This year’s crop of free agents is the most talented bunch we’ve seen in quite some time. From perhaps the best running back in the game in Le’Veon Bell, to our own Super Bowl MVP quarterback, there’s plenty of talent at almost every position.
The Eagles have some work to do before they can start targeting any big-name free agents though. Right now, they’re projected to be about $9 million over the cap. With a few cuts and restructured contracts, Howie should be able to easily get under that number before the new league year starts in March. Howie is a proven cap wizard, so I have no doubt that he’ll find a way to have some spending money once free agency rolls around.
The Birds have a few holes that need to be filled this offseason: running back, secondary, linebacker and both the offensive and defensive lines could use some fresh faces. So, here’s my wish list of players I’d like to see the Eagles target to possibly fill some of these holes. Are all these names realistic? Maybe not. But we’ve seen Howie do the unexpected before, so keep an eye on these guys as we approach free agency.
With the uncertainty of Jordan Hicks’ future, C.J. Mosely is a name fans should keep an eye on. Mosely has been a stud for Baltimore ever since they drafted him back in 2014. He’s made the Pro Bowl four times in five years and has been a corner stone of the Ravens defense. They would be wise to hold on to him, but he’s in for a big pay day once free agency hits.
The Eagles haven’t had a linebacker of Mosley’s caliber since Jeremiah Trotter, so I’d really love to see Howie go after him.
I like Hicks, but he’s only been able to stay healthy for an entire season once in his career. And while he looked like he was on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl linebacker during that one season, he’s failed to reach that level of play since. The linebackers headlining this year’s free agency class aren’t the sexiest names either, so Hicks could end up getting paid more money than the Eagles are willing to give him. Obviously, this means Mosely won’t be cheap either, but he’s a top-tier linebacker unlike Hicks. Not to mention that Mosely has never missed extended time in the NFL due to injury, and that seems to be Hicks’ thing at this point.
Replacing Hicks with Mosely would instantly make our defense better, so let’s make it happen.
I know I know, why go after Mark Ingram when Le’Veon Bell is a free agent?! That’s an easy answer for me, but I know some fans are deadest on Bell coming here.
Realistically, the Eagles won’t pay a running back the kind of money that Bell’s asking for. He’s said it himself, he wants to be the highest paid running back in football. And I’m sure some desperate team will do that for him, but it won’t be the Eagles.
First off, Howie has never prioritized running back or been willing to throw big money at the position. He likes having a handful of capable backs, and that’s how Doug runs his offense. So, to think that the Eagles will go after a guy who wants crazy money is just misguided.
That’s why I think it’s far more likely for the Birds to go after someone like Mark Ingram. He still won’t be cheap, but he certainly won’t be as expensive as Bell.
The Eagles could possibly be down to two running backs once free agency starts. Both Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi are set to become free agents. I would be surprised if Howie didn’t bring back Sproles on a one-year deal, but I can’t say the same for Ajayi. If he didn’t suffer a season ending injury last season, I could see Howie bringing him back. But, at this point it just feels like it’s time to move on.
If Ajayi does end up leaving, the Eagles will have very little money allocated to the running back position. So, they can afford to give Ingram a solid contract if they decide to go that route.
Ingram is used to playing in a committee led backfield, he’s been doing it for a couple years with Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. His running style also fits the Eagles offense, he’s good between the tackles and he has a burst once he hits the open field. He’s also versatile and can catch balls out of the backfield when called upon.
Overall, Ingram would be a great addition to the Eagles offense, and he wouldn’t demand the amount of money or touches that Lev Bell would.
The Eagles were able to restructure Rodney McCleod’s contract about a month ago, so going after a safety probably isn’t at the top of Howie’s offseason to-do list. But Mathieu isn’t your average safety. Ever since he’s gotten to the NFL, he’s played a hybrid role for the most part, switching between safety and corner. Malcolm Jenkins plays that role for Schwartz’s defense, but he’s not getting any younger and is probably better suited as a traditional safety at this point.
Surprisingly, Honey Badger didn’t get the lucrative contract he was hoping for last offseason. The Texans only signed him to a one-year deal, and it seems like they’re prioritizing their other prized defensive free agent in Jadeveon Clowney. Earl Thomas and Landon Collins headline this year’s group of free agent safeties, so Mathieu could end up being signed for relatively cheap.
With the recent release of Chris Maragos and the eventual release of Corey Graham, the Eagles could use a third safety who can play multiple positions. Mathieu fits that bill, and if he doesn’t garner much attention from other teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if Howie went after him.
If Brandon Graham ends up hitting the open market, Frank Clark is a real possibility for the Eagles. He’s not the most well-known name and that works in the Eagles favor. In most years, Clark would be the most sought-after pass rusher on the market. But this year’s edge rushing group is the best I think I’ve ever seen. Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford are just a few of them. Once these guys find new homes, Clark will probably be the best pass rusher still available. So, if the Eagles really want Clark, it would be wise to go after him as soon as free agency starts.
Some have speculated that Graham will take a team friendly deal to stay in Philly, but you can never bank on a professional athlete doing that. If a team throws a big contract at him, it would be best for the Eagles to part ways with him.
Graham will be 31 heading into next season and Clark will only be 26. If it comes down to these two and the contracts are similar, I think you have to go with Clark. I know Graham made the biggest play in Eagles’ history just over a year ago, but with his age and steadily declining production, his best football is behind him.
Clark on the other hand, is just reaching his prime. Over the last three seasons he has 32 sacks and 66 QB hits; those numbers speak for themselves.
He may not be as complete of a player as Graham is, but his pass rushing ability is second to none. His style of play is very comparable to Michael Bennett’s, and we saw the impact he had on our defense last season. Clark was essentially Bennett’s replacement in Seattle, although he was a starter before Bennett left. He can move all over the defensive line like Bennett and his motor never stops running.
It would be disappointing seeing Brandon Graham in another uniform next season, but after seeing what Clark can do to opposing offensive lines, I don’t think fans would miss him for long.