Eagles

Examining Eagles' 14 free agents

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Examining Eagles' 14 free agents

Toward the end of their magical playoff run, the Eagles started realizing that as special as the 2017 team was, it was going to change before the 2018 season. 

They were right. 

While most of the starters will return, the team is going to change plenty over the next few months and it'll have a different feel by the time the season kicks off in September. 

The Eagles have 14 players from last year's team who will become free agents on March 14, when the new league year begins. Until then, the Birds will have exclusive negotiating rights with the unrestricted free agents. 

Here's a look at all of them: 

Nigel Bradham
Bradham is at the top of the list because he's clearly the most important of the bunch and the only no-doubt-about-it starter on the list. His 2017 season actually started off a little slow, but then he really picked it up. And when Jordan Hicks went down in October, Bradham took over as the defensive signal caller. His role on the Super Bowl-winning team probably wasn't emphasized enough. Jim Schwartz clearly thinks a lot of Bradham, who played under him in 2014 in Buffalo, as well. 

So how much is Bradham worth? It's tricky. Mychal Kendricks is the highest-paid linebacker on the team and will have a base salary of nearly $6 million in 2018. Meanwhile, Hicks would have been in line for a payday, but he's now recovering from another Achilles tear and is still cheap on his rookie contract. Based on the Spotrac market value tool, Bradham is worth around $5.9 million per season. They look at guys like K.J. Wright, Kiko Alonso and Malcolm Smith as comparable players. Bradham is a little older than those guys, but that's probably where his representation will start. Wright's four-year deal was worth $27 million, Alonso's four-year deal was worth nearly $29M and Smith's five-year deal was worth $26.5M. 

Trey Burton 
Burton might have thrown a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, but he's known more for his ability to catch the ball. The Eagles would probably love to bring Burton back for another season, but there's a chance that the secret about the 26-year-old tight end is out. He can catch. The Eagles tried to lock him up during the 2016 season, but couldn't get it done and now he might be out of their price range, especially with Zach Ertz already on the roster making a ton of money at the position. Spotrac estimates his annual value at $7 million. 

Patrick Robinson
During training camp, Robinson was so bad everyone thought there was a good shot he'd be cut. But then the team traded for Ronald Darby, which moved the veteran into the nickel corner role and he never looked back. He was a huge part of the 2017 Eagles' success. The 30-year-old corner joined the Eagles on a one-year prove-it deal and he proved he can play. Now, how much is a 30-year-old slot corner worth? We're about to find out. Spotrac values him at $6.7M, but it's really hard to know. Meanwhile, cornerback was once a weakness for the Eagles, but now their depth at the position is a strength. They'll bring back Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. It might be hard to justify signing Robinson and blocking Jones from getting on the field. 

Beau Allen
Over the last two years, Allen worked so hard to prove he could play in a 4-3 scheme and in the process, he doubled his list of suitors this offseason. He can play in either front, which should make him an appealing name for a lot of teams. Allen ended up playing just as much as Tim Jernigan down the stretch, but the Eagles already paid Jernigan ... and the rest of the starters on the defensive line. Would they really prioritize paying a rotational player now? Remember, the team still has a depth piece in Destiny Vaeao and drafted Elijah Qualls in the sixth round last spring. 

Darren Sproles
Sproles is a 34-year-old running back coming off a torn ACL and a broken hand. But it still might make sense for the Eagles to bring him back. While Corey Clement proved to be a receiving threat — he had 100 yards receiving in the Super Bowl! — he's not a Sproles-level threat. The screen game eventually came around, but that was a big element of the offense the Eagles seemed to be missing when Sproles first went down. All signs point toward a comeback for the veteran, but he hasn't definitively said so yet. 

Corey Graham
Graham didn't join the Eagles until early August on a one-year deal and it ended up being a solid move by Howie Roseman and the front office. Graham ended up playing 36 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2017 as the third safety. Having Graham allowed Malcolm Jenkins to play down in the slot for matchup purposes. But Graham will turn 33 in July. 

