Eagles mailbag — Celek situation, bust to contributor, biggest need

Eagles mailbag — Celek situation, bust to contributor, biggest need

I know you're still celebrating the Eagles' Super Bowl win. There's a good chance you haven't even gone a day without wearing Super Bowl champion gear.

The NFL world hasn't stopped though. 

You guys gave me so many good questions this week, we split them all up into several posts this week. Let's start here: 

This is an interesting question. I guess we have to first figure out which guys even qualify as a "bust" or could become busts. Just two guys remain from the 2015 draft class and they're Agholor and Jordan Hicks. Neither of them count. From the 2016 class, Isaac Seumalo and Wendell Smallwood could possibly fit. And even though it's really unfair to call anyone from the 2017 class a bust, Donnel Pumphrey and Shelton Gibson might count. 

If I had to pick one right now, I actually wouldn't say Seumalo even though he was a third-round pick. With the line returning as a whole unit, I don't think there's going to be much opportunity for him and I didn't like what many deemed as a lack of confidence. Sure, Agholor got out of that, but it's troubling. 

The guy I'd pick is Gibson, who had an absolutely terrible spring and most of the summer and was inactive for the first part of the 2017 season. Gibson had trouble catching the ball as a rookie, which is obviously a problem but it's a problem he can fix. What he does have is speed and that just can't be taught. With Torrey Smith likely gone this year, Gibson should have a chance to fill the void as a deep threat. 

I think he has that potential. Halapoulivaati Vaitai did a fine job filling in for Jason Peters this year and he's come so far from that first terrible game against Washington and Ryan Kerrigan. 

The thing I've noticed about Big V during his two years in the league is that confidence is really important for him. That's why we've seen, at times, him get much better as games go on. That's why after he strung a few good games together, he wasn't a concern anymore. He has all the physical tools to be a good tackle in this league for a long time and with the right coaching, he can be an answer at one of those spots. 

It's a really tough situation with Brent Celek, because this is Celek we're talking about. He should go down in the books as an all-time Eagle. But there's a problem. 

There's just no way the Eagles can bring him back on his current deal, with a $5 million cap hit. Can't do it. They really need the $4 million in cap space it would save. And really, they don't need Celek back at all. The Eagles are probably hoping he wants to retire. Tough situation. 

Based on the way the Eagles want to build their team, offensive line is always going to be a need. Considering they needed to add Will Beatty of the street as a depth piece in this season, yeah, they could probably stand to add some depth at tackle and it wouldn't hurt to add interior help too, although Chance Warmack is a decent backup. 

The other two positions I think worth a look are linebacker and defensive tackle. I know the Eagles have Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan locked up, but Beau Allen is about to be a free agent, which leaves former undrafted player Destiny Vaeao as the top backup. And at linebacker, Jordan Hicks' injury history makes him a big question mark and Nigel Bradham is set to be a free agent. If the Eagles don't bring Bradham back, that could be a big problem. 

Eagles Mailbag: Jeffery's next contract, Robinson's future, Embiid in football

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Eagles Mailbag: Jeffery's next contract, Robinson's future, Embiid in football

With the bye week, it seems like the Eagles haven't played football in a few months, but they'll finally get a chance to take the field on Sunday Night in North Texas. 

During the bye week, they watched all three division teams fall, but also watched a few teams other top teams in the NFC get wins. 

A win Sunday over Dallas could pretty much make the division title a lock and then the Eagles can try to lock up one of the top two seeds in the conference to get a first-round bye. 

This has been a fun season so far, huh? 

To your questions: 

Yeah, I'd expect something similar. Lawrence has been just as disruptive as Miller this season. He already has 11 1/2 sacks to lead the NFL. It seemed like the Eagles had a really good game plan for Miller. They did a few different things to neutralize him during the game. 

At times, they offered Lane Johnson some help. At other times, they let Johnson go 1-on-1 against Miller. And they also schemed some plays to take Miller out of the game in more unique ways. One particular naked play to the right sticks out. On the Alshon Jeffery touchdown, the Eagles ran a zone-read play that eventually left Miller with a straight path to Carson Wentz, but Wentz was able to stand in and deliver the throw before Miller got there. 

The Eagles will get creative, but, for the most part, they need to let Johnson take on Lawrence. Johnson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level — let him earn his trip to Hawaii or wherever the hell they play that game these days! After all, this matchup is one of the reasons they kept him at right tackle when Jason Peters went down. Let him take on another top pass-rusher. 

