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June 01, 2017

Mailbag: Eagles 2018 free agents: An early stay or go?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of good unanswered questions that I was not able to get to, so we'll cover them and some recent emails here in an Eagles mailbag.

Question from Jeff: It’s a little early and a lot could change over the course of the season, but with 15+ free agents, what do you see Howie doing? With big names like Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, and Timmy Jernigan to hit the free agent market, who do you think stays/goes?

I’ll cover each player, one by one, and guess on the futures of each of them. In order of average yearly salary:

Alshon Jeffery: If he plays well and stays healthy, I think the Eagles will make it a priority to lock him up long term, and even use the franchise tag if need be.

Darren Sproles: It is expected that Sproles will retire after this season.

Ryan Mathews: He’ll be gone within the next 8 weeks.

Nigel Bradham: This is an interesting one. Whether the league disciplines Bradham will all depend on the outcomes of his pending court cases, obviously. Last year, Bradham was an effective linebacker, so the Eagles would probably like to keep him, and I think they will on a modest deal.

Trey Burton: With Brent Celek likely retiring soon, the Eagles could look to lock up Burton long-term. He’s a core special teams player and decent pass-catching backup TE.

Marcus Smith: He’s a goner.

Chance Warmack: Warmack’s 2016 game tape was dreadful, so he has a lot to prove just to make the team this year.

Allen Barbre: Barbre will turn 33 in June. I think this is his last year with the team.

Dwayne Gratz: He’ll have to fight just to make the team this year.

LeGarrette Blount: Blount feels like a one-year Band-Aid until the team can address the running back position in the draft.

Jordan Matthews: I think Matthews is going to want more money than the Eagles will want to pay him, and some other team will overpay him. Then again, he and Wentz are boys, soooooo…

Timmy Jernigan: I don’t think the Eagles would have traded for him if the team didn’t see him as more than a one-year fix at DT after the departure of Bennie Logan. I think the Eagles get something done with Jernigan.

Caleb Sturgis: Power Sturge has been surprisingly good for the Eagles, and they should look to him up as long as that continues.

Najee Goode: Classic back-of-the-roster guy.

Matt McGloin: If McGloin sticks this year, I think the Eagles will look to add a young developmental arm late in the draft next year.

Patrick Robinson: Another Band-Aid, but let’s see what he can do.

Matt Tobin: It looks like Tobin’s job this year could be in serious jeopardy with Dillon Gordon potentially emerging.

Terrence Brooks: He played a very low number of snaps last year, but forced a fumble and make a game-sealing pick. He’ll have a chance to beat out Jaylen Watkins for a roster spot this year. If he can, I’m sure the Eagles would like to re-sign him at a low cost.

Taylor Hart: A switch to a new position after you weren’t particularly good at your original one usually means your career is almost over.

Steven Means: He had a good camp last year, and stuck with the team all season long. With Marcus Smith on the way out, he could be the fifth DE. Maybe the Eagles sign him to a league minimum deal next offseason.

Beau Allen: The team reportedly tried to sign Allen to a contract extension earlier this offseason, but he tore his pectoral muscle. Let’s see how he recovers.

Question from CavanaghMike: Jimmy, I’m still surprised about Marcus Smith. Part of me believes he could be a 5-10 sack guy if given the snaps. At worst he’s the fifth DE who isn’t great against the run. You think he is destined for release or could Howie by chance pull off a trade? Maybe a conditional 6th or 7th?

Marcus Smith is a goner. Barring a rash of injuries to the Eagles’ defensive ends, I can’t see any conceivable way they pay him a roster bonus due on the third day of training camp. I also can't imagine what team would trade anything for him.

Also… 5-10 sacks? Come on, Mike.

Question from Eagles12: Predictions on the NFC East this year?

I think it’s an absurdly overrated division. I think a lot of people are giving the Cowboys and Giants too much credit, and I think a lot of people are underselling the Eagles and Redskins. All four teams are very close, in my view. They all have some things going for them, and they all have significant warts.

Gun to my head, if I had to pick today, I’d say the best unit by a sizable margin would be the Cowboys’ offense, so I’d go with them, but they may have to win a lot of shootouts.

Question from Big Daddy Wilks: If at the end of the summer the Eagles corner situation still is as desperate as it looks now, would you sign Leodis McKelvin for a hot dog and a soft pretzel to come back, hoping he’s healthy and knows the defense?

I’d rather have the soft pretzel.

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