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December 29, 2016

Eagles stay or go: Safeties

Eagles NFL
122816RodneyMcLeod Gary Landers/AP

Rodney McLeod started off his first year with the team hot, but became more passive as the season progressed.

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:

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends 
Offensive tackles | Guards | Centers | Defensive ends | Defensive tackles
Outside linebackers | Inside linebackers | Cornerbacks

Malcolm Jenkins

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.

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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?

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict: 

Rodney McLeod

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.

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict: 

Jaylen Watkins

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.

Your verdict: 

Chris Maragos

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.

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict: 

Terrence Brooks

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

#JimmyVerdict Stay or Go Results

Green = Stay

Orange = No need to release before training camp, but ideally the Eagles will have found an upgrade

Red = Go

 QBCarson Wentz Chase Daniel    
 RBRyan Mathews Darren Sproles Wendell Smallwood Kenjon Barner  
 WRJordan Matthews Nelson Agholor Dorial Green-Beckham Bryce Treggs Paul Turner 
 TEZach Ertz Brent Celek Trey Burton   
 LTJason Peters Matt Tobin Dillon Gordon   
 LGAllen Barbre Stefen Wisniewski    
 CJason Kelce Josh Andrews    
 RGBrandon Brooks Isaac Seumalo    
 RTLane Johnson Halapoulivaati Vaitai    
 DEBrandon Graham Connor Barwin  Vinny CurryMarcus Smith Steven Means 
 DTFletcher Cox Bennie Logan Beau Allen Destiny Vaeao Taylor Hart 
 OLBNigel Bradham Mychal Kendricks Kamu Grugier-Hill Najee Goode  
 ILBJordan Hicks Stephen Tulloch Joe Walker   
 CBLeodis McKelvin Nolan Carroll Jalen Mills Ron Brooks C.J. Smith 
 SMalcolm Jenkins Rodney McLeod Jaylen Watkins Chris Maragos  Terrence Brooks
 Head coach     
 Defensive coordinator     

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