I think this job will belong to Patrick Robinson on Sunday. With Ronald Darby's return, the Eagles can have him and Jalen Mills outside and let Robinson focus on playing in the slot, where he has been outstanding this season. 

I don't think it makes much sense for Malcolm Jenkins to cover Beasley. Remember the game a few years ago, when Beasley went over 100 yards with two touchdowns against the Eagles? Yeah, Jenkins was on him. When Jenkins is at his best in the slot, he's going against tight ends or bigger slot receivers. Beasley is way shiftier, so Robinson makes sense. 

Robinson has been the single biggest surprise of the Eagles' season. He's been an even bigger surprise than Nelson Agholor. At least Agholor looked good during the summer. Robinson looked awful until the team moved him into the slot. Since then, though, he's been incredible. 

Here's the problem: the Eagles are going to have a logjam at corner. So would they want to bring back Robinson, who came here on a one-year deal? Well, look at who will still be on the roster. They'll still have Darby, Mills, Rasul Douglas and (presumably) Sidney Jones. All four of those guys are 23 or younger, while Robinson is 30 and probably doesn't fit into their future. If he gets a decent offer elsewhere, he's probably gone. 

Nice to see you're taking advantage of the 280 character limit, Drew. I wasn't very surprised the Eagles didn't make a move to bring in a starting tackle. There aren't a ton of those guys available. No left tackle tree in sight. You could argue Duane Brown was that guy this season and the Seahawks got him. Should the Eagles have looked into that? Yeah, probably. 

But Halapoulivaati Vaitai has played well. No, he's not Jason Peters, but there's a reason his name hasn't come up much over the last few weeks. Vaitai has been described to me as a player who just needed confidence. That's why in some games you've seen him start slow but get better as the game goes on. The Eagles think he can play and he has been proving them right so far this season. 

As far as the NFC being wide open this year? Yup. It is. And you're right, there's a chance a few of those teams will bounce back stronger next year. I don't look at the Eagles' not making a move for a starting tackle as them not going for it this year. They're going for it. They just think Big V will hold up. 

I'm going to be pretty boring here. Sorry. I think Mills will end the year with the team lead in interceptions and Brandon Graham will lead the team in sacks. 

Right now, Mills is tied with Robinson — each has three picks. But with the return of Darby, I expect Mills to have plenty of opportunities the rest of the way. 

Graham leads the team in sacks with five, a half sack more than Fletcher Cox. Graham will finish more because it's just easier for defensive ends to get sacks than interior rushers. And Graham just happens to be the Eagles' best pass-rusher. 

This is an interesting question for this reason: Jeffery hasn't put up big numbers this season. He has just 34 catches for 500 yards and five touchdowns. Not terrible, but not WR1-type production. 

A big reason for that is because of how smoothly the Eagles' offense has been running. Wentz is comfortable spreading the ball to all of his receivers, which means none of them have put up great numbers. The problem for Jeffery is that numbers come up in negotiations. This negotiation will be an interesting one. The Eagles' coaches clearly value Jeffery, but it might not be easy to find the right number. 

Spotrac has a pretty cool feature that looks at market values of a player. According to that tool, Jeffery's market value would be around $10.2 million per year, which could come out to be a five-year deal worth a little over $51 million. That would be a higher annual value than his one-year, $9.5 million deal in 2017. 

You have to remember, though, NFL contracts are never as they seem. A five-year contract worth $51 million isn't actually worth $51 million. The Eagles could backload a deal and find something to make it work. If there's one thing Howie Roseman is good at, it's this stuff. 

The biggest unknown is Jeffery. I think the Eagles would like to re-sign him. If they don't, they'll need to either sign another big-time free agent or draft a receiver high. It would make more sense to sign one in free agency because it's hard to know what to expect from rookie receivers. The Eagles could keep Torrey Smith for $5 million, but they shouldn't. The production just isn't there. And Mack Hollins has been taking on a more significant role throughout the season. He's the next guy up. Nelson Agholor can play outside but he's clearly found a home inside. But he could play outside in 12 personnel. So some combination of Jeffery/free agent, Hollins and Agholor would be my guess. 

At running back, Jay Ajayi will be the guy. LeGarrette Blount's one-year deal will be up and the Eagles won't need him back. Corey Clement might have a role. Wendell Smallwood is interesting because he's the odd man out now, but who knows next season. His issue has been staying healthy. When he's on the field, he can play a little. 

This is fun. Here's the thing we sometimes forget about NBA players because they're always surrounded by other NBA players. They're enormous. They're basically like modern-day dinosaurs. I once met Yao Ming and he could have picked me up, put me in his shirt pocket and walked away without anyone noticing. 

