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February 22, 2020

What they're saying: Alshon Jeffery drama continues, ideal free agent fits for Eagles and more

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125_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Alshon_Jeffery_sad_angry_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Alshon Jeffery had a 2019 to forget.

Even in the slowest part of the NFL calendar, there always seems to be drama surrounding the Eagles.

This time around, that drama centers around Alshon Jeffery, who had a miserable 2019 season that was cut short by injury and plagued by off-the-field rumors and reports that Jeffery was the member of the Eagles locker room criticizing quarterback Carson Wentz — both this season and last — by leaking information to ESPN's Josina Anderson. 

Publicly, Jeffery and the Eagles have gone about their business as if nothing is wrong. And that may at least be in part due to the fact that the Eagles could be stuck with Jeffery moving forward after guaranteeing his contract during a restructuring last offseason that helped get his 2020 cost a bit lower. 

Last week, our own Jimmy Kempski broke down all of the Eagles' options when it comes to the veteran wideout's future. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot they can do unless some team wants to take Jeffery off their hands — or, the Eagles want to just bite the bullet and take the massive dead money hit that would come along with cutting Jeffery. Here's what Jimmy, who thinks the Eagles will be willing to pay that hefty price to part ways with the 30-year-old receiver, said on this week's episode of BGN Radio with Brandon Lee Gowton:

JIMMY: I’m already on the record over and over again saying that I think they’re going to cut Alshon Jeffery.

BLG: But why? Because I write this on BGN and people are like, ‘You’re crazy. It’s not going to happen.’

JIMMY: Well, I think they just want him out of the building. And rightfully so. I mean, it’s two straight years he criticized the starting quarterback.

BLG: Yeah, but how do you know it was him?

JIMMY: I can’t say that. But I’m extremely confident that it was him. And I think the Eagles know it was him. So, I think they’re going to want to get him out of the building. And I think they’re just going to take their medicine and take the cap hit.  [h/t bleedinggreennation.com]

Of course, the Alshon drama isn't the only thing happening when it comes to the Eagles, but it's where we're going to start this edition of What They're Saying... 

Alshonymous on the move?

Connor Hughes | The Athletic

While it seems unlikely that the Eagles will find a trade partner for Jeffery, that shouldn't stop them from trying. 

That's why this story from The Athletic's Connor Hughes should be of interest to Philly fans. Not only does he suggest a potential landing spot for Jeffery, the New York Jets, but he also has some reporting on the situation. According to Hughes, Wentz and Jeffery "never saw eye-to-eye" and have had a "testy" relationship. He also reports that the Eagles are looking to move Jeffery.

Philadelphia wouldn’t give away Jeffery if there weren’t [an issue], especially considering the dire state of their receiving corps without him in it. Jeffery had Lisfranc surgery in December, with doctors estimating a nine-month recovery. That would make the wideout healthy in September, with virtually no shot of participating in organized team activities, minicamp or the majority of training camp. And if he is only stepping on the field for the first time in September, he may start the season on the physically unable to perform list. He’d miss the first six games.

Jeffery found himself at the center of midseason drama, too, which seems a key cog in Philadelphia’s interest in a divorce. With the Eagles offense in a slump, ESPN cited an anonymous source who ripped quarterback Carson Wentz and the group’s ability to function. Radio host Howard Eskin outed Jeffery as that source that week. While ESPN’s Josina Anderson denied it was Jeffery, several other Eagles reporters confirmed it, too. League sources told The Athletic that Wentz and Jeffery never saw eye-to-eye and their relationship was testy.

The Eagles are looking to move Jeffery, league sources confirmed to The Athletic. And Jeffery would welcome the change of scenery.  [theathletic.com]

Interestingly enough, Jeffery posted this cryptic message to Twitter on Wednesday morning, two days before the above story was posted.

And the Eagles wideout followed it up on Friday with this message:

Later on Friday, Jeffery's agent took to Twitter to comfort(?) Eagles fans by telling them his client is totally happy in Philly:

Whether or not that's the case — and you could argue that the previous evidence suggests it's not — it's starting to feel like the beginning of the end of Jeffery's Eagles career. 


MORE: Here are all the Eagles' options when it comes to Alshon Jeffery


Matchmaker, matchmaker

Nick Shook | NFL.com

Over at NFL.com, Nick Shook took a look at all 32 NFL teams and tried to come up with a perfect fit in free agency for each. And the name he came up with for the Eagles is one that has been discussed at great length on this site and others.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Byron Jones, cornerback

As is evidenced in this file, Jones will be sought after in this group of free agents. One only needs to watch about two or three episodes in the latest season of "All Or Nothing" to realize how badly the Eagles need to upgrade their cornerback position. Sure, Jalen Mills' return helped, but he's going to be a free agent in March. The Eagles battled injuries all over their roster in 2019 and perhaps no position group was more devastated than the secondary (though receiver could make a strong case). Jones isn't a turnover producer, but he would give the Eagles a strong cornerback that they wish Sidney Jones would've grown to become by this point. Plus, adding Byron Jones would mean stealing a quality player from the rival Cowboys.  [nfl.com]

In his Eagles mailbag this week, Jimmy Kempski was asked if he had any concern over the Eagles signing a player like Jones, given that he isn't a prototypical "shutdown corner" but will like command that kind of contract on the open market. Here's what Jimmy had to say: 

I think that’s a reasonable concern, and certainly he’s going to be paid more than he’s worth, as are other corners in free agency. The Eagles, however, don’t have a choice, in my view, as they’re going to have to overpay for someone. The alternative is to field another secondary that gets roasted every week.

