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

USA Today Images

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)

Eagles working out Jordan Matthews

USA Today Images

Eagles working out Jordan Matthews

Jordan Matthews, who had the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons, worked out for the receiver-desperate Eagles Tuesday, six weeks after he was released by the Patriots, according to a league source.

As of mid-afternoon, the Eagles had not formally signed Matthews, but the source said Matthews left the workout hopeful a deal would get done.

Matthews caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns from 2014 through 2016 with the Eagles before being traded in the 2016 preseason to the Bills in the Ronald Darby deal.

Matthews managed only 25 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown in 10 games with the Bills before being released and joining the Patriots, who released him with an injury settlement just a few days into training camp after he suffered a hamstring injury during practice.

He’s been rehabbing ever since.

The Eagles have been desperate for receiver help following injuries to Mike Wallace and Mike Hollins and with Alshon Jeffery still trying to return after offseason shoulder surgery.

The Eagles released DeAndre Carter on Tuesday to make room for running back Josh Adams, which left them with only Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken healthy and available (see story).

Matthews this past spring, in an appearance with Sirius XM NFL Radio, accused the Eagles’ training staff of a “two really bad diagnoses” of knee and ankle injuries.

The Eagles have since replaced their entire training staff.

Re-signing Matthews makes sense since he has a history with Carson Wentz, who will make his first start of the season Sunday at the Linc against the Colts.

Wentz completed 73 passes for 804 yards and three TDs to Matthews in 2016, and only Zach Ertz (135) and Nelson Agholor (81) have caught more of Wentz’s passes in his two NFL seasons.

Matthews also has a history with Nick Foles. They played together here in 2014, Matthews’ rookie year, and Matthews had 30 catches for 278 yards and two TDs from Foles before he got hurt halfway through.

More on the Eagles

Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

USA Today/AP Images

Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

With a couple injuries in their running back room, the Eagles made a move on Tuesday, promoting Josh Adams from the practice squad to the active roster. That wasn’t much of a surprise. 

But the corresponding move was a little more of an eyebrow-raiser. 

Even though Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) doesn’t appear ready to return, even though Mack Hollins (groin) is on IR, and even though Mike Wallace fractured his fibula on Sunday and is out indefinitely, the Eagles waived DeAndre Carter. 

That leaves them with three healthy receivers just five days from Carson Wentz’s first game back:

Nelson Agholor

Kamar Aiken

Shelton Gibson 

Agholor is very good, so don’t say Wentz has no one to throw to. No. 13 had a breakout season last year and is off to a pretty good start in 2018, even without Jeffery on the field drawing attention. You don’t need to worry about Agholor, but these injuries are forcing him to play outside more than he did last season. 

But Aiken wasn’t even on the original 53-man roster as he healed from a hamstring injury. He played an incredible 62 snaps on Sunday, just a few days after being brought back. He caught five passes, the most he’s caught in a game since the regular season finale back in 2015. Aiken, 29, wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth guy on the depth chart, especially because he plays special teams. But with these three guys left, the 29-year-old is probably going to start against the Colts. 

And while Gibson, a fifth-round pick in 2017, had a great preseason, the Eagles seem hesitant to play him. He barely played in the opener and had 35 snaps without a catch on Sunday. Gibson has just two career catches, which both came at the end of the last regular season. 

So what the heck are the Eagles going to do? 

Head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Jeffery is still “week to week,” which means he isn’t ready to return. Help will eventually come when he’s back, but it won’t be this Sunday against the Colts. 

In Tampa, we saw the Eagles play Josh Perkins an awful lot, which is probably because of his background as a converted receiver. He did an OK job, catching four passes for 57 yards, but he dropped one. And are you really convinced Perkins is the answer? Yeah, probably not. 

The Eagles will likely use a lot more two-tight end sets and better make a more concerted effort to get rookie Dallas Goedert involved. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said they need to find a way. But in the past, we’ve seen that Pederson loves to run 11 personnel (Zebra) with three wideouts. They can’t do that right now, unless you want to see a lot of Aiken and Gibson on the field. 

There are three receivers on the practice squad, including Braxton Miller. But on Monday, Pederson said Miller hasn’t had time to learn the Eagles’ offense because he’s been on the scout team. 

The last possibility — the one fans are clamoring for, and understandably so — is to bring in a free agent receiver or acquire one through a trade. This seems relatively likely, based on numbers alone. It could just be bringing back Markus Wheaton. Or maybe they make a call about Jeremy Maclin or Jordan Matthews, someone who knows the offense. 

But they better act fast. The clock is ticking until the game on Sunday and the Eagles’ receiving corps is now a glaring weak spot. 

More on the Eagles