This offseason is setting up to be more action packed than the last for the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Free agency and understandably so. The Eagles have some prominent holes to fill and there is an abundance of talented players who could be ready to test Free agency waters. But as enticing as Free agency may seem, the Eagles have to be more meticulous than ever.
Traditionally, the Eagles have been very strong when it comes to attacking Free agency. Brandon Brooks, Rondey McLeod and Nigel Bradham are just three of the players who were picked up during the offseason and had huge roles to play in the 2016 season. But not every FA addition has been as impressive..and those who have struggled in recent years, have often tended to be in the same positions. Wide receiver and cornerback. Funnily enough, it’s those same two positions that the Eagles are desperate to improve yet again.
To see the pattern, all you have to do is take a look back to the corners and wideouts signed through free agency since 2013.
It’s fair to say that the Eagles have struggled to find value in these signings. Since 2013, the Eagles have endured a cornerback carousel and instability at wide receiver. For one reason or another, the team just can’t seem to get it right.
The Eagles took a huge shot in the dark last offseason. Signing former Giants WR Reuben Randle, in the hopes that he could shatter the character concerns and live up to the potential he was once labelled to have, the Eagles bought in a former teammate of Sam Bradford, Chris Givens, in order to stretch the field. Not a single wide receiver signed in free agency by the Eagles that year, made it to the start of the regular season.
The cornerback additions of 2016 were just as underwhelming. Veteran Leodis McKelvin and former special teamer Ron Brooks were signed thanks to their experience under Jim Schwartz, but neither were able to make a stern impact.
The erratic style of Ron Brooks cost the team hugely at times before a steady improvement was stunted by a season-ending injury. McKelvin simply failed to find a rhythm or play to the level that he previously earned a reputation for under Jim Schwartz. By the end of the year, it was seventh round pick, Jalen Mills and pending free agent Nolan Carroll who proved to be the team’s most effective tandem. The Eagles gave up a total of 1,024 passing yards on routes of 20 yards or more. That doesn’t exactly scream free agency success.
When it comes to interior positions, or even Safety, the Eagles have had no previous concerns at all. Malcolm Jenkins, Connor Barwin and Ryan Mathews are three players who fit snugly into their new team upon joining. But in a year where the Eagles lost six games by one possession, it’s the holes on the outside that are once again stopping the team from edging into the playoffs.
It’s clear that the Eagles need help at both positions, and the lack of overall position talent at both clearly chained the Eagles down on both sides of the ball in 2016.
The good news is, that with Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl now running the Personnel side of things, the Eagles have a new approach when it comes to evaluating talent. Howie Roseman will still be the man behind the trigger, but a much stronger supporting cast should enable the Eagles to reap the rewards of Free agency more efficiently.
Even so, this will be the first time that Douglas and Weidl have taken on these roles and the first offseason they will have spent in Philadelphia. There’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the two talent evaluators, but the team can’t afford to whiff on free agency at such key positions for yet another year.
The Birds arguably have a five-year window in which to operate and grow around Carson Wentz, preparing them for years of legitimacy. The team have to be meticulous in the talent they choose to bring in.
A restraining salary cap is going to make life even tougher for the Eagles..but this is arguably the most important offseason in recent memory…and an offseason in which the Eagles simply cannot afford to waste by taking shots on the dark and banking on low-risk, high-reward players to turn their franchise around.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports