Eagles: 3 free agents to consider once Ertz’s cap is off the books

I, like all of you, am still patiently waiting for a cut or trade of tight end Zach Ertz. Once he’s gone, the Eagles will have an extra $8.5 million in cap space to work with. Which means they’ll have enough cash to go out and possibly sign one more free agent before the start of training camp.

As of right now, the team has $8,266,322 in available cap space, according to NFLPA’s public salary cap report. That’s just enough to sign their remaining rookies, who will cost $3,615,148. With some quick math, we can determine the team will then have $4,651,174 in cap space once all of their rookies are signed. Add on that $8.5 million that becomes free once Ertz is gone, and the team has approximately $13.1 in cap space to work with.

That’s more than enough to bring in one more free agent this offseason, and the Eagles could use some veteran help at a number of positions.

Here are three remaining free agents the Eagles should consider signing once the Ertz money comes off the books.

Steven Nelson, CB

A very popular name amongst the Eagles fan base, cornerback Steven Nelson fills an immediate need for Philly. Aside from Darius Slay, the team doesn’t have any other starting caliber corners.

Avonte Maddox was one of the worst cornerbacks in football last season. He posted the worst overall grade of any corner on Pro Football Focus with a 37.8 mark. He also allowed a completion percentage of 67.3 percent and a passer rating of 108.3 when targeted. It was by far the worst season of his career and there’s some reason to think he’ll bounce back in a new defensive scheme, but the reality is he’s been trending in the wrong direction since his rookie year.

You have Zech McPhearson as an option, but starting a fourth round corner on the outside from day one isn’t an ideal scenario. The Eagles’ best bet is to add a veteran like Nelson as a band-aid for this year. At this point, he can probably be had for relatively cheap.

According to PFF, Nelson ranked out as 36th-best corner in football last season. He recorded two interceptions and nine pass defensed, along with allowing a completion percentage of 58.2 percent and a passer rating of 97 when targeted.

Is he a long-term solution to the problem? No. But he provides enough to be a starter in today’s NFL and certainly enough to start in the Eagles secondary.

Kenny Stills, WR

Although the Eagles used their first round pick on Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, the offense still doesn’t have much reliable, proven talent in their wide receiving corps. Actually, they don’t really have any proven talent at the wideout position.

Kenny Stills, 29, would be a nice veteran addition to this group and add another weapon for Nick Sirianni’s passing attack. While he’s coming off his worst year as a pro production wise, Stills was a very reliable receiver in 2019. He had the sixth-highest passer rating when targeted (126.4) and fifth-highest catch rate among wide receivers (75.5 percent) in 2019.

I understand wanting to give the young Eagles receivers as much playing time as possible in order to develop their games, but that may not beneficial to the offense as a whole. Based on nearly every metric, the Eagles have a terrible wide receiving group — regardless of what you or I think about their potential heading into this season.

Stills will probably settle for a one year deal somewhere, and I’m not sure he fits into that category of being an ideal signing for a contending team.

Jesse James, TE

With Zach Ertz gone (in this scenario), the Eagles will need to fill the TE2 spot behind Dallas Goedert. They could wait to see how camp plays out first, with the likes of Jason Croom, Caleb Wilson, Hakeem Butler, and Jack Stoll all battling it out for that vacancy.

But if none of them prove to be worthy, Jesse James is reliable enough to fill that hole and provide Jalen Hurts with a nice over the middle target.

Nick Sirianni wants to use multiple tight ends in his offense. I’m sure he’d love to keep Ertz and Goedert together because of that, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards. James is no Ertz by any means, but he’s a veteran who’s been around the league and could be a solid second option at tight end.

At his peak in 2017 with Pittsburgh, James recorded 43 receptions for 372 yards and three touchdowns. The following year, he posted a career high in catch rate with 76.8 percent. His production went down once he got to Detroit in 2019, but that was mostly due to the team drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round that year.

Like the other names listed here, James will come with a cheap price tag. He could fill the gap for TE2 this year, while some of the younger talent at the position continues to develop their game.

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