A glance at Eagles' soon-to-be free agents this spring

A glance at Eagles' soon-to-be free agents this spring

As the Eagles move past their 7-9 season in 2016, nine of their players are set to become free agents in March. 

Free agency starts at 4 p.m. on March 9, but the legal tampering window begins on March 7. The Eagles will have no competition until then. 

Here's a look at all the to-be free agents from the 2016 roster: 

Bennie Logan
Age: 27

Logan is obviously the biggest name on this list. The Eagles used a third-round pick to take Logan from LSU in 2013 and he has started 50 games in the last four years. No, he's not an elite defensive tackle. But he has been very good. And the Eagles clearly missed him during the middle of the 2016 season when Beau Allen had to fill in. Recently, Logan said about Philly: "This is where I see myself at." But he's also in line to get a nice-sized contract and the Eagles might not want to break the bank for another defensive lineman. Logan can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3, which means there won't be a shortage of teams looking at him. Eagles executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman has continually said the Eagles want Logan back, but it'll come down to money, as it often does. 

Nolan Carroll
Age: 29

Carroll played more than any other Eagles cornerback in 2016, but it was a really up and down season for the veteran. He admitted as much on locker cleanout day (see story).

Aside from Logan, he's the only other starter who will become a free agent.

This is the second time in two years that Carroll will be an unrestricted free agent in March. After visiting with the Cowboys a year ago, he came back to the Eagles on a one-year deal that paid him over $2 million. If the Eagles choose to re-sign him, it'll probably cost about the same. The question with this one is, do the Eagles even want him back? 

Stefen Wisniewski
Age: 27

Bringing in Wisniewski a year ago was clearly one of the most underrated moves the Eagles made during free agency. It wasn't a big splash, but the veteran offensive lineman made the Eagles' depth on the line much, much better. And he ended up playing a lot because of injuries. He played in 15 games and started 6.

But it was a "weird year" in Philly for Wisniewski (see story), who has never been shy about his desire to be a starter. In fact, he said he wanted to be a starter at his introductory press conference a year ago and never said otherwise when given the chance during the year. Maybe Wisniewski has shown enough to another team to get a longer deal to be a starter — what he wants. But if he's available for another one-year stint, the Eagles might be interested. 

Stephen Tulloch
Age: 32

From the moment Tulloch arrived in August on a one-year deal, it was pretty clear how much respect defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has for him. But it’s important to remember that if seventh-rounder Joe Walker didn’t get hurt, the Eagles wouldn’t have signed Tulloch before the start of last season. He came in on a one-year deal with a $2.5 million cap hit and was Jordan Hicks’ backup. But Hicks and Nigel Bradham stayed very healthy all season, so Tulloch rarely saw the field. 

Bryan Braman
Age: 29

Braman is probably one of the most interesting cases among these names. He’s listed as a defensive end on the roster, but Schwartz clearly doesn’t see him as a defensive end. Braman is a special teams specialist, but a really good one. And the Eagles over the last few years have placed real importance on special teams. Before the 2015 season, Braman signed an extension through 2016 that worked for both sides. But now, he’s nearing 30 and it’s time for a new contract. The Eagles already extended Chris Maragos, who is primarily a special teamer, so will they opt to re-sign another special-teams-only veteran? 

Najee Goode
Age: 27

In each of the last two seasons, Goode didn’t make the initial 53-man roster but was brought back later. He didn’t really see the field on defense at all in 2016, but was a key special teams player yet again. It’s sort of the same question as with Braman: How many veteran special teamers do the Eagles want to bring back? It’s possible they could draft someone to fill his role next year. 

Trey Burton
Age: 25

Burton has been a key special teams player since his arrival in Philadelphia, and he played a big role on offense this season. He came into the year with just three career catches, but had 37 for 327 yards and a touchdown in his third NFL season. Expect to see him back, whether the Eagles place a tender on him or sign him to a long-term deal. He might be a candidate to get a new deal. 

(The way the tenders work: Basically, there are three levels of tenders or qualifying offers: first round, second round or original round. Each comes with its own predetermined one-year contract value. Other teams can sign restricted free agents, but the original team can match. If a different team signs the player, the original team gets the compensation from the attached round value from the other team.)

Kenjon Barner
Age: 27

Barner played just 99 offensive snaps in 2016 and for whatever reason, this coaching staff seemed determined to not give him a shot. Barner might get a tender from the Eagles, but even if he does, it won't guarantee his spot next season. In fact, it seems likely the team will eventually move on. 

Jaylen Watkins
Exclusive rights
Age: 25

Watkins played extensively after Ron Brooks was lost for the season. He was the safety who took Malcolm Jenkins' spot when Jenkins would move into the slot. Watkins is still learning how to play safety after his time at corner and it wasn't a great 2016. But expect him back next season— at least in training camp. As an exclusive rights free agent, he's not able to test the market. 

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 


And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."