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March 22, 2021

What they're saying: Eagles' free agency grades, remaining needs and that Deshaun Watson trade rumor

Plus, how the Birds could attack the draft and a look at a Day 2 QB option

Eagles NFL
102919HowieRoseman Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles GM Howie Roseman.

Welcome to the second week of NFL free agency. Following a slow start for the Eagles, there's still plenty of work left to be done by Howie Roseman and Co. as he looks to turn his team's fortunes around following a 4-11-1 disaster in 2020.

So far, the Eagles have made a few signings, with the biggest being the addition of former Vikings safety Anthony Harris on a one-year, $5 million deal. With Jalen Mills signing in New England and Rodney McLeod's status for the start of the season still very much up in the air following a torn ACL last year, the Eagles were in need of some secondary help — and more could be on the way this week with former Titans CB Adoree' Jackson expected to meet with the Birds on Tuesday.

But that will hardly get the Eagles to where they need to be in a offseason that's expected to see the team undergo major turnover — after all, they've already swapped coaches and traded away their "franchise" quarterback. In addition to cornerback, the Birds will likely still seek upgrades at wide receiver, linebacker, running back and even at quarterback, whether that's simply adding a veteran backup (like Nick Foles or Joe Flacco), drafting a quarterback in late April, or perhaps even making a big splash and trading for someone like Deshaun Watson (more on all of that in a bit).

With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Eagles could address some of those needs in a brand new edition of What They're Saying. But before we get into that, let's look at some reactions to the Harris signing, which (spoiler alert) have been overwhelmingly positive. 

Howie doing?

Doug Farrar | USA TODAY

We'll start with about the highest possible endorsement for the Harris signing, which comes from USA TODAY's Doug Farrar. Not only did he give the deal an A+ from an Eagles perspective, but he also tweeted this in the immediate aftermath... 

Here's more from his post, in which he gave Roseman a mark he'd be happy to hang on his refrigerator. 

Harris’ 2019 season was one of the most remarkable for any safety in recent years. Then, he allowed just 14 catches on 20 targets for 164 yards, 47 yards after the catch, seven interceptions, no touchdowns, and an opponent passer rating of 55.0. He was the best deep-third safety in the NFL, and the Vikings responded by giving him the franchise tag designation as opposed to signing him to a long-term contract. That gave him a one-year guaranteed salary of $11,441, but as it turned out, Harris should have preferred an opportunity to bet on himself.

Harris had a reversal of fortune as the Vikings did in 2020 — the team went from 10-6 to 7-9, and Harris’ own stats certainly implied regression. He allowed 15 catches on 28 targets for 236 yards, 40 yards after the catch, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 121.4. Now, he was working with an entirely new cornerback group, and the Vikings’ pass rush took a major nose dive. (from 48 sacks in 2019 to just 23 in 2020). That’s going to affect any safety negatively, and as he showed in this near-pick of Matthew Stafford in Week 17, Harris was still anticipating offenses and making plays as he had the season before. The results just weren’t there.  [USA TODAY]

Average offseason?

Sam Monson and Brad Spielberger | Pro Football Focus

Over at PFF, they're more middle-of-the-road on the Eagles offseason as a whole, calling it "average." Given how quiet they've been in free agency (some of which has been a necessity since they aren't exactly flush with cash), it's hard to argue. 

But when it comes specifically to the Harris signing, they're definitely on board. 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: AVERAGE

Best signing: S Anthony Harris

Philadelphia was obviously doing a lot more subtraction than addition this offseason, with the reduced salary cap affecting them as much if not more than any other franchise. They aggressively attacked the rookie-contract window for QB Carson Wentz, which did culminate in a Super Bowl victory and two more consecutive playoff appearances, but 2020 was a disaster. Wentz is, of course, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, and the Eagles took on the largest dead cap charge in NFL history via his trade ($33.8 million).

With all of that said, Philadelphia’s big losses were more big names than big-time producers in recent years, with players like WRs Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson not seeing much of the field the last few seasons. They did make one really strong free-agent signing, adding Vikings S Anthony Harris on a one-year deal for just $5 million a year removed from playing on a franchise tag for $11.441 million. Harris’ 90.6 grade since 2018 is tied for the best mark among safeties. While he didn’t have his best season in 2020, this contract is an absolute steal for a highly motivated player that will patrol the deep third on a defense that ranked 28th in forced incompletions on passes 20-plus yards downfield last season.  [PFF]

What's next in free agency?

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

We mentioned up top that the Eagles still have plenty of needs to fill — and yesterday we even took a look at some of the top options at some of their biggest positions of need. Today, courtesy of Mike Kaye of NJ.com, we'll just look at cornerback, which is considered by many to be the Birds' biggest remaining need this offseason. And that's saying something when you consider that Jalen Hurts is currently the only quarterback on the roster.

1. Cornerback

Possible options: Steven Nelson (trade), K’Waun Williams, Gareon Conley, Adoree’ Jackson, Kevin King, Mackensie Alexander

The rest of the NFC East is stacked at wideout. While Darius Slay is still a No. 1 corner, he can only cover one wide receiver at a time. The Eagles’ cornerback depth chart outside of Slay is bare-bones, so the Eagles need to respond accordingly to the Giants’ signing of Kenny Golladay and Washington’s signing of Curtis Samuel. Luckily, there are still plenty of high-upside options on the market.  [NJ.com]

How Eagles will attack draft

Paul Domowitch | Inquirer.com

Whatever positions the Eagles fail to address in free agency, they'll have to address via the draft — or by picking up players off the proverbial scrap heap this summer. 

