December 29, 2016
The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles season is essentially over, so with one game remaining, we'll continue to look ahead to the offseason. As a starting point, let's take a look at each position and figure out which players will be back in 2017. Today we'll look at the safeties.
In case you missed our previous positional previews:
In previous years with the Eagles, Jenkins did an outstanding job putting himself in position to make huge plays, and while he capitalized on some of those opportunities, he left some of the table. The difference between finishing those big plays – and not – was arguably the difference between Jenkins being a really good safety and an Ed Reed type of safety.
In 2016, Jenkins made the most of his big play opportunities, although there were far fewer of them because he was tasked with playing slot corner after Ron Brooks was lost for the season.
Still, Jenkins' season was very impressive for the type of versatility he showed in changing positions on the fly, alternating back and forth between slot corner and safety from one play to the next. Where would this defense be without him?
McLeod started off the season hot, making big hits and producing turnovers, but as the season progressed, he became more passive. McLeod is at his best when he's flying around, unafraid of making a mistake, and Jim Schwartz wants to get him back to being that type of player.
Last offseason, McLeod signed a lucrative contract that will keep him in Philly for years.
Watkins has really improved as a tackler from when he first got to Philly, but he struggled at times with mental errors, which led to some busted coverages.
This offseason Watkins will be a restricted free agent, which can get pricey. He is in a similar situation as Kenjon Barner in that respect, as we noted earlier in this series. Last offseason, the Eagles signed Matt Tobin to the lowest possible restricted free agent tender possible, which cost them $1.67 million. That stopped him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. They later re-signed Tobin to a two-year deal that essentially served as little more than a pay cut. They were able to successfully retain Tobin, then get him to agree to a deal that was more palatable to the team.
The Eagles could attempt the same strategy with Barner and Watkins, but if Watkins is unwilling to work out a more team-friendly deal, he is not worth keeping on the roster for almost $2 million.
#JimmyVerdict: If Watkins is willing to sign a team-friendly deal, then he is worth a look again in training camp. Either way, ideally the Eagles will have found an upgrade.
Maragos is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, and he just signed a new contract extension. He's not going anywhere.
Brooks only played three snaps in the regular defense on the season, but he made them count, picking off Eli Manning to seal the Eagles' win over the Giants Week 16. Otherwise, he was a special teams contributor only, and often inactive on game day.
#JimmyVerdict: No need to release before training camp, but ideally the Eagles will have found an upgrade
Green = Stay
Orange = No need to release before training camp, but ideally the Eagles will have found an upgrade
Red = Go