Philadelphia Eagles News

Free Agency To Deliver Instant Impact

The names weren't the ones that garnered the major headlines or dominated the water-cooler conversations in March and April, but the Eagles expect to get some major punch from the Free Agent Class of 2016.

Leodis McKelvin was the first veteran from another team signed as the Eagles made a move prior to the start of the unrestricted free agency period to sign McKelvin, who had been released by the Buffalo Bills. As the Eagles emerged from their spring practices and camps, McKelvin was one of several free agents signed by the Eagles poised to make an impact this season.

A look at the group ...

Leodis McKelvin, CB

A former first-round draft pick in Buffalo, McKelvin had too many injuries and too much salary for the Bills to keep and the Eagles wasted no time signing him. McKelvin looked good in the spring with his movement and sudden explosiveness and he understands the Jim Schwartz coverage assignments.

As spring ended, McKelvin was the Eagles' best cornerback as he looks to replicate the success he had in the Schwartz defense in 2014 with Buffalo. McKelvin is extremely athletic and he is a threat with the football in his hands. He's likely to have to match up against some bigger-body receivers, but McKelvin is crafty with his hands and he's got great leaping ability.

Said Schwartz of McKelvin upon the Eagles signing him: "Early in his career he had trouble locating the ball down the field. That was one of the holes in his game. But like a true pro over time, he got better at that and worked at that and it became a strength. The year I was with him in Buffalo, he had a couple of outstanding interceptions where, even though he's only a little bit above 5-10, he out-jumped guys who were much taller than him, went up and played the ball in the air. He was on his way to an outstanding year in Buffalo that year before he got hurt.

"The biggest thing for defensive backs is the ability to cover man to man and he can do that. You can add other things in there. You can add zone and things like that, but it all comes down to locking a player down. It's not just a skill set. There's a mentality that comes along with that. You can't be afraid of the spotlight that's on the outside part of the field. It's a difficult assignment. You're not going to win every time, but you can't lose confidence if you allow a completion, and Leodis doesn't. He battles, he competes and I think that shows in his play." "Early in his career he had trouble locating the ball down the field. That was one of the holes in his game. But like a true pro over time, he got better at that and worked at that and it became a strength. The year I was with him in Buffalo he had a couple of outstanding interceptions where, even though he's only a little bit above 5-10, he out-jumped guys who were much taller than him, went up and played the ball in the air. He was on his way to an outstanding year in Buffalo that year before he got hurt.

"The biggest thing for defensive backs is the ability to cover man to man and he can do that. You can add other things in there. You can add zone and things like that, but it all comes down to locking a player down. It's not just a skill set. There's a mentality that comes along with that. You can't be afraid of the spotlight that's on the outside part of the field. It's a difficult assignment. You're not going to win every time, but you can't lose confidence if you allow a completion, and Leodis doesn't. He battles, he competes and I think that shows in his play.

Brandon Brooks, OG

Improving the offensive line was a top priority for the Eagles in the offseason and they set their sights in free agency on Brandon Brooks, the massive four-year veteran from the Houston Texans. Signing him was huge for the line, literally. At 335 pounds, Brooks adds some needed bulk to the right side of the line, where Brooks will play with center Jason Kelce to his left and tackle Lane Johnson to his right.

The Eagles are thrilled with what they've seen from Brooks.

"To have a guy like him with his intelligence and his physical presence next to Lane – Lane hasn't really had that – when you work together with someone you begin to grow together and I know that's already started to happen," offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said. "It gives the players around him confidence. He's done a great job so far."

Rodney McLeod, S

Another free agent who is going to start right away, Rodney McLeod's coverage ability, versatility and tenacity gives the Eagles a multi-pronged player to team with Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod isn't a big guy and he may not be the fastest safety in the league, but the Eagles think he has range and can cover and support the run. They expect McLeod and Jenkins  to team up to become one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.

"I like that kind of expectation," he said. "I think we made good progress in the spring. Can't wait to see what we do when the pads go on."

Nigel Bradham, LB

A starter at SAM linebacker, Nigel Bradham is expected to cover a lot of ground in the passing game against tight ends and running backs and in the running game. He's got to be an impact player at a position that has some questions.

How deep is this linebacker group? How will Bradham, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks play as a unit? Many questions. Bradham has a history in the Schwartz defense from the 2014 season in Buffalo and the Eagles are excited to see him in this defense.

Ron Brooks, CB

When the Eagles signed Ron Brooks the thought from many outside the team was that Brooks was an afterthought, that he was here to challenge for a roster spot and maybe not much more. Well, Brooks showed in the spring that he's here to do a lot more than that. He took reps along with McKelvin at first-team cornerback. He knows the defense and he has been waiting for a chance to earn playing time.

He has that chance. Brooks clearly has the confidence of the coaching staff and he is intent to make the most of his chance here. Brooks is a player to watch in Training Camp.

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It's been a busy offseason for the Eagles who have signed several impactful players to new contracts prior to the start of Training Camp ...

Chase Daniel, QB**

It is very clear cut for Chase Daniel: He is the team's No. 2 quarterback. His knowledge of the offense is outstanding and Daniel had a strong spring delivering the football.

Sam Bradford is the starter and Carson Wentz is developing. Daniel has an important role as the No. 2 in the quarterback room.

Chris Givens, WR

Chris Givens brings speed and play-making skills to the passing game. The Eagles liked what they saw in the spring from Givens, who can move around the formation and create some down-the-field matchups. He needs a career boost and is here on a one-year contract to prove himself.

Givens caught the ball well in the spring and he's in the mix for a lot of playing time. The Eagles are looking for depth at wide receiver. Can Givens be that boost?

Rueben Randle, WR

Perhaps the receiver with the most pure talent on this roster, Rueben Randle had a productive, but not spectacular, career in New York with the Giants. He admts that his inconsistency was an issue so he is looking forward to taking his game up a full notch and get a big-time contract after the season.

Randle can do it all in this offense and receivers coach Greg Lewis is pushing him. Randle has size and speed and he's teased in the past with the Giants. Can he put it all together for the Eagles in 2016?

Stefen Wisniewski, OG/C

By adding Stefen Wisniewski, the Eagles continued their goal of improving the offensive line. And while Wisniewski may not start -- he is likely to back up at guard and center -- he offers great experience with his 77 career starts and his versatility.

The Eagles have had too many missing pieces along the interior of the offensive line the last couple of seasons. Wisniewski helps depth in a huge way.

T.J. Graham, WR

A third-round draft pick by the Bills in 2012, T.J. Graham had 31 catches as a rookie and has had his production drop from there. He is looking to jump-start his career with the Eagles.

Graham is in the mix, but it won't be easy to earn playing time or, even, a roster spot. The Eagles have Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Nelson Agholor, Randle and Givens as their projected top five receivers. Obviously, we'll see how things shake out in the summer, but that's how it looks now, in no particular order.

Graham has speed and some explosiveness but he will have to make some stand-out plays to stand out in the summer.

Mike Martin, DT

A high-effort defensive tackle with some NFL experience, Mike Martin opened eyes in the spring. He took advantage of the absence of Fletcher Cox to show everyone that he is not an afterthought. Martin has a chance to make this team and add to the aggressive group up front. But it's not going to be easy.

Once the pads go on, we will see just how much Martin can offer. He has to beat out the likes of Beau Allen and Taylor Hart in a talented defensive tackle room.

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