Jalen Mills

Figuring out likelihood Eagles free agents return in 2020

Figuring out likelihood Eagles free agents return in 2020

The Eagles have over a dozen pending unrestricted free agents and if they want to bring some of them back, they have a few more weeks of exclusive negotiating rights.

Free agency begins on March 18 and the legal tampering window opens on March 16. Until then, the Eagles won’t have to bid against other teams. Just last year, the Eagles signed pending free agent Brandon Graham to a contract at the combine.

All of the following players are pending UFAs except Nigel Bradham, who was released a few days ago and is already a free agent. Any team can negotiate with him now.

Here’s a look at all the Eagles’ free agents (in alphabetical order) — Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out how likely they are to return:

Nelson Agholor

Roob: Everybody seems to understand it would be best for both Nelly and for the Eagles if he finds a new home. The ultimate guy who needs a change of scenery. I'm not going to put 0 percent but ... 1 percent.

Dave: Agholor’s career in Philadelphia was a perfect bell curve. He struggled early, helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl and then struggled mightily last season. It’s best for everyone to move on and I think we all understand that. 0 percent

Nigel Bradham

Roob: A lot of people seem to think the Eagles are going to bring Bradham back at a lower salary, but I think he’s gone. I think they want to get younger and they’re concerned about his level of play dropping the last couple years. 28 percent

Dave: The Eagles want to get younger and faster and bringing back Bradham wouldn’t help either area. I’ve heard Bradham is open to a return but I don’t think it’s very likely. 15 percent

Vinny Curry

Roob: He wasn’t awful last year. He actually had a team-high 4.0 sacks over the second half of the season. He won’t cost much, he loves playing here, he wants to be here, and they need pass rushers. But he’s 31 and it's probably best if they move on. 41 percent

Dave: Curry ended up having a much better season than anticipated, finishing with 5.0 sacks. He was a productive player but again … time to get younger. If other options are too expensive, it’s possible. 25 percent

Ronald Darby

Roob: I never got why they brought him back for 2019 at $5 million, and I definitely would be shocked if he’s back in 2020. Has averaged 8 1/2 games in his three years here and lately on the rare occasions he’s been healthy hasn’t played well. 9 percent

Dave: The Eagles brought back Darby in 2019 and it was a mistake. When healthy, Darby was an OK player but he struggled to stay on the field and it’s time to move on. 6 percent

Kamu Grugier-Hill

Roob: Kamu has played four years on a rookie 6th-round contract and wants to get paid. He’s not going to get a big deal here, so I’d expect him to at explore the open market and see what he can get. If it doesn’t happen for him I could see him coming back. 38 percent

Dave: Last season was supposed to be a breakout season for Grugier-Hill and it didn’t happen. And then it was kind of odd how his season ended with the concussion and surgery. Seems like the marriage might be broken, which is a shame because he still has potential and fits what the Eagles want in their linebackers. 22 percent

Jordan Howard

Roob: I think I’m in the minority on this one, but as much as I like him as a player I don’t think it makes sense for him to come back to a team where Miles Sanders has established himself as the lead back, and I don’t think it makes sense for the Eagles to spend significant money on a back that needs carries to shine. 32 percent

Dave: The Eagles need to move forward with Miles Sanders as their lead back, which means Howard should probably find another landing spot. But he seems to like it here and if a strong market doesn’t develop, the Eagles could certainly use him as thunder to Sanders’ lighting. 54 percent

Timmy Jernigan

Roob: It all depends how much $$$ Timmy wants. The Eagles would love to have him back at another reasonable deal. But who knows what the market is for a guy like Jernigan, who is clearly talented but can’t stay healthy. 51 percent

Dave: I understand the Eagles want to get younger and I understand that Jernigan has struggled to stay on the field. I like the idea of bringing him back as a third DT in the rotation. 50 percent

Josh McCown

Roob: As much as I respect his effort in the playoff loss and what he means in the locker room, I don’t want a 41-year-old backup quarterback. But the Eagles love him, so I’d expect him back as No. 3 and a sort of unofficial player-coach. 67 percent

Dave: I think McCown is going to hang ‘em up. After getting hurt in the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine him signing up for another year of this. 10 percent

