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February 27, 2023

Three free agents who make sense for the Eagles, version 2.0

Eagles NFL
022323MattIoannidis Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Former Commanders DT Matt Ioannidis

NFL free agency is just around the corner, and the focus — or fear — for many Philadelphia Eagles fans will be how many good players the Birds will lose this offseason to other teams. And make no mistake, they will be losing players.

The Eagles aren't expected to be big spenders in free agency this offseason, as they are tight against the cap and have a contract extension for Jalen Hurts on the horizon. But they also won't sit out free agency completely. Here are some presumably low-cost players who could fit within their limited budget.

You can find version 1.0 here.

Matt Ioannidis (29), DT, Panthers (6'3, 310)

Washington drafted Ioannidis out of Temple in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He didn't play much as a rookie, but he became a good starter for them in his next three seasons from 2017 to 2019. In his fifth season in 2020, Ioannidis tore his biceps in Washington's third game and he missed the rest of the season. He played one more year in Washington thereafter, but became a cap casualty in 2022. (The Commanders did him dirty by reportedly telling his agent he would not be cut, and then cutting him two days into free agency.) 

He signed with the Panthers on a one-year deal for just under $6 million, and had just an OK season. His career stats:

Matt Ioannidis Tackles Sacks FF QB hits 
2016 (10 games) 
2017 (14 games)27 4.5 17 
2018 (14 games)31 7.5 11 
2019 (16 games)64 8.5 16 
2020 (3 games)1.5 
2021 (16 games)38 2.5 11 
2022 (14 games)37 1.0 

Ioannidis is a better pass rusher than he is a run stopper, much in the same way Javon Hargrave has been for the Eagles the last three seasons. The Eagles aren't likely to find a player who can immediately replace Hargrave's production should he leave in free agency, but Ioannidis can perhaps be a player who can fill a similar role if he can regain the form he showed in 2018 and 2019. You can see some similar quickness/power traits as Hargrave in the highlight reel below:

Whether Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, or both players leave in free agency, Ioannidis would be a good fit on an Eagles defensive line that is definitely going to lose some players, and he should be more economical.

Ioannidis would presumably have more opportunities to pin his ears back and get after the passer in Philly than he did playing from behind on crappy teams in Washington and Carolina.

Jabrill Peppers (27), S, Patriots (5'11, 213)

Peppers signed with the Patriots on a one-year deal last offseason worth just $2 million. He only played 399 snaps (35.3%) in the regular defense, plus 269 snaps on special teams, and he still racked up 60 tackles, with only one missed tackle (per ProFootballReference).

The Eagles have some uncertainty at safety, but even if they are able to retain Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Peppers is probably still an upgrade on Marcus Epps, and certainly K'Von Wallace.

He could be a quality backup safety and core special teamer for the Eagles who also has extensive experience as a returner (83 career punt returns, 34 career kick returns).

Sam Martin (32), P, Bills (6'1, 205)

After the Bills released rookie punter Matt Araiza in late August amid rape allegations, they turned to Martin, a then nine-year veteran who was a street free agent looking for work. Martin ended up having a good season for the Bills, finishing ninth in punting EPA, while averaging 47.7 yards per punt, with a 41.3 net in a cold weather city. 

The Eagles seem to prioritize punters who excel at "pin them deep" situations over punters who are better in "open field blast off" punting situations, seeing as their two punters in 2022 — Arryn Siposs and Brett Kern — have weak legs relative other NFL punters. If that assessment of their preferences is correct (it may not be 🤷‍♂️), it really doesn't make a lot of sense, given their tendencies to simply go for it on fourth down when they are in their opponent's end of the field. Go get a guy who can mash.

Anyway, the Eagles have to do something other than bring back Arryn Siposs this season after Siposs has had disastrous performances in each of the Eagles' playoff losses the last two seasons. I mean... right?!? 

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