The700Level

State of Eagles rumblings after first free-agent period: Malcolm Jenkins, trades, 14th overall

State of Eagles rumblings after first free-agent period: Malcolm Jenkins, trades, 14th overall

With the first part of the NFL's free-agent period winding down, we take a closer look at some of the stories surrounding the Eagles coming out of one of the busiest times.

Was Malcolm Jenkins really offered to the Saints?
The Eagles' free agency honeymoon didn't last long, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported Saturday the Eagles offered safety Malcolm Jenkins along with third- and fourth-round picks to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Jenkins has emerged as a fan favorite, a locker-room leader and one of the best safeties in the NFL since signing with the Eagles in 2014, so needless to say, not everybody was enthusiastic about the idea.
 
We can only speculate as to the veracity of the report, but true or untrue, there is more than one way to interpret this story. Jenkins' name being raised in trade discussions doesn't indicate whether it was the Eagles' idea, nor does it mean they would have pulled the trigger even if the Saints agreed. In exploring a deal for a young talent like Cooks, any number of hypothetical offers could've been floated by either side and used as a template to continue the dialogue.
 
In other words, we don't know the nature of any conversations that took place or how serious they were. Plus, whether Jenkins was on the table is sort of irrelevant now. Cooks was traded to New England, and there aren't likely to be many more players on trade block that would merit Jenkins in return. This whole story is much ado about nothing.

Eagles holding on to Jason Kelce ... for now
While vice president of football operations Howie Roseman maintains he's not shopping center Jason Kelce, there's no reason why the Eagles wouldn't listen to offers.

Stefen Wiskniewski -- re-signed for three years over the weekend -- started five seasons at center for the Jaguars and Raiders, and 2016 third-round draft choice Isaac Seumalo is believed by some to be the future at the position.
 
Ironically, it may not be Wisniewski or Seumalo who make Kelce expendable at all. The addition of Chance Warmack in free agency could create a logjam at guard if he can make a strong push for a starting job, which isn't all that unlikely. Consider this: Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are the only offensive guards taken with a top-10 pick since 1997, and are two of three to be taken that high since 1988. How special does a prospect have to be at that position to go that early? Warmack has disappointed in the NFL with Tennessee, but now he's reunited with Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, his former position coach in college.
 
Brandon Brooks is entrenched at right guard, but the Eagles gave Allen Barbre on the left permission to seek a trade. Seumalo would presumably take Barbre's place, although if Warmack impresses, the job could be his, at which point, moving Seumalo to center makes sense. Should all of that come to pass, Kelce could be on the move in August or September, especially if there's an injury elsewhere.
 
Mychal Kendricks still on the block
While Kelce appears to be staying put for the time being, it also appears the Eagles are only re-doubling their efforts to trade linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Of Kendricks' $4.85 million base salary for 2017, $4.35 million became guaranteed on the second day of the new league year, which would seemingly take cutting him off the table. If the Eagles were going that route, it would be done already.
 
There's no real reason to hang on to Kendricks, though. In today's NFL, there are only two linebackers on the field roughly 75 percent of the time, and Kendricks was the odd man out behind Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks. Even when Kendricks was on the field, he was of virtually no consequence for the Eagles (at least not in a positive sense), finishing with 32 tackles, a pass breakup and zero sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles.
 
Kendricks doesn't want to be here, and the Eagles don't really need him but decided to pay him anyway. That would suggest they think there's a willing trade partner out there somewhere. There should be interest, too. He may be of no use to the Eagles at this point, but in three seasons from 2013 to 2015, Kendricks registered 11.0 sacks, 20 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles. He has value, even if it's a fifth-round pick or later.
 
Bennie Logan finds a home
While it's a shame the Eagles lost defensive tackle Bennie Logan to the Chiefs in free agency, the reality is he's no longer a fit here, specifically for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's brand of 4-3 defense. Logan finished 2016 with a career-high 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, but his tackles decreased from 55 and 57 the previous two seasons to 24. Tackles for loss declined as well, from 8, then 9, to 5.
 
In Kansas City, Logan returns to a 3-4 alignment, where he'll line up back at nose tackle, replacing Dontari Poe. It's only a one-year contract, but it's the right move for the 27-year-old, who was becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber force in the old scheme. Logan is great at reading the offense and filling a gap, but as a pure attacking pass rusher in Schwartz's system, he wasn't discernibly different from replacement Beau Allen.
 
An upgrade at quarterback, but at what cost?
No matter your thoughts on Nick Foles, at least we know for certain he can play quarterback in the NFL, which is more than can be said for Chase Daniel. Daniel served a purpose last season by mentoring rookie Carson Wentz, but in terms of a backup who can actually fill Wentz's shoes if need be, Foles is the superior option.
 
Yet, it's impossible to escape the feeling the entire backup quarterback situation was bungled from the very beginning. The official explanation as to why the Eagles will absorb up to $7 million in dead money against the salary cap for Daniel in 2017 and pay Foles a minimum of $7 million over the next two years is "circumstances have changed" since Daniel signed. Seeing as the only change was the selection of Wentz, one can infer Daniel was upset he wouldn't have the opportunity to start.
 
