January 27, 2015
Over the last few weeks, we've done offseason previews for every position on the Eagles. Along the way, we took a look at free agents and draft picks who might make sense for the Eagles at every position. Here are the free agents:
Good quarterbacks almost never make it free agency in the NFL. If you're an NFL team looking for a starter in free agency, you're screwed. But, occasionally you can find a good backup, or an intriguing reclamation project. Last year of course the Eagles brought in Mark Sanchez, who kinda sorta did what you want a backup to do -- win some games. Sanchez was 4-4 as a starter, 5-4 if you give him credit for the Houston Texans game, when he took the majority of the snaps.
But clearly, Sanchez is not an ideal NFL starter who is likely not going to legitimately push Nick Foles in training camp. Sanchez himself will be a free agent this offseason, and his biggest advantage in getting some interest from the Eagles to return is that he will already have familiarity with the receiving corps and the playbook.
If the Eagles decide they want to go in another direction, an intriguing name could be the Titans' Jake Locker, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Locker has good size (6'3, 223) and is a very good athlete. Note the athletic measurables in the spider chart below, which shows how Locker compares to other QBs competing at the combine since 1999 (via mockdraftable.com):
However, his professional career has not been good. After a promising rookie season, Locker had injuries derail his 2012 and 2013 seasons, and in 2014 he was benched in favor of sixth round rookie Zach Mettenberger.
And now for some severe over-analysis. Playing in the Pac-12 at Washington in college, Locker faced Oregon three times in his career while Chip Kelly was a coach with the Ducks! Oregon spanked Washington in all three games, and Locker's numbers weren't good:
So what does that mean? I don't know. But who cares? People like charts, and I'm going to provide them.
Anyway, Locker could perhaps be an athletic reclamation project of sorts for the Chippah.
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:
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.
The Eagles struggled getting yards after the catch in 2014, and could use more weapons who can make things happen once they get the ball in their hands. To the right, note the Eagles' wide receivers and tight ends with at least 10 receptions last year and their average yards after the catch. (These numbers are unimpressive, just FYI).
In 2014, Paul filled in for an injured Jordan Reed, and played well. He caught 39 passes for 507 yards, although he managed just one TD. But the stat that stands out is that he averaged 6.8 yards after the catch.
Paul has NFL experience both at WR and TE, which makes him the kind of versatile threat that Chip Kelly and Co seem to value. He is also a special teams contributor, which is a prerequisite for any reserve.
Ellis played in 14 games in 2014, but according to PFF he only saw 158 snaps, or 11 snaps per game. The Eagles don't have a lot of beef along their defensive line. Bennie Logan is a good NT, but at 315 is a bit undersized. Otherwise, aside from Beau Allen, the Eagles don't have any other defensive linemen on their roster who are 310 pounds or heavier.
The Eagles will likely not be spending big money on a defensive lineman to come in and start. However, Ellis could make sense as a goal line / 3rd and short specialist, especially in a division inhabited by DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys offensive line.
During the Eagles' 2014 preseason game against the Steelers, Adam Caplan of ESPN casually threw out that Jason Worilds would have signed with the Eagles if the Steelers hadn't used the transition tag on him:
That doesn't just indicate interest from the Eagles. Rather, it appears that the Eagles and Worilds had mutual interest.
The Steelers paid Worilds $9,754,000 on the transition tag in 2014, and would be on the hook for 120% of his 2014 salary if they tagged him again. That might be too rich for their blood.
Worilds would be a good fit in Philly. The Steelers asked Worilds to drop into coverage quite a bit, and he would form a versatile OLB tandem with Connor Barwin, which would allow the Eagles to be creative in their defensive scheme.
After being a third round pick in 2011 (he's 26), Irving got his first chance to start last year for Denver, but tore his MCL in the Broncos' eighth game. He is a good run stuffer, but not an ideal three-down player. If DeMeco Ryans is not recovered well enough from his Achilles tear to produce on the Eagles' D, Irving makes some sense as a temporary replacement. The Eagles would of course have to check him out medically, and be comfortable with his mental ability to make checks at the line of scrimmage.
Maxwell is the type of CB Seattle's "Legion of Boom" has become known for. He's big, attacks in the run game, and gets physical with opposing wide receivers. However, one question that has emerged with Maxwell by many Eagles fans is whether or not he had a huge advantage playing with three Pro Bowl players in the Seahawks' secondary (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor)? We covered that in detail here.
The NFL began tracking forced fumbles as an individual stat in 1991. Since then, Charles Tillman has an absurd 41 forced fumbles, which is seventh in NFL history. And he's a freaking corner! The top 12 players in career forced fumbles are to the right. It's basically Tillman, the best pass rushers of the last few decades... and Brian Dawkins.
Tillman has only played 10 games the last two seasons, and his game is in decline. He may retire. However, his style of play is an absolutely perfect fit for what the Eagles value. He's big, he's physical (obviously), and he makes plays. The Eagles often don't expect their rookies to play immediately, and if he can still play, Tillman could potentially buy them a year for a rookie to get up to speed.
At a minimum, if Tillman still wants to play, maybe you give him a chance to come in and compete for a roster spot / starting job like the Eagles did with Kenny Phillips a couple years ago.
The Bills led the NFL with 54 sacks in 2014, which undoubtedly made life on their defensive secondary much easier. Still, the Bills played outstanding pass defense last year:
Bad safety play in the NFL has become an epidemic in recent years. There isn't much available at the position in free agency, because, well, there aren't many good safeties in the league... period. Searcy is a solid starting safety who would likely be an immediate upgrade over Nate Allen. Searcy had three picks and two forced fumbles in 2014.
Note: The Eagles need to get younger along their OL, but it'll be unlikely for the Eagles to go after any top-tier offensive linemen in free agency, unless they cut either Evan Mathis or Todd Herremans, which both seem unlikely. The Eagles could certainly fill the roster with some free agent offensive linemen who are willing to serve in backup roles, but obviously, those players will not be big names. The Eagles are far more likely to address their OL in the draft.
In case you missed the offseason positional previews, you can find them here:
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