Everything means something, and in the case of Stefen Wisniewski, Rueben Randle and Ryan Mueller, well, the late free-agency additions may just pay off in a fairly big way this season. A look at what the moves mean.
By adding those three players, and officially retaining offensive lineman Matt Tobin, who signed his restricted free-agent tender on Monday, the Eagles put themselves in a position to set their sights squarely on the April 28-30 NFL Draft. And with the offseason conditioning program underway with Phase One having started on a voluntary basis on Monday, there is a lot to talk about with this football team.
Eagles Sign OL Stefen Wisniewski
This is an interesting addition. Stefen Wisniewski was a second-round draft pick in Oakland in 2011 and started 16 games as a rookie -- 15 games at left guard and one at center -- for the Raiders. Wisniewski then moved to center for the Raiders and started there for three seasons -- 15 games after missing the opener in 2012, 14 games while missing two midseason games with a knee injury in 2013 and all 16 games in 2014 -- before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Wisniewski signed a one-year contract with Jacksonville and started 16 games for the Jaguars at center last season and then signed a one-year contract with the Eagles on Monday.
So why was he available again this late in free agency? It's something to think about for a veteran offensive lineman who has started all 77 games he's played in the NFL and who has experience both at center and guard.
Where does Wisniewski fit into the Eagles' picture? He's here to add depth and to challenge for playing time. The Eagles need a center behind Jason Kelce, and there are few teams, if any, who have the kind of experience at the position that the Eagles have with Wisniewski now on board. Wisniewski is also here to compete at left guard, where Allen Barbre is the incumbent after starting last season. The Eagles shored up the right guard spot in free agency by adding Brandon Brooks, and now they've got competition at left guard.
Don't pencil Wisniewski into the starting job there. And don't think that just by signing Wisniewski the Eagles are done building up the offensive line. They want to make this line big, strong and deep for years to come, and by adding Wisniewski they've created some competition both at guard and center and they've added depth with a veteran who has started 77 NFL games.
It's a no-risk, high-reward move for the Eagles, a real plus this late in free agency.
Rueben Randle Joins The Wide Receiver Corps
Rueben Randle is trying to put it all together. He wants to be a complete receiver in the NFL and he's shown glimpses of it in the past when he played with the New York Giants for four seasons.
Randle is here to prove himself with a one-year contract. He finished the last game of his Giants career in 2015 with 4 catches for 79 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown, and if the Eagles can get that kind of week-in, week-out production from Randle, they will be very pleased.
Randle caught 57 passes for 797 yards and 8 touchdowns a year ago and scored in each of the last four games of the season.
There have been questions about Randle's focus and his consistency from his days in New York, so he's got to be on point with the Eagles and play to his ability every week.
Can Randle start for the Eagles? Sure. It's a wide-open competition. The Eagles aren't handing out any jobs, so may the best men win. This is a young group of wide receivers and the Eagles need to be far, far more consistent than they were a season ago. Randle has his shot to get in line for a big-time free-agent contract in 2017. To do so, he has to be a dialed-in standout with a team that is going to give him every opportunity to be just that.
A Fullback? Let's See What Mueller Can Do
Don't jump to conclusions here. Nothing is etched in stone as far as the Eagles carrying a fullback on the roster for the first time since the 2012 season. Ryan Mueller hasn't played the position since high school -- he played as a pass rusher at Kansas State and then with San Diego last season -- and he spent time on the Chargers' practice squad in 2015.
So the Eagles are giving the 6-2, 250-pound Mueller a look through the spring and perhaps into Training Camp. Head coach Doug Pederson has been asked about the position a few times and said he is open to the idea of having a fullback on the roster, pointing to how Kansas City used Anthony Sherman in 2015. Sherman played 188 snaps last season, 18.76 percent of the Chiefs' offensive snaps.
The Eagles will also look at Trey Burton to see if he can handle the responsibilities of fullback. Burton played in the backfield at the University of Florida and, after signing with the Eagles as a rookie free agent, concentrated his efforts on learning the tight end position. He's become a pretty good tight end, one who could have an increased role this season, and has become a core member of the Eagles' special teams.
But Burton is a versatile player, having filled in at running back in a 2014 win over the Giants and gaining 10 yards on 5 rushing attempts.
It's a lot to ask having a player take up a valuable roster spot to be used so sparingly as a fullback. Mueller, who still has practice squad eligibility, will have to demonstrate a complete understanding of the position in the spring, and then go out and do it when the pads go on in the summer.
Tobin Back To Compete Along Offensive Line
Matt Tobin started 13 games in 2015 at right guard and has started 20 games in the last two seasons. He will compete for a starting spot, sure, but if that doesn't work out for Tobin he's going to be a really key player as a backup. We've got a lot of season ahead, so having as much depth as possible along the offensive line is critical.
The Eagles now have Wisniewski, Tobin, Andrew Gardner and Dennis Kelly as veterans who have started games, and they are looking forward to seeing how youngsters Josh Andrews, Malcolm Bunche and Brett Boyko compete in the summer.
Will the Eagles still add linemen in the draft? Sure, yes, if they have a chance to add a young player who can be a core piece for the next decade. The Eagles haven't used a draft pick on an offensive lineman since Lane Johnson in 2013, but that certainly could change in a month's time. Adding Brooks and Wisniewski in free agency and retaining Tobin hasn't changed that possibility.