The biggest question many have been asking is whether or not the Birds will target a quarterback with the sixth overall pick, with several expected to already be off the board when they go on the clock. The other top options for the Birds, as Paul Domowitch outlined on Monday, are taking local product Kyle Pitts, by far the top tight end of his class and arguably the top non-QB in the draft, or taking one of three top wideouts who will fall to them at No. 6, assuming that run on QBs actually happens. 

So, to recap, if the Eagles don't take a QB with the sixth pick, they'll either take the best player on the board or address what will likely be their biggest need at that point (assuming they address CB in free agency). Sounds about right... 

It’s still anybody’s guess what the Eagles might do with their first-round pick, which is the sixth overall. Could they trade down? Given general manager Howie Roseman’s current lust for draft picks, sure, but probably not too far. A trade out of the top 10 isn’t likely.

Could they take a quarterback, even though they appear committed to going with Jalen Hurts at least through 2021? Sure. [...]

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts has been a popular name linked to the Eagles in mock drafts. The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN’s Todd McShay both have the Eagles taking the Archbishop Wood High School product at No. 6. Florida’s pro day is March 31. [...]

Others, though, think the Eagles would be better served taking one of the draft’s top three wide receivers – Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, or Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle.

With the quarterbacks expected to get pushed up – as many as three, and maybe even four, could go in the first five picks – at least two of aforementioned wideouts could be available to the Eagles at No. 6.  [Inquirer.com]

The issue for the Eagles here is that they likely need to add a QB in free agency regardless of whether or not they plan on drafting one. For starters, they still need two to fill out their roster. And on top of that, if they don't add one before the draft, they're basically telling the entire world that they plan to take a quarterback. That could cause another QB-needy team to get extra aggressive and trade up ahead of them, which could result in disaster given how many top QB are already expected to go before the Eagles even pick.

Or course, there's always another option for them... 

Wait and see

Ed Kracz | SI.com

There's nothing saying that if the Eagles want to add a QB in the draft that it has to happen in the first round. Over at SI.com, Ed Kracz took a look at a potential Day 2 QB option for the Eagles, one who recently put on a show at his pro day in Palo Alto. 

On a windy, rainy day in Palo Alto, [Davis] Mills made all throws he was asked to make, completing 50 of 54 passes, and also showed some surprising athleticism, running a 4.66 and 4.58 in both his 40-yard dashes. [...]

The Eagles likely took notice.

They are no strangers to Stanford products, with Zach Ertz, Nate Herbig, and J.J. Acrega-Whiteside on the roster and Casey Toohill a seventh-round pick last year who is now with Washington after the Eagles tried to sneak him through waivers to activate Vinny Curry last year when the Football Team claimed him.

The Eagles are also on the lookout for quarterbacks, with only Jalen Hurts on the roster at the moment.  [SI.com]

The biggest question with Mills is his injury history, but that could be a blessing in disguise for the Eagles. Teams could still be scared off, even if there's no real longterm concern, and that could allow Mills to fall later than expected and potentially give them a mid-round QB option with a high ceiling. 

The question would be, at what point in the draft do you grab him?

If the medicals check out on the knees, he could go on the second day to some team.

If the Eagles think he's good medically, they could possibly make him the second of their two third-round picks, this one the 84th overall they got from the Colts in the Carson Wentz trade, in essence making it a Wentz for Mills deal?

Without a fourth-round pick, it would be dicey to leave him linger until their turn comes again with the 150th overall choice.  [SI.com]

What's up with Watson?

Mike Florio | Pro Football Talk

Late last week, following a national outlet linking the Eagles to Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, we got confirmation from a local one (the Inquirer) that the Birds were indeed interested in a potential trade for the disgruntled QB. And now, we have some further confirmation, this coming from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, who listed the Eagles among six teams still interested in Watson.

We say still because Watson has recently come under fire after seven lawsuits were filed — with more apparently on the way — alleging sexual misconduct by the quarterback against several masseuses. Needless to say, while that plays out, it will be quite difficult for any trade to take place, and obviously if these allegations are proven to be true, then that changes the entire conversation from should the Eagles trade for him to should he ever play football again. 

So, while the Eagles appear to be linked to the Texans quarterback, a trade still seems unlikely, and not just because of Philly's limited cap situation. Here's more from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk... 

Wilson cites unnamed sources to support the claim that multiple teams remain interested in Watson: Eagles, Panthers, Jets, Dolphins, 49ers and Broncos.

Being interested and actually making a trade are two different things. With the current legal cloud(s) over Watson, anyone who trades for him would assume the risk that Watson will be suspended without pay, eventually. The new team also would possibly have to pay Watson, if he’s placed on the Commissioner-Exempt list while the various lawsuits proceed — or while a prosecution happens.

For now, it’s hard to imagine anyone trading for Watson.  [ProFootballTalk]

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