Rodney McLeod

Roob: It just makes sense for him to stay where he’s played at a solid level for four years and it makes sense for the Eagles to spend a few bucks at a position where there's no depth. When it makes sense for both sides it usually gets done. But they still need to draft a safety or two. 68 percent

Dave: This is a tough one because if the Eagles can’t figure out the situation with Malcolm Jenkins, they’d probably really like to keep McLeod. And I’m not sure they can find a better value or a better player on the open market. 65 percent

Jalen Mills

Roob: Another one whose greatest value is here. The Eagles absolutely need to bring in a stable of young, fast corners. But Mills won’t cost a ton, he’s a known quantity, he’s popular in the locker room and he's a functional player at a position where the Eagles don't have many. 71 percent

Dave: This is a case where I think the Eagles value the player way more than the rest of the league. Jim Schwartz loves him some Jalen Mills. He’s the one I’m most confident will be back but there’s no guarantee. 75 percent

Jason Peters

Roob: One of the most intriguing roster questions. Can the Eagles really bring back a 38-year-old left tackle who’s had injury issues in an offseason where one of the GM identified getting younger as a major priority? Peters is still a good player when healthy. But he’s not a great player. And Andre Dillard is waiting in the wings. 42 percent

Dave: It’s time to move on. The rest of us know that but I wonder if there’s a chance the Eagles don’t. Eventually, though, I think they come to their senses and Andre Dillard is the starter at left tackle in 2020. 19 percent

Hassan Ridgeway

Roob: Ridgeway was giving the Eagles some productive snaps before he got hurt. He’s only 25, they need interior line depth, and it would make sense to have him, especially if Jernigan is looking for a big deal. 59 percent

Dave: I think either Ridgeway or Jernigan will be back for the 2020 season as a rotational defensive tackle so I’m giving them both the same chance. 50 percent

Richard Rodgers

Roob: He wasn’t even in the league most of the year, so it’s not like there’s a market for him. If the Eagles want to bring him into camp they will. 40 percent

Dave: I really don’t see the need to bring Rodgers back. Sure, he knows the offense but there has to be a younger guy who can do the same thing. 7 percent

Nate Sudfeld

Roob: Sudfeld can’t be thrilled he remained No. 3 after his wrist healed. It just kind of feels like both sides are ready to move on. 36 percent

Dave: This is a really tough one for me. The Eagles would have rolled with Sudfeld as the backup last season but then he got hurt and they brought McCown in. Would they feel comfortable enough rolling with Sudfeld as their backup in 2020? I’m not sure. 45 percent

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Roob: I think somebody is going to look at Big V as a versatile 26-year-old who’s started on a Super Bowl team and pay him significant dough to be a starter. And he’ll probably do fine. The Eagles can’t compete with that when he’d only be a backup here. 27 percent

Dave: I think the Eagles would love to have Big V back as their swing tackle and key backup but I still think there’s going to be a team that will give him more money to sign as a starter or at least to compete for a starting job. 36 percent

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Should Eagles prioritize receiver or cornerback in free agency?

Should Eagles prioritize receiver or cornerback in free agency?

It's a question seemingly as old as time. Is wide receiver or cornerback a bigger priority for the Eagles in free agency?

As is too often the case, both positions are among the team's top offseason needs. Both must be addressed for 2020. But if the Eagles are going to sign a high-profile free agent to an exorbitant contract in March, a cornerback (or cornerbacks) makes far more sense.

Why? How 'bout some names?

Sidney Jones. Rasul Douglas. Cre'Von LeBlanc. Avonte Maddox. These are the corners currently under contract with the Eagles.

CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Tee Higgins, Justin Jefferson, Laviska Shenault. This is a selection of the top receivers in the NFL draft, some of whom are certain to be on the board when the Eagles are on the clock at No. 21.

What about numbers?

$29 million. That's the amount of salary cap space the Eagles currently have committed to receivers for 2020, seventh-highest figure in the league -- and that will only rise if the club moves on from Alshon Jeffery, as has been speculated.

$8.3 million. The amount of cap space committed to corners, the ninth-lowest.

Simply put, cornerback is a much more immediate concern. For better or worse, starters Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are free agents themselves. The Eagles can't go into a season with Jones, Douglas, LeBlanc and Maddox, and a rookie only adds to the uncertainty.