Ideally, they’d have hit on Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas. They whiffed on both. The punishment a few years later comes in the form of having to overpay in free agency.

That being said, Jimmy still thinks Jones is a good fit for the Eagles in free agency, and took an in-depth look at the cornerback's skillset and what he'd bring to the table in a Jim Schwartz defense. You can read that here.

Down the line

Paul Domowitch | Philadelphia Daily News

The Eagles have big offseason needs in their secondary and at wide receiver. Everyone knows that. And while they're expected to be active in those areas during free agency and the draft in the coming weeks and months, they also have other positions to address as well. According to Paul Domowith of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Birds would be wise to pay close attention to defensive lineman at next month's NFL Scouting Combine.

Head coach Doug Pederson fired his defensive line coach for the second straight year — this time, Phillip Daniels — and promoted Matt Burke, who spent last year as a defensive special assistant.

The absence of defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who missed all but 20 snaps last season because of a Lisfranc foot injury, certainly contributed to the Eagles’ inconsistency in pressuring quarterbacks. Fletcher Cox, who figured to benefit greatly from having Jackson lining up next to him, had just 3 ½ sacks, his fewest since 2013, and 56 total quarterback pressures, 39 fewer than he had in 2018, when he was a first-team All-Pro selection.

But there are a lot of questions with this unit. Defensive tackles Tim Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway and versatile Vinny Curry, who can play inside or outside and was one of the Eagles’ most productive pass-rushers during the Eagles’ late-season resurrection, all are unrestricted free agents. Curry will turn 32 in June.

While Cox isn’t going, his cap number is about to skyrocket from $11.9 million to $22.8 million in 2020, which means the Eagles need to restructure his deal.  [inquirer.com]


MORE: NFL trade rumors: Would acquiring Stefon Diggs make sense for Eagles?


Most Improved Player

Ben Linsey | Pro Football Focus

Which Eagles player showed the most improvement during the 2019 season? Miles Sanders would be a decent guess. And if they had any other contributing rookies, they would probably make for good guesses as well. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Philly last year. So when Pro Football Focus put together its list of the most improved players last season, the name they came up with for the Eagles was quite surprising. 

Philadelphia Eagles: EDGE Vinny Curry

I don't think people understand how disruptive Curry was as a rotational pass-rusher this past season on the Eagles' defensive line. Altogether, 99 different edge defenders rushed the passer 200 or more times over the course of the regular season, and among those players, Curry ranked tied for fifth in pressure rate (16.8%) with T.J. Watt. The fact that he was effective in Philadelphia shouldn't be all that much of a surprise because he has multiple seasons of solid play with the Eagles. It is surprising just how effective he was, though, particularly given how poorly he played for the Buccaneers in 2018. Last year in Tampa Bay, Curry had an overall grade of just 58.4 with a pressure rate below 10%. Prospective suitors this offseason will be hoping he repeats his 2019 performance rather than reverting to the play he managed after the last time he left Philadelphia.  [pff.com]

Just a number?

Michael Kist | Bleeding Green Nation

One of the main takeaways from Howie Roseman's end-of-season meeting with the media was that he is looking to have a younger roster in 2020. But as Michael Kist from Bleeding Green Nation pointed out on his latest podcast, nearly all the teams that have played in the Super Bowl in recent years haven't been anywhere close to what you'd consider a "young team."

It’s worth noting that from 2014 and on, the Super Bowl winners list is dominated by dinosaurs.

2014: New England Patriots (10th oldest) d. Seattle Seahawks (3rd youngest)

2015: Denver Broncos (7th oldest) d. Carolina Panthers (3rd oldest)

2016: New England Patriots (10th oldest) d. Atlanta Falcons (8th oldest)

2017: Philadelphia Eagles (7th oldest) d. New England Patriots (5th oldest)

2018: New England Patriots (1st oldest) d. Los Angeles Rams (11th oldest)

*2019 SWB not yet available, 49ers & Chiefs ranked 12th & 16th youngest average age at 53-man cut downs

“To sum up, being young is in vogue, but experience wins championships, right?... With the exception of the Legion of Boom Seahawks, we have never seen a team with an SWA below 26 even make the big game. So, teams should load up on those veterans in free agency and start planning their Super Bowl parade, yeah?

Well, no, of course, that’s silly. The question about where a team wants to rank in SWA to be the most competitive remains open, and this year’s results continue to muddy the waters. Half of the twelve playoff teams had an above-average SWA; half of them were below average. If you’re looking for the One True Roster-Building Model, you’ll have to keep looking elsewhere.” - Bryan Knowles, Football Outsiders  [bleedinggreennation.com]


MORE: Ranking NFL teams by age: 2019 edition | Analysis of Eagles' very old roster


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