One of the positions the Eagles might target in free agency is NT. They could go for a young run stuffer like Roy Miller. They could go for a veteran like Isaac Sopoaga. They could take a chance on backups like Sammie Lee Hill, Ricky Jean-Francois, or Steve McClendon and project them to start. The Eagles won’t acknowledge exactly what the system is going to be so it’s hard to know exactly what they’re looking for.
One question I haven’t really addressed is whether the Eagles will look at NT as a starting position. Sounds crazy, but this thought occurred to me the other day. If the base defense is on the field just half the plays (or less), you could argue that the NT is a role player.
The Eagles were linked today to free agent DL Desmond Bryant. He played for the Raiders last year and was all over the place. He played DE, DT, and even some NT. Bryant looked natural at all 3 spots. Most guys struggle at NT because they don’t fare well with double teams. Bryant held his own. You could sign a guy like him to start as the 5-tech DE and then mix him in at NT in some other sets.
Antonio Dixon and/or some other player could play the spot on most run downs. Cedric Thornton could play some snaps there. Even Fletcher Cox from time to time. You could add a draft pick to the mix. You could sign Pat Sims or Shaun Cody to challenge for the job. The point is that you wouldn’t need to sink big money or an early pick to land the right guy.
If the Eagles do play the 4-3 Under, the NT will play the shade nose. This means he lines up on the Center’s shoulder. The NT doesn’t have to 2-gap and eat up multiple blockers on every snap. He must be able to handle double teams, but there will be some plays where the NT fires upfield and can be disruptive. That reduces the need for a massive player and gives you a larger pool of choices.
The NT couldn’t be just anyone. You would need a player good enough to be effective vs the run in critical short yardage situations. This is one reason I don’t fully trust a rookie as the NT. College football is played by boys. Pro football is played by men. The first time a rookie takes on a double team by a pair of NFL blockers, it is unlike anything he’s ever experienced. It takes time to adjust to that.
We’ll start to get an idea of how the Eagles view NT in the next week. Do they sign a proven starter or go for a versatile player who has experience there and on the outside?
* * * * *
The Eagles went down to work out Geno Smith early today. I’ve already written what I think of this.
A few of you had follow-up questions/comments. Some felt that the fact Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Chip Kelly all went to West Va is a sign the Eagles truly are interested in Smith. My response is still…no. I think this is all part of the sales job. The Eagles want to move back and add extra picks.
Every time I do a mock draft, I come away frustrated that the team doesn’t have extra picks in rounds 2-4. It would help a great deal to add 1 or 2 extra picks in that area. But wait…would Jeff Lurie bother to go to Morgantown, WV just to help the Eagles maybe get a couple of mid-round picks? Hell yes.
Did you watch the 2012 Eagles? Jeff Lurie’s pride and joy had a nightmare season. Lurie is more competitive than most understand. He’s dying for the team to get back to the top. I bet he’ll do anything he can to help the team out. If making a trip to WV could potentially help the team in a trade scenario, let’s go. It isn’t like Lurie had to ride down there in a 1987 Ford Escort with me, Jimmy Bama, and only a Level 42 cassette to entertain us. Come to think of it, that might be a great documentary for him to produce.
I do not believe the Eagles have serious interest in Geno Smith. Some questioned why that is. Smith does have the skill set to run Chip Kelly’s offense. I just don’t happen to think Smith is a QB you draft early and build a team around. I think he is a guy you take if you have nothing at QB and are somewhat desperate. The Eagles have a young QB in Nick Foles. He might end up starting the next 10 years or he might not start 10 more games in the rest of his career. He at least is a young QB that has shown some promise. Foles gives you the freedom to take a QB this year or to wait a year. This doesn’t mean that Nick is the answer, only that he could possibly be the answer.
If Smith is on the board for pick 35, the Eagles might be very interested, but the chances of that happening are slim and none. Smith is the top QB and some team that feels desperate will take him, whether at 2, 3, or somewhere after the Eagles.
The other point that several people raised is about whether other teams would be willing to move up. Can’t they see the Eagles are just posturing? That’s why you have Lurie, Howie, and Chip go on the trip. Helps to sell the idea. For those who still think no team will bite, just remember last year. MIN had the #3 pick. CLE was at #4. The Browns coveted RB Trent Richardson. Minnesota had a good enough poker face that the Browns traded #4, 118, 139, and 211 to move up to #3 and take the RB. The Vikings already had Adrian Peterson, but with him coming off an ACL tear, the team played their hand perfectly and got the extra picks.
Draft trades are a game of chicken. If the other team wants the player bad enough, they might blink and pay the price.
The final part of all this is that it doesn’t hurt the Eagles brass to go watch Geno. Kelly wants to find a QB. The more guys he looks at, the more he can compare them and get a feel for who he really wants. Smith isn’t worth #4, but seeing him in action may help Chip decide between other players in the 2nd, 3rd, or later rounds.
* * * * *
Jeff Darlington reported on Twitter that the Eagles are one of the teams to watch in regard to CB Sean Smith. Darlington admitted he got the info from agent David Canter.
Some people hear the stats on Smith and wonder why the Eagles are interested. Smith is a huge, talented CB. He is 6-4, 215. He can press and be physical with WRs. He must be used right in order to be at his best. His weakness is that he’s stiff. Receivers who make sharp or quick cuts can gain separation. You have to accept that weakness in his game. You sign Smith because you want a CB that can physically overwhelm WRs at the line and disrupt their routes and the timing of the passing game.
I think Smith would be a good, but not great addition. There is no great CB in this FA period.
As we learned with Nnamdi, though, the key isn’t to sign the biggest name, but rather to sign the guy who fits your system the best and can succeed on the new team. 17 years ago the Eagles signed a free agent corner from the Dolphins. Smith isn’t nearly as good as Troy Vincent, but if he turned out to be just 3/4′s the player that Troy was, the Eagles would be very happy.
Smith gets mentioned with the Eagles a lot, but we still don’t know for a fact that the team has interest. Just fun rumors for now.
* * * * *
Nnamdi update #237
The Eagles will cut Nnamdi this week, maybe on Tuesday. As I understand it, they are waiting for the new league year to begin. Once that happens, the dead money on his deal will count against the new cap, which is what they want.
This is all just technical contract stuff. Don’t worry.
* * * * *
Tired of reading my thoughts on FA? NFL Gimpy did his free agency preview. Find out who he thinks is good value and who isn’t. Always entertaining and informative.