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March 09, 2015

Updated free agents who make sense as Eagles targets, offense edition

Eagles NFL
030915AndreJohnson Tim Sharp/AP

Andre Johnson could be a short-term upgrade from Jeremy Maclin at a cheaper cost.

Free agency hasn't officially even begun yet, and the Eagles have already reportedly agreed to terms with CB Byron Maxwell, RB Frank Gore, OLB Brandon Graham, and backup QB Mark Sanchez. They have also of course parted ways with LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, Cary Williams and James Casey.

Keeping the above (in some cases pending) roster moves in mind, let's re-evaluate who the Eagles might be targeting as they move forward in free agency:


After re-signing Sanchez, the Eagles will likely be done shopping for QBs in free agency. Of course, we'll see soon enough whether the Eagles will successfully trade up high enough to draft Marcus Mariota, as I expect them to try to do, and what that means for Nick Foles' future.

Running back

After signing Frank Gore away from the 49ers, the Eagles are probably done in free agency at running back. They'll have Gore and Darren Sproles under contract, with Chris Polk likely to sign his restricted free agent tender. The Eagles could certainly opt to draft a young back in the draft, but they can rest for now.

Wide receiver

With Jeremy Maclin bolting for Kansas City, the Eagles have a gaping hole at wide receiver. The Eagles are higher on Josh Huff than the typical fan, but the collective trio of Huff, Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper scares precisely nobody. Here are a few players in free agency who could make some sense:

• Andre Johnson, Texans: The Texans officially released Johnson, who was set to count for over $16 million against the salary cap in 2015. Johnson turns 34 in July, but has still been a productive receiver the last three years:

 Year ReceptionsYards YPC TD 
 2012112 1598 14.3 
 2013109 1407 12.9 
 201485 936 11.0 

Johnson put up those numbers catching passes from Matt Schaub and Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

Johnson is big (6'3, 230), is thought to be a good character guy, and recent evidence (Gore, Sproles) shows that Chip Kelly might not care all that much about adding older talent to the roster. Johnson could step in and immediately be a short-term upgrade from Maclin.

• Dwayne Harris, Cowboys: We covered Harris earlier this offseason. Here's what we said:

Harris has a career 26.5 yard average on 77 career kick returns. He has also scored two TDs and averaged 11.1 yards per return on 87 career punt returns. Here's how that compares to Devin Hester, who is considered by many to be the best returner ever: 

 ReturnerCareer KR avg Career PR avg 
 Dwayne Harris26.5 11.1 
 Devin Hester24.8 12.3 

Harris also led the Cowboys with 11 special teams tackles last season. Obviously, the Eagles went out and made special teams personnel a priority the last two offseasons, and that paid off in a big way in 2014. Why stop now?

But wait? Didn't Darren Sproles just make the Pro Bowl as a returner? Yep, he sure did, but he's also 32, and while Chris Polk and Josh Huff both showed promise as kick returners in 2014, Harris would still be an upgrade.

The harder sell would be to Harris, who returned every punt for the Cowboys in 2014, and all but three kicks. Would he accept a role in which he had to occasionally share returning responsibilities? Perhaps, if he thought he might get more opportunities in the regular offense. As evidenced by his excellent return numbers, Harris can make things happen in open space, which makes him an intriguing option in Chip Kelly's spread offense as a guy you can get the ball to and let him get yards after the catch. He's also considered a good blocker, which we all know is the most valuable attribute ever for a wide receiver.

Tight end

The Eagles released James Casey earlier this offseason, which could open up a spot at tight end if the Eagles want to keep four of them on their roster. One name that could make some sense, although I'd call it a longshot is Jordan Cameron of the Browns. 

• Jordan Cameron, Browns: Cameron has wide receiver-esque athleticism. Here is how his numbers compare to tight ends competing at the Combine since 1999:

If the Eagles didn't like the available options at wide receiver in free agency and wanted to help offset the loss of Jeremy Maclin, they could perhaps get creative with an athletic big guy like Cameron. One thing to note is that Cameron got a concussion just by me typing his name.

Offensive line

The Eagles were in on former Broncos OG Orlando Franklin, but lost out to the Chargers in their pursuit of him. I would expect the Birds to continue their focus on the guard spot as free agency continues, however, there aren't many compelling options at guard beyond Franklin. 49ers guard Mike Iupati is a dominant run blocker who could fit in with the Eagles in that regard, but as the top free agent guard, they'd be late to the party in trying to bring him aboard, if they even had any interest in the first place.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski