can hit home runs in free agency. You just have to understand that the misses can be very painful. Stacy Andrews is not a beloved name in Eagles history.
My guess is that the Eagles will be aggressive, in a controlled fashion. They will target a couple of high dollar players and will go after them. The Eagles won’t be afraid to walk away, though. I don’t think there is anyone on the market that you just hand a blank check to. I can’t stress enough that I think Kelly wanting the right kind of guys will impact the moves. The players brought in last year were all grinders and they fit the culture. The Eagles were a real “team” and that felt like a tangible part of their success.
I can’t wait to see how Roseman and Kelly handle free agency this year. With every move they make, we learn a little bit more about the new way of doing business. Next week should be pretty interesting.