We'll start with Embiid, who is listed at 7-foot, 250 pounds. He would end up being tied for the tallest player in NFL history. Richard Sligh was a 7-footer who played one season in 1967. Heck, Embiid would be three inches taller than Ed "Too Tall" Jones. 

The tallest player on the Eagles' roster is 6-6. They have five guys that tall and three of them are offensive tackles. Embiid is so tall that defensive ends would be able to use their leverage to beat him. But King Dunlap was about 6-10 and that prehistoric creature ended up having a decent NFL career. Embiid is an offensive tackle, but he'd have to bulk up. 

OK, now to Simmons. He's listed at 6-10, 230. He's just too thin to play on the offensive line. I'm putting Simmons at tight end. That's the position everyone seems to think LeBron would play, so why not Simmons too? Imagine throwing the ball up to him in the end zone!

Eagles Mailbag: Free agents to-be; 5 players they can't lose

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Eagles Mailbag: Free agents to-be; 5 players they can't lose

It's hard to believe we're already through a quarter of the 2017 season. Time is flying. 

And thanks to the Thursday night game in Carolina next week, the Eagles will be through six games by this time next week. 

Let's hop into your questions: 

Yeah, it's a little early for this. But so far, it looks like the Eagles will be interested in signing both of these players long term. Sure, Alshon Jeffery's numbers haven't been great but he's gone against some great corners and he hasn't really clicked with Carson Wentz just yet. The Eagles tried to downplay the issue of their chemistry all summer, but now it looks like there was something to that. Jeffery still has the skills to be a top receiver in this league. 

Meanwhile, Jernigan is playing so well, he might price himself right out of Philadelphia. If he continues to have a big season, the Eagles are going to have a tough decision to make because he might demand some big money on the free agent market. He has proven he can play in a passive 3-4 system as well as an aggressive 4-3 like Jim Schwartz runs. 

If either of these two guys walk after the season, the Eagles will need to replace them. Beau Allen is also set to become a free agent, so the Eagles will definitely need help at defensive tackle. That's tricky, though, because their other defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, will have a $17.9 million cap hit in 2018. 

With LeGarrette Blount on a one-year deal, the Eagles might need to bring in another running back. Another key free agent will be linebacker Nigel Bradham. He played very well in 2016 but is off to a rough start this season. 

"Why do we fall, Bruce?" 

I get why some fans want to forget about last season and move on, but it's important for the Eagles to learn from their mistakes. This week, there has been a lot of talk from last year and it's not hard to figure out why. For the second straight season, the Eagles started with a 3-1 record. This is about the time of the year where things went downhill in a hurry in 2016. The Eagles obviously need to avoid that type of free fall this year. 

This time around, it looks like they'll have Lane Johnson for the entire season. That makes a big difference. Don't overlook the fact that since the start of the 2016 season, the Eagles are 8-2 with him and 2-8 without him. 

Well, Cox is already out right now, so that's why I'm leaving him off the list. But the five aside from him: Wentz, Jason Peters, Zach Ertz, Jordan Hicks, Malcolm Jenkins. 

It was tough leaving Brandon Graham off this list. He was the toughest omission because he starts so much of their pass rush, but the team can replace him with a first-round pick. That wouldn't be awful. 

Wentz is the obvious one. Nick Foles is a good backup quarterback but the Eagles can't lose Wentz. Peters is defying everything we know about age. He continues to play at a high level. If they lost Peters, Lane Johnson could fill in but then Big V would be at right tackle. Ertz is the best tight end in football right now and everything on offense has been running through him. Hicks is a very good middle linebacker and is responsible for the calls on defense. And Jenkins never gets enough credit. He's a leader on the back end. He's a great safety and can even come down and play in the slot. Those are my five. 

Yeah, that's the way it works. When a team is forced to forfeit their pick, it just goes right to the next one. I guess that is unfair to potential draft picks but there's always fluctuation in the number of draft picks because of the compensatory selections. 

Undrafted players and late-round draft picks don't really get paid much differently. The real difference is the amount of guaranteed money, which isn't a little thing. But undrafted free agents have the ability to choose their destination. So if two teams want to sign them, they can pick the better fit. They'd obviously rather hear their name called, but it's not the end of the world if they don't. 

Yeah, Graham didn't have his best game against the Chargers. But he wasn't bad either. I think we've all just become used to him constantly getting pressure. He'll have a real chance to get something going this weekend. The Cardinals' right tackle, Jared Veldheer, has struggled and Carson Palmer has been sacked an NFL-high 17 times (see 5 matchups to watch)