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Where Do Eagles Go Next In Free Agency?

Posted Mar 21, 2018

It’s a snow day in Philadelphia on the first day of Spring, and so I’m in the mood for some quick thoughts on what the Eagles have accomplished in free agency and where they might go from here. The NFL’s Annual Meeting begins on Sunday night, a time last year when the Eagles added cornerback Patrick Robinson and defensive end Chris Long to the defense. They were huge contributors to the Super Bowl season. Free agency is far from over …

It’s a snow day in Philadelphia on the first day of Spring, and so I’m in the mood for some quick thoughts on what the Eagles have accomplished in free agency and where they might go from here. The NFL’s Annual Meeting begins on Sunday night, a time last year when the Eagles added cornerback Patrick Robinson and defensive end Chris Long to the defense. They were huge contributors to the Super Bowl season. Free agency is far from over …

    • In the last two seasons with Jim Schwartz running the defense we’ve seen only a few occasions when quarterbacks had success, a lot of success, with the get-the-ball-out game plan: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was 30 of 39 for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 27-13 win at Lincoln Financial Field in 2016. Eli Manning had two good games against the Eagles last season employing the same approach, and he was particularly on point at MetLife Stadium late in the season when he completed 37 of 57 passes for 434 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception as the Eagles held on to win, 34-29. In the Super Bowl, New England’s Tom Brady completed 28 of 48 passes for 505 yards and 3 touchdowns as New England rolled to 613 total net yards. This defense made a tremendous amount of progress under Schwartz, and now free agency has helped it even more. By acquiring Michael Bennett in a trade with Seattle and signing Haloti Ngata as an unrestricted free agent, the Eagles are better up front. They just are. They can throw more combinations at offensive lines. They can rotate more. They can create more favorable matchups. And they can make quarterbacks in that get-the-ball-out mode more uncomfortable.

    • I can tell you that when the Eagles play Minnesota this season – the reports that the teams are meeting in the September 6 NFL opener aren’t confirmed, so I can’t comment – the Vikings will have Kirk Cousins getting the football out of his hands quickly. The Eagles are much better equipped up front to have a start-to-finish pass rush that can squeeze the edges and collapse the pocket.

    • Cornerbacks coach Cory Undlin has a lot of young talent to work with, and he’s also going to have one of the most competitive rooms the Eagles have ever had. Don’t go into the spring and summer assuming anything about the depth chart, but Undlin is going to let playing time sort itself out. May the best men win. Having Ronald Darby here for a full offseason, and fully healthy, will be a great benefit. I’m not sure Darby was ever completely, truly healthy after suffering that ankle injury in the opener at Washington last season. He’s going to be better. Second-year man Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas are going to be better. Jalen Mills is always one of the hardest-working players on the team and, as it turns out, in the league. New Eagle Daryl Worley is certainly in the mix. Who starts on the outside? Who is groomed for the nickel cornerback spot that Robinson manned so capably last season? The Eagles also want to get a long look at the other young cornerbacks on the roster, so expect some fun in the summer and in preseason. But understand that while you are penciling in starters, the Eagles aren’t looking at it that way. The best players are going to play.

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  • Where might the Eagles go next in free agency? It’s anybody’s guess, but when you look at this roster you see some areas of need. Having Trey Burton signed in Chicago and Brent Celek making the free-agent rounds opens up the tight end position, and there seems to be a glut of veterans on the market looking for homes. Maybe it’s a combination of free agency and the draft where the Eagles add to the position, where at the moment the Eagles have Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, along with Billy Brown, Joshua Perkins and Adam Zaruba. Brown was with the Eagles through the 2017 season on the practice squad so he knows the system and he’s got skills. Needs to be consistent mentally, but he has skills. Perkins played with Atlanta and had a moment or two. Maybe he blossoms here. Zaruba is a raw prospect, a former national-level rugby player from Canada who was with the Eagles last summer. He’s a rugged guy, unrefined, but certainly worth another look. We’re all waiting for the Eagles to make a move into free agency here. Maybe they think the answers are on the roster. We shall see.

  • The bounce-back season of wide receiver Nelson Agholor provides an example for every player, and the guy I’m looking at is running back Wendell Smallwood. Nagging leg injuries have hampered Smallwood in his two seasons here. Just when you think he’s taking a step forward, he pulls a hamstring and takes two steps back. This is a huge offseason for Smallwood, and he knows it. Nobody have given up on the third-year back, but he’s got a crowded roster picture here – with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement in line for more touches and with the Eagles likely to add at least a back or two in the six weeks ahead – and so Smallwood has to be in tip-top shape when the offseason conditioning program opens in mid-April and when the team steps on the field for Organized Team Activities.

  • Great to see the video that Carson Wentz posted of him throwing the football wearing a knee brace. He’s clearly approaching his rehab with the correct mindset, and that is to attack the process and remain upbeat through all the challenges of the recovery. It’s important to note that the Eagles are placing no timetable on Wentz’s return. He won’t step back on the field until he is 100 percent and cleared medically and ready for live game action. The Eagles have the best quarterback situation in the league – an MVP player in Wentz, who is as motivated as any player in the league, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and emerging young quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who will benefit greatly from taking a high number of reps in the spring and in Training Camp. This is a great starting point for sustained success for the football team.

  • Finally, I love Brian Dawkins’s decision to have Troy Vincent introduce Dawkins into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. The two were, and are, extremely close. They grew up together during a transitionary period of football in Eagles history. They have a big-vision look at the world. I can’t wait to hear what Vincent has to offer in terms of insight on what made Dawkins a success on the football field and in life.

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