State of the Eagles (and the NFC East): Week 17

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The season is over. That’s the only way to put it. After a long, sometimes painful year of changing expectations and questions regarding players’ effort and the future of the coaching staff, the Eagles break for the offseason this week. As the majority of firings across the league begin to leak, it appears that few, if any, Eagles coaches will be job hunting soon. The bad news is that a number of Eagles coaches are being considered for other job openings across the league, including OC Frank Reich and QB coach John DeFilippo. Both of these coaching positions relate directly to the development of Carson Wentz, so Howie Roseman and the rest of the front office should be careful to try to keep hold of both of these men or make sure they are replaced adequately so as not to stunt the growth of the Eagles potential franchise QB.

The game this past Sunday was meaningless for both sides, so we couldn’t learn too much about the Eagles, as they played the majority of the game against the Cowboys backups, including 3rd string QB and ex-Eagle Mark Sanchez. However, with the new league year and the start of free agency a little over two months away, I’m going to take a look at each of the Eagles nine impending free agents, as well as a couple of players I feel the Eagles should target this offseason.

 

Unrestricted Free Agents:
Of the Eagles nine free agents, six are unrestricted, meaning they will be free to negotiate with any team and their new club will not owe the Eagles any sort of compensation. These players are DE Bryan Braman, CB Nolan Carroll, LB Najee Goode, OL Stefen Wisniewski, DT Bennie Logan, and LB Stephen Tulloch.

Braman has not seen much time on defense in his Eagles career, but his impact on special teams has been crucial to the Eagles unit which has been one of the best in the league under Dave Fipp. I would expect him to be back next season.

Carroll has always been an inconsistent corner. He’s never afraid to attack the ball and fights on every play, but this leads to him getting beaten relatively easily at times. He had one of his worst games of the season on Sunday, but on a unit lacking depth and experience, I’d think he’d be back on a one year, prove-it deal next year, but he’ll need a strong camp to make the Eagles roster.

Goode has been nothing more than a reserve LB and special teams player for the Eagles ever since joining in 2013. His case is an odd one. I’m sure the Eagles would be interested in resigning Goode, but the price could prove to be a stumbling block. My gut feeling is the Eagles let him initially test the open market, but Goode finds his way back into Philly next fall.

Tulloch, on the other hand, will almost definitely not be back in Philadelphia next year. Brought in solely as LB depth after Joe Walker was placed on IR in preseason, Tulloch has barely featured on the defense this season. With Walker hopefully recovering from his torn ACL, do not expect Tulloch to be with the Eagles come preseason.

This brings me to arguably the Eagles highest-profile free agents, Wisniewski and Logan. Wisniewski, signed as a backup at both LG and C, was forced into action after the Lane Johnson suspension and injuries to Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Allen Barbre, plus the Brandon Brooks health saga. Although he did do well in his limited action, the Eagles will probably move on from Wis and look to add a guard in the draft.

Bennie Logan is an odd case. He’s been one of the league’s more underrated DT’s for a long time, but his play did suffer a bit this season. His pass rushing numbers improved slightly, but his run-stuffing numbers dropped quite a bit and his tackle numbers dipped significantly. With the Eagles needing to save money and the emergence of Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao, Logan could prove to be a little too expensive to keep in Philly next year.

 

Restricted/Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
Of the Eagles remaining three free agents, two are restricted free agents, which gives the Eagles two advantages in the negotiation process. They can match any offer given to the player and the player will have to return to Philly, or they will receive draft pick compensation should they decline to match the offer.

The Eagles two restricted free agents are RB Kenjon Barner and TE Trey Burton. With Barner, the Eagles simply have too many RB’s and are in a prime position to take one in the upcoming NFL Draft. I would say he has the least chance of any player featured in this article to return to Philadelphia next year.

Burton, on the contrary, should definitely be back next year. A longtime PSN favorite, the UDFA out of Florida emerged as a key player in Doug Pederson’s offense this year. The complete opposite from Barner, I would think Burton has the best chance of any player mentioned to be on the Eagles roster next September.

This brings me to the last Eagles free agent, Exclusive Rights Free Agent S Jaylen Watkins. If the Eagles decide to give Watkins an offer, he will be back next year. He had a strong preseason, emerging as the Eagles primary backup at safety and playing a decent amount of snaps after Ron Brooks ruptured a tendon in his right quad. Watkins, in my opinion, should be resigned but, like Carroll, needs a good camp and preseason to make the roster again in 2017.

 

Potential Signings:
As previously mentioned, the Eagles do not have a lot of cap space. According to Spotrac, they have around 12 million dollars to work with. While some players could be released and others could have their contracts restructured, do not expect the Eagles to bring in flashy names come March. Instead, look for them to target some low cost, high upside signings. Instead of going after the likes of WR Alshon Jeffery or CB A.J. Bouye, players like WR Robert Woods and CB Dre Kirkpatrick. A sneaky need for the Eagles could be at LB, where Mychal Kendricks could be on his way out. If he leaves, look for the Eagles to target someone like Manti Te’o or Paul Worrilow, or maybe even A.J. Klein.

 

Around the NFC East:
The Redskins blew it. The Giants had nothing to play for and the Redskins still lost, giving Detroit a playoff spot. The Redskins biggest question this offseason will be what to do with Kirk Cousins. Should they decide to give him the franchise tag again, his cap number will balloon to almost 25 million. A long term contract could prove difficult to negotiate. The Giants, after their meaningless win, travel to Green Bay to play the Packers on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys get a week off to rest up and will not have to leave Dallas until the Super Bowl, should they make it that far. They will play Sunday, January 15 at home against the lowest remaining seed in the NFC.

 

Up next for the Eagles:
Nothing. The season is done. The next important thing on the NFL calendar is the NFL Scouting Combine, from Tuesday February 28 to Monday March 6, 2017. Until then, teams will resign players and hire/fire coaches.

 

Eagles Draft Watch:
Unfortunately, Matt Barkley could not inspire the Bears to a victory over the Vikings. The Vikings finished the season at 8-8. The Eagles first round pick is in a dead tie with the Colts for the 14th pick, which will be settled with a coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine. As ever, the Eagles still own all of their other picks, plus a Browns 5th that can become a late 4th. In years past, Howie Roseman has been aggressive with trades in the offseason and especially during the draft. Look for the Eagles to make a couple trades to acquire more picks or use the picks they currently have to move up in the draft.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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