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January 30, 2017

Five free agents who make sense for the Eagles, version 2.0

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This year's crop of unrestricted free agents is less than awesome, however, you can be certain that the Eagles will look to add to their roster this offseason in the open market, as they do seemingly every year. Last year we pegged Chase Daniel, Rodney McLeod and Brandon Brooks as logical targets. 

A few weeks ago we listed five free agent targets who make sense for the Eagles in 2017. Here are five more:

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears (6'3, 218)

The Bears franchise-tagged Jeffery last offseason, which cost Chicago $14,599,000 this season to retain him. (That number is now smaller due to Jeffery's suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs). If the Bears tag him again, that would cost them 120 percent of his previous year's salary, or $17,518,800. While Chicago is likely to make a strong play to keep Jeffery, I can't see them using the franchise tag on him at that number.

Jeffery is a legitimate "No. 1 receiver." Over his last four seasons, he is averaging just under 80 receiving yards per game. He's a big target in the red zone at 6'3, 218, and he does a great job on 50-50 balls down the field. Jeffery would give the Eagles' passing offense an instant and significant boost.

Jeffery is going to cost a boatload. Former agent and current salary cap expert for CBS Joel Corry guessed on what Jeffery's price tag would be:

Thomas and Bryant both signed five-year, $70 million deals. Thomas' contract included $35 million fully guaranteed, while Bryant's was $32 million fully guaranteed.

Jeffery is far from a pipe dream. Last week we reported that the Eagles intend on freeing up a lot of cap space, listing seven players who could all be released or traded. If indeed they shed those contracts, Jeffery could be a target of Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie.

Jeffery will turn 27 this offseason and is a player who should be in the prime of his career.

Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers (6'0, 205)

In 28 games since signing a lucrative deal with the 49ers, Smith averaged a paltry 33.2 receiving yards per game. In 2017, Smith will count for $9,600,000 against the Niners' cap, $4,800,000 of which they can save if they release or trade him. It is highly unlikely they will keep him on their books at $9,600,000, especially when he showed a desire to be somewhere else. He's as good a bet to be released this offseason, as, say, Connor Barwin.

While Smith's numbers were bad with an incompetent 49ers team, he has shown that he can be productive in a better environment. In his first four years in the NFL with the Ravens, Smith averaged 53 catches, 898 yards, and 7.5 TDs per season.

Smith fits the profile of a deep threat the Eagles are seeking to add, hence their interest in him near the trade deadline this past season. He ran a 4.41 at the 2011 NFL Combine and has a 17.0-yards per catch average over his career. 

The Eagles don't currently have a deep threat opposing defenses have to respect. Smith could be a good fit for the Eagles' offense, giving Carson Wentz a legit vertical option in the passing game, while also opening things up underneath for players like Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and Darren Sproles.

Should the Eagles still have interest in him like they did at the trade deadline, they would be betting that he can a player closer to what he was in Baltimore than what he was in San Francisco.

Smith is reasonably aged, as he just turned 28 in January.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Bengals (6'2, 185)

Kirkpatrick was a first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Bengals exercised their fifth-year option on him this past offseason, which put him on their books at $7,507,000 in 2016. Over his five-year career with Cincinnati, Kirkpatrick has not lived up to his draft status, as he did not become a full-time starter until the 2015 season. He has since started 29 games for the Bengals.

Kirkpatrick is a legitimate NFL starter, but certainly not a franchise-tag candidate by any stretch, so there's a decent chance he could become available, especially considering the Bengals used their 2016 first-round pick on CB William Jackson III.

We asked Bengals analyst and quality Twitter follow Joe Goodberry for a breakdown of Kirkpatrick. He obliged:

He's having his best year but he was absolutely dreadful in 2015. Only two years as full time starter. They used to ask him to press a bunch, but his hands and feet got so bad that he was getting penalized too much and they've backed him off that. When his back is to the ball, he doesn't do a good job and can panic and get grabby, but in zone and off-zone especially, he can make some fantastic plays on the ball. He's really developed his ball skills. He's a better athlete than when he came out. Plays LCB only. Mostly zone. Hit or miss as a tackler. Gambler. Can be leggy and awkward because of it. High energy. Emotional.

As we have noted, Jim Schwartz highly values competitive corners, which was why a guy like Eric Rowe, who had a more calm demeanor, was shipped off to New England. The "high energy, emotional, gambler" side of Kirkpatrick is likely to appeal to Schwartz.

Still, while Kirkpatrick is thought of as an ascending player, so was Byron Maxwell. The Eagles have to be careful not to pay a steep price for "potential."

Kirkpatrick is 27.

Tim Lelito, OG/C, Saints (6'4, 315)

Lelito has guard/center versatility, which Doug Pederson seems to love. Last offseason, the Eagles signed a similar player in Stefen Wisniewski, and have already signed former Dolphins OG/C Dallas Thomas and former Redskins OG/C Josh LeRibeus to futures contracts this offseason.

If the Eagles decide to move on from Jason Kelce, Allen Barbre, and Wisniewski this offseason, which is a very real possibility, they are going to have to continue to add depth to the interior of their offensive line. Lelito could come at a bargain bin price.

Lelito turns 28 in July.

Patrick DiMarco, FB, Falcons (6'1, 234)

During the 2016 season, Doug Pederson made it clear that he wants a fullback on his roster.

"Down the road, as we go, if we can develop a fullback at some point, we will do that," he said. "We're constantly looking at that position, not only around the National Football League, but on our roster."

Last time around, we profiled Ravens FB Kyle Juszczyk. DiMarco isn't the receiving threat that Juszczyk is. Over the last two seasons, Juszczyk has 78 catches for 587 yards and 4 TDs. DiMarco has just 20 receptions for 162 yards and 3 TDs over that same span. However, DiMarco is good run blocker, opening up holes for Davonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman, who combined to average 4.63 rushing yards this season.

DiMarco will be 28 in April.


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