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February 13, 2019

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

Eagles NFL
021319TevinColeman Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Falcons RB Tevin Coleman

The Philadelphia Eagles are heading into an offseason where they could see some prominent players move on from the team. Due to salary cap constraints, they cannot go on a massive spending spree this offseason like they have done in the past under Howie Roseman, however, they are likely to hunt for more reasonably priced options.

Here are three free agents I believe make sense for the Birds this offseason. To note, if you're looking for guys like Le'Veon Bell, Jadeveon Clowney or Earl Thomas to appear here, that's just not realistic.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons (6'1, 210)

In four seasons with the Falcons, Coleman (25) has been an efficient player, rushing for 4.4 yards per carry, and averaging 11.0 yards per reception (outstanding for a RB) on 92 receptions. His year-by-year rushing numbers:

 Tevin ColemanRush Yards YPC TD 
 201587 392 4.5 
 2016118 520 4.4 
 2017156 628 4.0 
 2018167 800 4.8 
 TOTAL528 2340 4.4 18 

As you can see, Coleman's heaviest usage was in 2018, when he had just 167 carries, or just 10.4 per game. 

And his receiving numbers:

Tevin Coleman Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201514 7.0 
 201631 421 13.6 
 201727 299 11.1 
 201832 276 8.6 
 TOTAL92 1010 11.0 11 

A highlight reel:

Because he only has 620 career touches (that's essentially 1.5 seasons for Ezekiel Elliott, by comparison), Coleman should still have fresh legs. He's also coming off his best season in terms of yards per carry, at 4.8.

The Eagles aren't likely to try to find a three-down "bell cow" back, and frankly, there is good reason not to dump heavy resources into trying to land one. The primary reason for not drafting RBs early is because they have short shelf lives, in terms of the length of their careers. I think that also holds true over the course of a long season, and maybe the Rams' Todd Gurley, who was awesome early in the season but not so much in the playoffs, is a case study in that. 

Coleman is one of the best "rotational" backs in the NFL, and could be a very productive player who shares the load in the Eagles' offense.

John Brown, WR, Ravens (5'11, 178)

The Eagles badly need more speed in their offense, and Brown (28) would certainly give them that. He has 4.34 speed, with 40 career receptions of 20+ yards, 13 career receptions of 40+ yards, and a career yards per catch average of 15.0 yards.

In 2018 with the Ravens, Brown had a nice season, catching 42 passes for 715 yards (17.0 YPC) and 5 TDs. Those numbers would have been better had the Ravens not switched out Joe Flacco for Lamar Jackson.

In the 9 games before Jackson became the starter, Brown had 34 catches for 601 yards and 4 TDs.

In the 7 games after the Ravens became an extremely run-heavy offense with Jackson, Brown had 8 catches for 114 yards and 1 TD.

His fit in the Eagles' offense as the No. 2 receiver on the outside is obvious. Even if he can't duplicate the production he had in the first half of the season last year with the Ravens, Brown's mere presence on the field could open up the intermediate ares of the field for Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and even the run game.

I will note here, however, that I disagree with any perception that Brown will come cheap. The Ravens got Brown on a bargain one-year deal in 2018 at $5 million. I believe he made a few extra million with what he showed in the first half of the season last year. 

Maxx Williams, TE, Ravens (6'4, 252)

Williams was a second round pick of the Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft when Joe Douglas was still Baltimore's national scout. In four disappointing years with the Ravens, Williams compiled just 63 catches for 497 yards and 3 TDs. His year-by-year numbers:

Maxx Williams Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201532 268 8.4 
 201715 86 5.7 
 201816 143 8.9 
 TOTAL63 497 7.9 

While not a productive receiver, Williams was thought of as a good blocker, both in the run game and in pass protection.

In 2018, he was second on the Ravens in snaps at the tight end position, ahead of rookies Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.

Ravens TEs 2018 snaps 
 Nick Boyle776 
 Maxx Williams558 
 Mark Andrews495 
 Hayden Hurst306 

Both Boyle and Williams are set to become free agents this offseason. Hurst was a 2018 first round pick, and Andrews had a productive rookie season, totaling 552 receiving yards. The two 2018 rookies aren't going anywhere, and the sense here is that the Ravens will prioritize retaining Boyle over Williams.

A month ago in our stay or go series, we guessed that Eagles third tight end Richard Rodgers would re-sign with the team in 2019:

Rodgers signed a veteran-minimum contract last offseason, had a very good camp and preseason, and then was lost for a big chunk of the season with a knee injury. He'll be a free agent this offseason, and will not have a strong market, seeing as he had 1 catch for 7 yards in 2018.

I believe the Eagles view Rodgers as a perfectly cromulent third tight end, and would be happy to bring him back on another veteran-minimum deal, which they should be able to do.

However, if the Birds could sign a younger player like Williams (he's still only 24 years old) on a cheap deal to be the third tight end, they might like his upside more than Rodgers'.

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