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March 10, 2019

What they're saying: Which players, positions should Eagles target in free agency?

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031019_McCoy-Flowers_usat Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy stiff arms New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers.

After premature reports that Antonio Brown had been traded to the Bills turned out to be false, news broke early Sunday morning that the Steelers had traded their All-Pro wideout to the Raiders. And, interestingly enough, the Eagles were one of the "players" in the running for Brown, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

However, it doesn't seem like they were ever close to making a deal for Brown. 

While the Eagles may have missed out (or, more likely, passed) on Brown, that's hardly the end of the world for them. Because the NFL offseason is just getting started.

On Monday, NFL free agency will officially kick off with the beginning of the legal tampering period, in which teams and players can begin negotiating with other team's free agency, with signings allowed to begin on Wednesday afternoon. 

Needless to say, it's going to be a busy week for Howie Roseman and the Eagles, as the Birds have recently freed up quite a bit of salary cap space after entering the offseason well over the cap. And while some depth at wide receiver is definitely a need for the Eagles, there's more than one way for Roseman to improve his roster. And that's what we'll largely focus on in today's edition of What They're Saying... 

Feeling needy

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

Over at 94 WIP, Eliot wrote about the five biggest areas of need for the Eagles, and right at the top of the list was a speedy wideout. 

Speed wide receiver: Arguably the biggest issue on the Eagles’ offense last season was their lack of a deep threat. Receiver Jordan Matthews filled in admirably, but the Eagles would be wise to make finding a speed option at receiver a top priority. The team has tried over the years, but with Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins or Shelton Gibson unable to get the job done, they are left still looking. Whether it be through an early pick in the draft or signing a priority free agent, the Eagles absolutely have to bring in a receiver they can count on to stretch the field next season.  [94wip.radio.com]

Other areas of need, per ESP, are running back, defensive end and tackle, and a third safety. 

Hello, old friends...

Zack Rosenblatt | NJ.com

Over at NJ.com, Zack Rosenblatt took a look at some former Eagles who could possibly find themselves back in Philly next season. These three aren't free agents yet, but they certainly could be soon.

POTENTIAL CAP CASUALTIES

These players are still under contract, but might be released by their teams.

WR DeSean Jackson (Buccaneers): It seems Tampa Bay is set on keeping Jackson, though they are short on cap space and releasing him would save $11 million. Even though he’s 32, Jackson doesn’t seem to have lost a step speed-wise — he averaged a league-best 18.9 yards per catch — and would fit an Eagles need as a true deep threat.

RB LeSean McCoy (Bills): McCoy is on the downswing and coming off the least productive season of his NFL career. The Bills are unlikely to keep him at his $9.05 million cap hit. He might still be adequate as part of a running back rotation and likely wouldn’t cost the Eagles much.

RB Dion Lewis (Titans): He just signed a four-year deal with the Titans last year, but wasn’t all too productive and if released, it would save Tennessee more than $3 million. The former Eagles draft pick is an ideal fit to lead their running back rotation, if he became available, thanks to his versatility and ability as a pass-catcher. He had 59 receptions for the Titans in 2018.  [nj.com]

Getting defensive

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

After reportedly losing Michael Bennett to the Patriots, the Eagles could be in the market for a replacement at defensive end. Sure, they could go through the draft, but if they're literally looking to replace Bennett (with another veteran), they should have some options, including another former Eagles player who would make sense in a reunion.

The Eagles still have a myriad of options at defensive end. The 2019 NFL Draft is thought be historically loaded with defensive line talent. There are also a number of quality edge players available in free agency.

If the Eagles are looking for an “old guy” to replace Bennett’s role, there are some guys on the market with connections to the Eagles. Take Cameron Wake, for example, who played under former Dolphins defensive coordinator and current Eagles defensive special assistant Matt Burke over the last three seasons. Or how about Terrell Suggs, who overlapped with Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas in Baltimore for 12 years?

Here’s a name that’s even more familiar: Vinny Curry. The former Eagles draft pick is on the market after the Buccaneers released him last month.  [bleedinggreennation.com]


MORE: Mailbag: Which players could be trade-up options for the Eagles in the 2019 NFL Draft? | Philadelphia Eagles 2020 draft picks


Wake up, Philly

Seth Walder | ESPN.com

Over at ESPN.com, Seth Walder took an analytical approach to finding the best pass rushers and pass protectors on the market this offseason. He measured them using PRWR and PBWR, respectively. What are those numbers? Well, according to Walder, they "objectively measure players performances' on most pass plays rather than just the handful that result in sacks.... If a defender beats his blocker within 2.5 seconds, he gets a win. If an offensive lineman sustains his block for 2.5 seconds, he gets the win."

The biggest name out there is Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers. But, if the Eagles are truly looking to replace Bennett with another situation player, which is what this role will likely be with the return of Derek Barnett from injury, then Cameron Wake might make a lot of sense. The Eagles like to rotate their defensive ends quite a bit and, at 37, Wake hardly seems like he's going to return to an every-down player anytime soon.

Could this be a perfect match? Perhaps. It will likely depend on Wake's asking price. 

Cameron Wake, DE

2018 team: Dolphins | PRWR: 34 percent

We're starting here because Wake's high PRWR stands out, but the reality is that the 37-year-old is just a part-time player at this point. He appeared on 47 percent of Miami's defensive snaps in 2018, so teams looking at Wake will have to weigh that -- and his age -- when considering his future impact.

At the same time, when he did rush the passer last season he was efficient. Another caveat, however: It's possible that only playing half the time contributed to his efficiency, not only because of the extra rest but also because more of his pass rushes came on third down -- when he can fly toward the quarterback and not worry about the run -- than first or second. Still, finishing third among DE/OLB in PRWR is notable.

Though his sack total (six) was down, that was in just over half the number of pass rushes as, say, Dee Ford. Wake lines up in the same spot just about all the time -- on the far outside of the right side of the line -- and when he gets pressure it's usually by beating the right tackle on the outside.

Wake's 2018 season indicates he could still be useful in a specific role for a team.  [espn.com]

The best offensive free agents

Robert Mays | The Ringer

Over at The Ringer, Robert Mays broke down the 10 best offensive players on the market, including where they might sign and what they might make. Of course, Nick Foles was listed first, but we more or less know where he's going. So let's take a look at the other Eagles player to make his list... 

Golden Tate, WR

...

His Potential Market: Three years, $36 million ($24 million guaranteed)

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported last year that Tate could seek a payday in the range of $15 to $16 million annually this offseason, but the wideout might be disappointed when he sees how the market unfolds. While Jarvis Landry got a five-year, $75 million deal from the Browns last March, he was also 25 when he signed the deal. It’s likely that Tate will land a shorter contract with an average salary comparable to what Doug Baldwin received from the Seahawks in 2016 (four years, $46 million).

Potential Landing Spots: Patriots, Colts, Bills, Ravens, Redskins

It may seem unfair to let the Patriots land Tate, but New England has plenty of cap space and tried to swing a trade for him last season. Tate and Julian Edelman have somewhat comparable skill sets, but Bill Belichick and Co. wouldn’t have much trouble making it work. Armed with more than $100 million in cap space, the Colts also have money to burn and a glaring need outside of T.Y. Hilton at receiver. And Baltimore could use an influx of talent in its receiving corps, though the Ravens may conclude that spending big on Tate is too much of an investment in middle-of-the-field pass catchers after drafting two tight ends last season.  [theringer.com]


MORE: Three free agents who make sense for the Eagles, version 3.0


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