A closer look at free agents who could fill Eagles biggest roster holes ahead of NFL Draft

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The Eagles have some big roster holes left to fill and with the NFL Draft just over a month away, we’re left to wonder whether or not Howie Roseman will continue to strike free agent gold. The lack of draft capital certainly points towards that direction but if the team are to invest in some prove-it contracts, which names are left on the market who could fit the culture of a Super Bowl champion?

 

Tight End:

Martellus Bennett:
So, Martellus Bennett may have retired but this wouldn’t be the first time a player has returned after hanging up his boots. The Bennett brothers are yet to play on the same NFL team together and (legal case pending) the Eagles would be making waves in creating that reality. Of course, there are some notable off-the-field concerns with Marty B so it wouldn’t be difficult to side with Howie Roseman should the trigger remain stable. But Bennett does bring 10 years of experience as a receiving tight end. The somewhat tumultuous last few season’s could lead to a cheaper price tag, something that would lend itself very favorably to the Philadelphia Eagles. With 4,573 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career, Bennett could be a cheap anchor to replace Celek.

 

Richard Rodgers:
The former Green Bay Packer remains unsigned but is also a relatively young tight end with some upside. While not particularly athletic, he’s proven to be a safe pair of hands since being drafted by Green Bay in 2014, catching 15 touchdown passes in that span. In fact, he’s caught more than 63% of passes thrown in his direction in every year since his rookie season. His role would bleed onto special teams as well, but this could be a cheap and cheerful addition to the roster. Rodgers received for 160 yards and 1 touchdown in 2017.

 

Troy Niklas:
At 25-years old, Niklas is one of the few very young tight ends on the market. A former second-round pick, Niklas has a worrying injury history and has missed 23 games in four-years. However, with a lighter workload and one of the best sports-science staffs in the league, there’s no reason why the Eagles couldn’t take a low-risk flyer on Niklas, even if that is as a camp body.

 

Running back:

 

Orleans Darkwa:
Thanks to a complete New York backfield reshuffle, Darkwa broke out for a 751 yard season, proving that he can handle an NFL workload. An average of 4.4 yards per carry is certainly respectable and if the Eagles are just looking for one final piece to fill out a new-look backfield led by Clement and Ajayi, Darkwa could be a low-cost option.

 

Danny Woodhead:
Injuruies may have held the former Charger back in 2017, but Woodhead would be a perfect fit to replace the void left by LeGarrette Blount. With 2,238 career yards, Woodhead has averaged 4.3 yards per carry since landing with the Jets in 2009. Durability will always be a concern, but with such impressive depth already, he wouldn’t be needed to carry that burden.

 

 

Defensive back:

Kenny Vaccaro:
One of the more attractive free agent names in the defensive backfield, Vacaaro brings a reputation shrouded in mystery. Slowed down by a suspension and injuries, Vaccaro has missed nine games in two seasons. After the Saints pushed him into the nickel, he seemed to struggle massively, grading out at just 35.4 according to PFF, the worst ranked player on the Saints roster, despite his 60 tackles and 3 interceptions. Missed tackles, blown coverages and mental errors didn’t exactly help Vaccaro recover that reputation either, but as a free agent in a market that’s overcrowded, he could be an interesting option.

Vaccaro would sit on the back line once again, partnering McLeod and allowing Malcolm Jenkins to run rampant all over the field.

Eric Reid:
Eric Reid was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 with the 18th pick in the 1st round. Reid is coming off the final year of his rookie deal in search of a new home. In Reid’s rookie year he would help the 49ers reach the NFC Championship game. This year he would see his only Pro Bowl appearance. Reid’s rookie year would see him amass 73 tackles, 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended.

Since his rookie year, Reid has seen his production stumble. In 2017 Reid suffered a PCL injury, which would cause him to be benched for Jaquiski Tartt. With Tartt overtaking Reid’s position, the career-long safety made the shift to weak-side linebacker. Having a larger build as a safety, Reid was able to easily adapt to the hybrid-linebacker role. The position Reid manned was similar to that of Deone Bucannon of the Cardinalsand Shaq Thompson of the Panthers. Over the past year Reid’s name was mentioned more for his political stance than his on field presence. Reid was the first player to kneel for the national anthem along side Colin Kaepernick. Much like his former teammate, Reid now finds himself looking for a team that is willing to deal with the overbearing attention from the media.

Can the Eagles look past political stances? Absolutely. Is there more to Reid’s availability than just the outside noise? That’s for the eye in the sky to decide.

 

Robert Golden:
Very much a victim of circumstance following a 2016 Training Camp injury, opinions on Robert Golden have always been relatively high. Even in his final season for the Steelers, he played in all 16 games and the postseason upset defeat to Jacksonville. While Golden flashed when given the opportunity to start, he’s long been a special teams ace and with Corey Graham left unsigned, the Eagles could replace him with another veteran presence who brings a great deal of leadership to the team.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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