Remember when Daniel first arrived and claimed he was competing for the job? Obviously, every player says that, but the contract the Eagles gave Daniel and the depth chart at the time suggests it wasn't totally untrue. And while the Eagles didn't know for sure at the time they would be able to land Wentz, they knew Sam Bradford was under contract, they were going to draft somebody, and Daniel had zero credentials as a starter.
 
There's no telling how valuable Daniel was to Wentz last season. Regardless, what a massive waste of money.
 
Everything is on the table at No. 14 (well, almost)
The Eagles probably aren't going to take a quarterback with the 14th overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. At any other position, you can make a case there is a need.
 
Jordan Matthews will be joined by Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to form one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, but all three could potentially be playing elsewhere next year.

Defensive end Brandon Graham was named second-team All-Pro, and Vinny Curry is set to make a ton of money for the next few years, yet the Eagles were tied with four teams for 16th in sacks last season.

Left tackle Jason Peters is 35 this year. Running back Darren Sproles is 34. Tight end Brent Celek is 32. Kelce is on the trade block, apparently.
 
There is almost no scenario the Eagles shouldn't consider at No. 14, even at positions where the roster might appear to be deep. Yes, cornerback is a disaster and almost certainly the top need because they have not one proven player there. At the same time, running back, receiver, tackle, defensive line and linebacker are all areas where holes exist now or will arise soon, and it wouldn't hurt to address tight end and safety, too.
 
The Eagles have work to do in the upcoming draft, and can't afford to put themselves in a box in the first round. The franchise is on the right track but still needs help everywhere.

The 700 Level's 2018 Philadelphia Sports Awards

The 700 Level's 2018 Philadelphia Sports Awards

Thank you for joining us for The 700 Level’s fifth-annual, almost-didn’t-happen-this-time Philadelphia Sports Awards. If you’re wondering why you don’t recall reading or hearing about any of our first four outings, that’s because we’ve rebranded for 2018, moving away from “The KULPYs” due to the writer’s lack of marketability or relevance. Pretty sure that guy is covering the food scene somewhere over in the Middle East these days.

In other words: New title, slightly different format, same shtick. Now that we’ve suckered you in, let’s get down to business.

It’s been a big year for the Eagles, as you might imagine.

Philadelphia Athlete of the Year: Carson Wentz
Runner-up: Joel Embiid

Prior to suffering a torn ACL, Wentz was enjoying an MVP-caliber season. He set an Eagles franchise record with 33 touchdown passes — and needed only 13 games to do it. And while the team managed to win the Super Bowl without him, Wentz helped secure home-field for the playoffs with an 11-2 record as a starter. He was the most consistently dominant athlete in the city over the past year.

Comeback Athlete of the Year: Nick Foles
Runner-up: Claude Giroux

Let’s make sure Foles gets his due, though. Pretty much everybody left his career for dead after an ugly stint with the Rams, and even as late as the second quarter of the divisional playoff game against the Falcons, few believed he would ever catch lighting in a bottle again. Sure enough, Foles regained his 2013 form just in time to post one of the most incredible postseason runs in NFL history, completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 860 yards and six touchdowns to one interception over his last 10 quarters of action. Unlike ’13, we’re pretty sure this isn’t a fluke — he has the ring to prove it.

Rookie of the Year: Rhys Hoskins
Runner-up: Ben Simmons

What’s the KULPYs without a little controversy? Simmons seems like the obvious choice, but his unwillingness or inability to shoot the basketball caused him to get exposed in the end. Then there’s the whole debate over whether he’s even truly a rookie or not after missing his first year with an injury. Hoskins hasn’t lit the world on fire in 2018, though he’s still hit 32 home runs in his first 586 plate appearances, with a supporting cast that isn’t making things any easier. We'll operate under All-Star Game rules and select Hoskins on the basis the Phillies need a little representation here.

The Andrew Bynum Award for Most Disliked Sports Figure: Robert Covington
Runner-up: Gabe Kapler

Covington signed a four-year contract worth $62 million in November, then fell out of favor with fans almost immediately. He began the ’17-18 season with a hot shooting hand, but cooled off and became extremely streaky from beyond the arc. What’s worse, RoCo’s defensive effort seemed inconsistent at times, as well, which he could always hang his hat on previously when the offense wasn’t there. Now, there’s no question a good portion of fans would like to see him moved, though the reality is the Sixers might be stuck with that contract for a while.

The Chip Kelly Award for Most Nonsensical Scandal: Bryan Colangelo
Runner-up: Markelle Fultz

Take your pick from a host of Sixers screw-ups. From Embiid constantly feuding with management over playing time, to trading hometown hero Mikal Bridges during his introductory press conference, it’s certainly been an interesting year. Yet, Colangelo’s wife’s numerous Twitter burner accounts releasing sensitive information and defending the former GM’s choice in shirt collars was the most bizarre thing to happen in Philly sports in the last 12 months, probably longer. By the way, the Sixers are still seeking Colangelo’s replacement, which means the repercussions of this stupidity are still being felt.

