Every piece fits into a very complicated puzzle. And in the cases of wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu and defensive back E.J. Biggers, what you see on the surface isn't necessarily what the Eagles expect to get in 2015.
What you see are two players who are borderline roster players in their careers looking for another shot to stick in the NFL. What the Eagles could reap is much more significant, if it all plays out in the right order.
For the record, both Ajirotutu and Biggers are here to compete for roster positions and if all things go well, they'll make the 53-man roster and add veteran experience and depth to positions in need. Ajirotutu is a big receiver at 6-3 and 215 pounds who saw periodic playing time at the position for five seasons in the NFL with San Diego and a brief stint in Carolina. He caught 24 passes and scored three touchdowns and stepped up when San Diego's receiver corps needed him.
Ajirotutu's greatest contribution in San Diego, and one that he could very well fill here, came on special teams, where he was undeniably one of the best in the league. While he played 173 snaps as a wide receiver for San Diego in 2014, Ajirotutu was a dynamic member of the Chargers' special teams. He recorded 17 tackles on special teams and was voted by his teammates as San Diego's special teams Most Valuable Player. A season before, Ajirotutu led San Diego with 12 special teams tackles and he could compete as a gunner for Dave Fipp's special teams coverage units.
This has the makings of an underrated signing, one that could pay great dividends, one that helps the NFL's No. 1-ranked special teams from last season. Ajirotutu will compete at wide receiver, and we'll see how that plays out, and he'll have a chance to become a core member of Fipp's special teams unit. Think a younger, faster and very accomplished version of Brad Smith, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles aren't settling on special teams. They're actively looking for upgrades, and Ajirotutu fits that bill.
At wide receiver, who knows? The Eagles give that group rep upon rep upon rep in the training sessions to earn playing time, and Ajirotutu will be in the mix.
He'll also have a familiar face from the jump in the locker room, as he and new Eagles running back Ryan Mathews are best of friends dating back to their days as roommates at Fresno State.
Biggers is a big defensive back – 6-0, 185 pounds – and he'll add competition at cornerback. Maybe he gets a look at safety, too. The Eagles are going to explore every option there, so perhaps Biggers will be in the mix.
At the very least, Biggers offers experience with 76 NFL games and 31 starts under his belt at cornerback. The Eagles, you remember, allowed 72 passing plays of 20-plus yards in 2014, most in the league. They've clearly set out to improve the secondary and had previously added Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond in free agency. Biggers comes to compete both inside and on the outside and maybe he will get some reps this summer at safety, just to get a feel. Nothing is guaranteed. He's shown flashes of good coverage skills and he can press at the line of scrimmage. That's something the Eagles want to do this year. They want their cornerbacks to get up and get physical and re-direct wide receivers and disrupt the timing of opponents' passing games. They want players who are going to fight.
Biggers, like Ajirotutu, is here on a one-year contract. They know they have to earn places at the table for the Eagles in 2015. They're going to be hungry to battle.
If these signings have anything similar to the impact the additions of Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman did for the Eagles on special teams a year ago, well, then they are slam dunks. That remains to be seen. This is the time in free agency when teams add players to provide depth and lend competition to the roster, and both Ajirotutu and Biggers do that. They've been in the league. They know how the game works.
The Eagles aren't done adding, subtracting, and trying to improve their roster. There is a full three weeks-plus before the April 30 NFL Draft. Chip Kelly wants to stock his roster as full as he can before the draft, and then go into the three-day period knowing he can take the "best player on the board" rather than reaching for needs.
Players like wide receiver Miles Austin (signed last week), Ajirotutu and Biggers are one-year commitments, so the risk is minimal. If all goes well, they will contribute and extend their time here. That's what teams want when they sign players at this time in free agency – contributors who understand that the only guarantee is no guarantee, but the opportunity to fit into the puzzle is available.