Outside Jeff Okudah, a certain top-10 selection, there's not much of a consensus on the corner prospects later in the draft.

There's not much consensus on receivers either as far as their order is concerned, but conservatively, four will go in the first round, probably more. The Eagles will have no problem finding talent on Day 1.

And whatever people think of Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, they're likely to return. Injuries are a concern, but Jackson demonstrated an incredible rapport with Carson Wentz in a short amount of time, and Jeffery should be motivated in what will essentially be a contract year. Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are still in the picture as well.

Which is a better use of the Eagles' resources: signing one, possibly a pair of proven, starting-caliber corners, or adding another pricey receiver to a roster that already has its fair share?

Granted, it's not entirely an either-or situation. In fact, the Eagles will bring in veterans at both spots.

They don't need to go out and get an Amari Cooper-level receiver though, not with what the draft has to offer. What they need is a Byron Jones type to solidify the corner position and bring instant credibility to a room that currently has none.

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Fix two things and Eagles are a Super Bowl contender

Fix two things and Eagles are a Super Bowl contender

When you look at the Eagles’ roster, it’s definitely one of those good news-bad news type of situations.

The bad news? The Eagles need to completely rebuild wide receiver and cornerback from the ground up.

The wide receiver position is in shambles, with a couple long-ago Pro Bowlers with uncertain futures, a 2nd-rounder who showed little as a rookie, a bus load of practice squad alums and a one-time Super Bowl hero facing free agency after a disastrous season.

The cornerback position is worse, filled with heralded draft picks who’ve underachieved, later-round picks who’ve been inconsistent and veteran free agents who can’t stay healthy.

The good news? Other than those two debacles, they’re in pretty good shape.

This isn’t the worst situation in the world. This isn’t a complete rebuild. There’s a lot to like about the Eagles’ roster.

On offense? There’s an elite quarterback, two electrifying and versatile young running backs, an offensive line stocked with Pro Bowlers and two big-time tight ends.

On defense? There’s a solid if somewhat underachieving defensive line that’s potentially one of the league’s best units. There’s an unspectacular but competent group of linebackers. There are two veteran safeties that both have question marks next to their names but aren’t huge concerns.

Special teams? They’re fine.

You don’t need an all-pro at every position to win a Super Bowl, as we learned in 2017. You just need to be solid across the board, great in a few critical areas, stay relatively healthy and have a coach that knows how to make the whole thing work.

And the reality is the Eagles are good enough everywhere other than cornerback and wide receiver to compete for a Super Bowl.

Granted, the two areas where they need total rebuilds are two of the most important areas in the modern, pass-obsessed NFL.

And that’s not to say there aren’t other needs. The Eagles can get better across the board.

But if Howie Roseman and his staff can figure out wide receiver and cornerback through free agency and the draft, there’s no reason this team can’t be as good as anybody in 2020.

It’s a lot to ask. There’s a reason those two areas are lacking.

Years of poor drafting, poor free agency signings and poor player evaluations have left the roster sorely lacking at corner and receiver.

The Eagles overcame it to win a Super Bowl largely because guys like Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Nelson Agholor had the best seasons of their lives, and free agents like Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Patrick Robinson played over their heads.

If the Eagles are going to fix these two areas it’s going to have to be through a combination of free agency and the draft.

There are some intriguing corners who could be available in free agency – Chris Harris, Byron Jones, James Bradberry, Trae Waynes. And someone like Robby Anderson would make a lot of sense at WR.

Fair to say the CB issue runs even deeper than WR because at least you can hope DeSean Jackson comes back healthy, although at 33 who knows? And at least Alshon Jeffery is under contract, although there’s a lot of questions there as well. And Greg Ward is at worst a functional slot. So at least there’s a starting point.

Cornerback is a total rebuild. Can you count on getting anything out of Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas? Do you even want to keep Mills or Darby? Can you get consistent play out of Avonte Maddox or Cre’von LeBlanc? It’s possible – maybe even likely - that neither 2020 starting corner is on the roster right now.  

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a lot of work to be done.

The good news is Roseman has the luxury of being able to focus a good chunk of his energy on two specific areas.

The bad news is that they’re historically his two worst areas.

Which is how the Eagles got into this position in the first place.

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