Dumbest Philly Sports Take: Mike Lombardi
Runner-up: Colin Cowherd

If Lombardi had merely insinuated Doug Pederson may not have been the greatest choice to lead the Eagles, few would’ve strongly disagreed with that statement a year ago. But even at the time, after Pederson won seven games as a rookie head coach, claiming he was “the most unqualified coach” in NFL history was over the top. Few hot takes have ever aged so poorly so quickly, with Pederson leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The truly ironic part is Lombardi is a failed NFL executive and out of the league — maybe he should’ve realized he isn’t necessarily the greatest judge of talent.

The Competency Award for Best Coach or Executive: Sam Hinkie
Runners-up: Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman

What would the KULPYs be without some good ol’ fashioned trolling? Obviously, Pederson, Roseman or even Jay Wright are all worthy choices here. Then again, after watching the Sixers win 52 games and coast to the second round of the playoffs with a coach (Brett Brown) and core (Embiid, Simmons, Dario Saric) Hinkie put in place, the former GM’s sacrifice deserves remembrance. Maybe the day will come when we can leave Hinkie in the past. Then again, if there were any justice in the world, the Sixers would probably rehire him to take Colangelo’s place right now.

Philadelphian of the Year/Lifetime Achievement Award: Jason Kelce
Runners-up: Not applicable

There wasn’t even a close second. Kelce’s profanity-laced speech at the Eagles victory parade was the single greatest moment a lot of people from this area will ever witness in their lives. More than that, it cemented Kelce as not only one of the legendary players in Philly history. It demonstrated he's one of us to the core. Ranting and raving? Check. Gratuitous swearing? Check. Visible intoxication? Check, check, check.

That’s all we have. Sorry, Flyers, better luck next year.

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

Jordan Hicks is back after missing much of the previous season with an injury, but his return helped push Mychal Kendricks out the door.

Kendricks was released and signed with the Browns. Hicks is working his way back from a major injury. Did the 2018 Eagles linebackers take a step forward as a result of the swap, or gamble breaking up a dynamic Super Bowl-winning tandem?

Better

Playmaking

Kendricks enjoyed a resurgent season in 2017, coming off the bench and performing serviceably in his enhanced role after Hicks’ injury. Yet, the big plays were largely absent from the Eagles’ linebacker corps as a result of the switch. Kendricks recorded zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles and zero fumble recoveries, including playoffs.

That’s unlikely to be the case with Hicks, as long as he’s healthy. The Eagles’ middle linebacker showed a knack for coming up with big plays his first two seasons, racking up seven interceptions, one forced fumble and five recoveries.

Hicks is attempting to recover from a ruptured Achilles, so there’s always a chance he’s slowed by the injury or not quite 100 percent when the season begins. Then again, he’s so much more of an instinctive player than Kendricks, even losing a step, Hicks is likely to wind up with the football in his hands more frequently. It may be only a handful of plays, but those are the ones that swing the outcomes of games.

Worse

Pass rushing

One area where Kendricks might be superior to Hicks is behind the line of scrimmage. Kendricks’ 2.0 sacks in ’17 match Hicks’ career total, and he has 14.0 in six years. Kendricks also graded as the most productive pass-rushing 4-3 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus with 13 total pressures in 49 blitz attempts.

Of course, therein lies one of the problems with Kendricks’ ability. Under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles don’t really make full use of his elite athleticism, often preferring to rush four rather than send the house.

It’s difficult to gauge how much of a loss Kendricks’ speed off the edge will be considering he was in line to play about 25 percent of the snaps if he stuck around. Regardless, his departure creates a void in that role.

The same

Nigel Bradham

At least the Eagles managed to retain reliable Bradham, who was their biggest priority in free agency this offseason. A case could be made the seventh-year veteran is the team’s best linebacker, too — not injury-prone, like Hicks, but consistent and always plays under control, unlike Kendricks.

Bradham will miss opening night due to a one-game suspension for an off-field incident, but when he returns, the Eagles have a reliable defender who can play strongside — his natural position — or in the middle. The seventh-year player posted 205 tackles, 3.0 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles in two seasons with the club.

The unknown

Weakside linebacker

Kendricks’ departure does create a void at weakside linebacker, and it’s currently unclear who the Eagles will choose to fill it. Corey Nelson was signed away from the Broncos in free agency, but played special teams for most of his four seasons there. Special teams ace Kamu Grugier-Hill and 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Gerry are also in the mix, and even more unproven than Nelson.

Fortunately, the weakside spot is only on the field roughly a quarter of the time, so it’s not the biggest of holes. It was also a job in which Kendricks didn’t particularly excel.

Better or worse?

Given Kendricks’ struggles in the weakside spot in previous years, how Nelson or the competition will fare probably isn’t the greatest of concerns. The top two linebacker spots are what matter most here, and getting Hicks back is a huge boost. Kendricks does a few things very well, but is more of a liability in coverage, and the Eagles’ lack of urgency to use his ability to attack made him a poor fit. The linebackers may be only marginally improved given their depth is still a question mark, but Hicks is an upgrade. BETTER

More on the Eagles