LeGarrette Blount
Coming in on a one-year deal in May, Blount had a pretty good season. During a year in which he turned 31, the veteran rushed for 766 yards in the regular season. And in the Super Bowl, he ran like a monster, going for 90 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. But Blount also saw his workload diminish after the addition of Jay Ajayi. The team still has Ajayi and will bring back Clement. 

Kenjon Barner
He was on the street until late September when the Eagles brought him back. While Barner didn't have much of a role on offense, he did become the Eagles' primary kick and punt returner. He returned 27 punts for 240 yards (8.9) and had 10 kick returns for 194 yards (19.4). His 8.9 punt return average was 11th in the NFL. 

Najee Goode
The Eagles brought back Goode on another one-year deal last March and Goode again filled the role of special teams player and occasional defensive role player. It's hard to believe, but Goode has played for the Eagles in every season since 2013. The 27-year-old has 61 games and four starts under his belt with the Eagles. 

Caleb Sturgis
Sturgis got hurt and then had to watch as rookie Jake Elliott took his job. Even with his missed extra points, Elliott made so many big kicks last year that he's not going to be giving that job back anytime soon. The shame of it for Sturgis is that he was actually a pretty good kicker for the Eagles. At least he'll get a Super Bowl ring. 

Dannell Ellerbe
For most of the 2017 season, Ellerbe was on his couch. The 32-year-old joined the Eagles in November and eventually took over as the team's starting middle linebacker. But because of how much time the Eagles spent in their nickel package, he never really played a lot. He played just three snaps in Super Bowl LII. The Eagles need to upgrade their linebacker depth. 

Will Beatty
Like Ellerbe, Beatty didn't have a team until the Eagles brought him into their facility in November. Beatty played in the regular-season finale but was inactive throughout the playoffs. His primary role was helping on the scout team. The Eagles need to find better tackle depth. 

Bryan Braman
The Eagles needed a boost on special teams so they brought Braman back on Dec. 12. He provided Dave Fipp's unit a spark, but he's a 30-year-old special teamer who offers nothing on defense. 

Jaylen Watkins (RFA)
It's unlikely there will be a bunch of teams knocking down Watkins' door, but he became a nice depth piece for the Eagles in 2017 and when they needed him, he played well. If the Eagles want him back, he'll be back. They can use an original-round tender (he was a fourth-rounder) on him, which would pretty much guarantee his return. 

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Thursday admitted that when he suffered his concussion in Miami two weeks ago, he lied to medical personnel to stay in the game.

He told them he hurt his shoulder.

“I just basically lied to them,” Grugier-Hill said. “I thought it would just go away. Just didn’t really say anything about it. It got to the point where I really couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

The concussion happened on the first play from scrimmage in the game against the Dolphins, when the starting linebacker collided with receiver DeVante Parker. That means he played a total of 54 combined defensive and special teams snaps with a concussion that game.

Eventually, when the headaches didn’t subside, Grugier-Hill reported the concussion symptoms to trainers on Thursday, four days after the head shot. He was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed the Giants game. He has since been cleared and will return to action in Washington this weekend.

Grugier-Hill, 25, said he had never had a concussion before and didn’t know exactly what it felt like. Last week, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles encourage all their players to report concussion symptoms and self police.

Does Grugier-Hil regret his decision?

“No,” he said. “I mean, I wish we would have at least got a win.”

There’s no questioning Grugier-Hill’s loyalty but lying to medical staff about a brain injury is nothing to be praised; it’s dangerous. But at least Grugier-Hill was honest about his decision — plenty of players aren’t.

And this certainly wasn’t the first time — nor will it be the last — that a player decides to stay in a game even though they know they might be concussed.

Back in 2015, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he played through more than an entire half against the Cowboys with a concussion. After eventually getting through the protocol, Jenkins said he felt “foggy” for the entire second half.

That’s the hole in the NFL’s concussion policy. The league has concussion spotters in the press box at every game and has made strides to prevent and detect these head injuries earlier, but players are still willing to put their long-term health on the line to stay in games. And Eagles medical personnel can’t treat a concussion they don’t know exists. It’s a hard problem to fix.

As far as the league has come, concussions are still far too normalized in the sport.

“I think it’s just part of the game,” Grugier-Hill said. “You get rocked a little bit every once in a while.”

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