Our first foray into the upcoming free agency window continues by looking at five players the Eagles should absolutely try to retain. As many as 20 are set to enter the free agency pool and there’s no way the Birds can afford to bring back all of them. This is a tough offseason that lies ahead, so who should the priorities be before the team looks forward to bolstering their roster?
There’s no debating that upon his return to Philadelphia, Jordan Matthews looked like a more complete receiver. Playing in a rotational role, the Vanderbilt product was used inside, outside and pretty much all over the line of scrimmage. His opportunities were nowhere near as plentiful as they were during his first tenure, but he made the most of them.
Averaging a career-high 15 yards per reception, Matthews came up big when the team needed him to. Whether it was on third-down, or drawing some big-time PI calls deep down the field, Matthews seemed at ease and was a catching machine. Catching 20 of 28 passes thrown his way, Matthews had a very strong year, all things considered.
His relationship with Carson Wentz is stronger than ever (many are quick to forget that during Wentz’s rookie year, the Eagles QB gave Jordan and his family one of his puppies) and a contract would be much cheaper to negotiate in comparison to Nelson Agholor or Golden Tate. Whether the Birds opt to bring back one of the two remaining slot receivers or not is another question entirely, but whether he’s the premier slot guy or a rotational receiver who can make a big play when called upon, bringing back Matthews should be a priority.
At this stage in his career, Long is contemplating retirement, as he was one year ago. His 6.5 sacks this year were invaluable to the Eagles pass-rush and he remains a high-motor player with strong-character who can really pull a locker room together. Long has been a well-respected man both on and off the field since joining Philadelphia and if he does decide to enjoy one last rodeo, the Birds would be wise to bring back someone as consistent as Long.
The Eagles could be set to lose Brandon Graham this offseason and if that’s the case, it would leave no real veteran presence at the DE position outside of Michael Bennett, who can be controversial at the best of times. Long is humble, grounded and plays his heart out each and every week. Allowing Barnett, Sweat and the future starters one more year to grow could be huge for the Birds and the deal would likely be a short-term deal without much in the way of a cap hit.
This one’s a no-brainer. Elliott has largely been ‘money’ since signing with the Eagles last season and there’s no reason to be looking elsewhere. The Eagles haven’t been tied to a kicker long-term since David Akers, but is this the year that changes?
I’ve already written in great depth about the importance of bringing back the former Indiana Quarterback (in an article you can read below), but it can’t be stressed enough.
If the Eagles do move on from Nick Foles, there’s no backup behind Carson Wentz and Sudfeld is a restricted free agent. The whole premise of the ‘QB tree’ Pederson has worked so hard to implement was that by the time his starter is entering the best years of his career, the veteran QB can move on and the project signal-caller steps up to replace him. If the Eagles retain Foles, Sudfeld may want a clear future as a QB2 or even more likely, the chance to fight for a starting role, elsewhere.
Sudfeld has come on leaps and bounds since first joining the Eagles and Pederson would hate to see him slip through his fingers. The Eagles should make every effort to keep Sudfeld around, at least keeping an insurance policy in place for whatever happens during the offseason and beyond.
While it’s likely the Eagles don’t retain Jordan Hicks (as pointed out yesterday), that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. When he’s healthy, Hicks is incredibly productive and a centerpiece of the Eagles defense. Helping getting guys lined up, passing along information and more importantly, having a high Football IQ that’s backed up with impressive play speed, Hicks has become such a key part of the Eagles linebacking corps that losing him would be a major sting.
Of course, the injuries are a concern, but this should only drive his market value into the laps of Howie Roseman and the Eagles. Hicks has grown significantly during his first few years in the NFL and there’s nothing stopping the team bolstering depth with some veteran names in free agency to take the strain off. A heavily incentivized contract with snap-counts as the focus would not only secure the long-term future of a young and promising linebacker but help the Eagles reserve some cash flow for the time being.
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