Will the Eagles make a small free agency splash? Five predictions

NFL: OCT 18 Bengals at Colts
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – OCTOBER 18: Indianapolis Colts Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni looks on in game action during a NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals on October 18, 2020, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by MSA/Icon Sportswire)

We are just a few hours away from the beginning of the new league year and all eyes are on the Eagles. Having barely scraped under the cap, they do have a small purse to play with and could be looking to snap up a few bargains when free agency kicks off. Here are five predictions for how the Eagles will handle the first free agency period of the Nick Sirianni era.

Eagles bring back three familiar faces

Before we get to the rest of the NFL, there’s some general housekeeping to be done. The Eagles have a few pending free agents who are worth bringing back on a cheap and cheerful deal.

TE Richard Rodgers

They say third time’s the charm. Richard Rodgers was a really pleasant surprise filling in for Zach Ertz this year. The former Packers TE put up 345 yards in 2020, with 85 of them coming in a big-time game against the Giants. Rodgers does have durability concerns, but if the team does decide to pursue Kyle Pitts with the sixth-overall pick, then Rodgers would be a perfect TE3 candidate.

DT Hassan Ridgeway

With Malik Jackson likely on his way out after a contract restructure, Ridgeway’s old DT3 role could be back up for grabs. He missed most of the year with a biceps injury, but he has flashed potential as a rotational pass-rusher.

On top of that, he does of course have a connection with new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who spent time with the Texas product as a member of the Colts.

CB Cre’Von LeBlanc

Cre’Von LeBlanc wasn’t the heroic corner we’ve all come to know him as last year. The nickel DB suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Browns after a disappointing campaign where he was stuck behind Nickell Robey-Coleman on the depth chart. If we assume that NRC won’t be returning, the Eagles may look to keep LeBlanc around as a depth nickel corner behind Avonte Maddox, cementing their push for a CB2 this offseason.

A big trade?

The Eagles may be under the cap, but that doesn’t mean Howie will put the phone down anytime soon. While a move for Deshaun Watson seems a little unrealistic, we know that Zach Ertz has been given permission to seek a trade. With Hunter Henry now in New England, teams may look to Ertz as ‘the next best thing’ and be forced to pay a premium.

I think the Eagles ship two players off over the next few weeks. Zach Ertz is the first, and Derek Barnett is the second. His $10M cap hit is just too much to swallow and I feel as though if the Eagles were going to give him a new deal that benefitted the salary cap woes, it would’ve come before asking franchise players to restructure deals.

Barnett hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far but being just 24-years-old makes him an appealing candidate for many. Don’t be surprised if a move occurs.

Which position will they spend the most on?

While they shouldn’t be flashing the cash at the ring of the bell, the Eagles could be players for at least one mid-level contract. This was evidenced by their reported interest in former Rams S John Johnson who later signed with the Browns.

The Eagles have stood firm and watched as obvious QB2 candidates have been poached by other teams, perhaps hinting that they’re either going to sign lower-tier candidates or turn to the NFL Draft. The former would make sense after a report came out citing that Jeffrey Lurie doesn’t want competition for Jalen Hurts.

When looking at the team’s needs this offseason, it’s hard to view them spending heavily on any of the most prominent ones.

If they’re going to go heavy on a free agent this offseason, defensive end or linebacker could be the hotspots as both bear similar outlooks of being a position group light on both depth and experience.

A surprise signing

If there was one player I was going to bet on the Eagles signing at longer odds, it would probably be former Chargers TE Stephen Anderson. In case you missed my case for the Eagles to sign him in this free agency TE breakdown, here’s all you need to know:

When you hear ‘Chargers tight ends’, you think of Hunter Henry and freak athlete Donald ParhamStephen Anderson is the forgotten son who offers of plenty of upside as a blocker. Why is this important? While Dallas Goedert thrives in chipping and helping out his O-line, the Eagles are going to need him to really build on his receiving resume next year in place of Zach Ertz, meaning that finding a reliable in-line blocker is somewhat important.

He’s a little smaller at 6’3, 230 lbs, but what he brings to the table is a ton of athleticism. Anderson can get to the second level with haste when it comes to blocking and plays with no fear. He has no issue colliding with a linebacker, defensive end, or driving a DB five yards up the field.

Are you ready for the big wildcard? Anderson ended his season with 106 yards last year, but 80 of them were after the catch!

Oh, and there’s a link with Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.

Links to the Eagles coaching staff

As is usually the case with any new coaching staff, we can expect an influx of players who have gotten to know the new faces at the NovaCare Complex over the past few years. Whether they’re free agents who overlapped with Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon in Indianapolis, or maybe they worked closely with new Eagles QB Coach Brian Johnson during his time at Florida. There are a plethora of new coaches who will all have soft spots for players who could well be available on the open market.

I would expect the team to sign at least two free agents who would immediately have a sense of familiarity when entering the building for the first time.

If only there was a checklist of every single player with a link to the Eagles’ coaching staff…oh wait!

Photo by MSA/Icon Sportswire