The Eagles are destined to endure yet another rollercoaster offseason if they are to fill the holes on their roster and begin to build upon the base that has been the 2016 season. Salary cap space isn’t on their side as of right now and with twelve pending free agents, there are going to be some tough decisions for the Eagles front office to make. But of the twelve players in their final contracted year, who should the birds be looking to sign to a new deal?
DT Bennie Logan:
The world has been patiently for a Bennie Logan extension ever since teammate Fletcher Cox shattered the landscape with his own. It was rumored to have been in the works in the lead up to the regular season, but that was the last we heard. Playing in his contract year, Logan has done everything asked of him..but will it be enough? 23 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles don’t begin to describe the impact Logan has had on this Defense. With the Eagles down to Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao alongside Logan at times, the veteran has been able to put the pass rush on his back and get to quarterback consistently when others around him have struggled to do so.
But his fine form is going to come at a price..the question becomes, what is it? It’s fair to say that Logan won’t be receiving a groundbreaking extension from the birds because they don’t have the budget for it. The team have also been curiously keen to give reps to both Beau Allen and undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao in recent weeks..are they maybe looking to see if there’s a drop-off from Logan to a cheaper approach?
When all is said and done, it’s going to come down to just how much Logan wants to stay. There will be teams sniffing around and the Eagles may be limited in terms of what they can reward him for his stellar play. Connor Barwin would reportedly be willing to take a pay cut in order to remain in Philadelphia, would Logan accept a cheaper contract knowing he deserves more?
LB Stephen Tulloch:
The veteran linebacker was bought in to support a corps extremely low on depth, but has only played in just 6.1% of Defensive snaps…
As much as his presence has surely helped the likes of Jordan Hicks grow, it’s hard to envision Tulloch receiving an extension beyond this season as the team look to balance experience with youth.
CB Nolan Carroll:
Reports have surfaced today that the Eagles and Carroll’s new agent are in preliminary extension talks, which should answer this question to some extent. But the real question is do the Eagles see Carroll as a long-term answer at a position that has struggled from top to bottom to find consistency?
Carroll has had a strange year. From explosive performances against the Giants and Steelers, to battling injury and being burned deep more than expected, it hasn’t exactly matched the stellar campaign he had just one year ago. His tackling and ability to wrap up receivers is second-to-none, but Carroll still struggles on the shorter, intermediate routes that see receivers win the battle at the line and dart over the middle. The problem is that Offenses are using those routes more and more as a release valve, due to the aggressive nature of the pass rush.
Carroll would be the perfect stop-gap corner until the Eagles can figure out a long-term solution..and there’s one more ace the team have up their sleeve.
This case is largely going to come down to the Agent’s valuation of Carroll and whether it matches Howie Roseman’s. Carroll is no stranger to testing new waters but with a relatively deep CB free agency incoming, there’s no guarantee he’d swim to safety, giving the Eagles some slight leverage when it comes to negotiating a cheaper contract.
DE Bryan Braman:
The DE hasn’t been used defensively as much as he arguably should be, but Braman’s impact on special teams has once again been excellent. The Eagles still require depth at the DE position incase of injury and his ruthless nature on Fipp’s prideful Special teams bodes well for Braman’s future.
TE Trey Burton:
After a standout Training Camp and months of articles from myself pining to see Burton used in a more prominent Offensive role, we finally got to see just how versatile and explosive he can be. Burton has 288 yards on 32 receptions coming into the final game of the season and has been instrumental in 3-TE sets, as well as helping Wentz succeed by building on such a strong chemistry link established during Training camp.
If Burton doesn’t get rewarded with an extension for his efforts this season, there is no doubt that he will be snapped up by a team craving an offensive playmaker. But given the Eagles need to fill that hole as it is, this one is a no-brainer.
OL Stefen Wisniewski:
Wisniewski was bought in to compete for the starting LG position and even though he lost that fight to Allen Barbre in Training Camp, Wis has been instrumental this season. Playing in 54% of snaps, Wisniewski has proved to be more than capable as a backup and given that this was a prove-it deal, the former Jags lineman has done more than earn his stripes this season. The Eagles Offensive line now has depth as a luxury and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of the 27-year old.
RB Kenjon Barner:
Barner was predicted to see a much more prominent role in such a versatile committee backfield, but the Eagles have deviated away from the committee approach, leaving Barner with very few snaps to prove himself. Rushing for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, the former Oregon Duck has flashed in the minimal snaps he’s been given, but with such an overcrowded backfield and Byron Marshall under contract until next year, it’s hard to see the Eagles keeping Barner around with Smallwood, Sproles and Mathews all still ahead of him.
S Jaylen Watkins:
I remember writing an All-22 on Jaylen Watkins stating how he could help the Eagles prevent the prominent threats of the NFC East running riot, little did many realize that a move to Safety would not only save his career, but help do just that.
Watkins has been forced into the front lines playing Safety this season when Jenkins takes over the slot duties and has racked up 32 tackles this season as a result. Sometimes reckless, it’s been a learning curve for Watkins, but his play in such difficult circumstances has been admirable alongside Rodney McLeod. Even if not a regular starter, as a backup and an impact player on special teams, the brother of Sammy Watkins is invaluable.
LB Najee Goode:
A perennial special teamer, Goode has only played in 66% of ST snaps this season and 0.2% defensively. It’s hard to see the Eagles choosing to extend Goode after giving him a short extension..but if they do let Tulloch go, they may choose to keep him on the roster for depth purposes.
CB Dwayne Gratz:
The former Jags corner hasn’t played a single snap since arriving in the City of Brotherly Love and whether he will or not against Dallas remains an unknown. It’s unlikely that they retain Gratz, who was signed during the season to bolster a wounded unit.
LS Rick Lovato:
Lovato was signed to replace Jon Dorenbos who suffered a wrist injury against the Redskins and will likely be kept on the roster until the start of next season, just as they did with undrafted rookie John DePalma. It would be difficult to envision the Eagles moving forward without their magic man, but keeping Lovato onboard through preseason at least may be the best spell to cast here.
CB C.J Smith:
The undrafted rookie out of NDSU shone in preseason and was activated once the CB corps began to battle an injury crisis. Unfortunately, he’s yet to play a defensive snap and has only played in 15% of special teams snaps. It would be great to see Smith stick around given the Eagles burning need for reliable cornerbacks, if anything just to add an extra spice to Training Camp and preseason as he did this year.
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