The Eagles need help on the defensive side of the ball, that’s no secret at this point. Despite finishing as a top-10 unit — thanks in large part to Jonathan Gannon’s ability to get the most out of his group — Philly’s defense has holes at every level.
From defensive line to secondary, and of course at the linebacker position, the Eagles should look to add players at every defensive position this offseason. While most fans expect them to bolster their defense with their three first-round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, Howie Roseman is projected to have about $30 million in cap space to work with this offseason, and that could increase even further with contract restructures.
Roseman will have the money to snag at least one impact player on defense during the free agency period. Here are five defensive free agents to keep tabs on as we approach the NFL offseason.
CB Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay’s Carlton Davis is one of the best young cornerbacks set to hit the open market this offseason. The 2018 second-round pick has been a solid outside corner every year since entering the league. He posted a career-high four interceptions during Tampa’s Super Bowl run last year.
His interception numbers didn’t carry over into this season, as he’s only recorded one in 2021, but he’s still played at a high level in coverage. On the year, Davis allowed a 54.8 completion percentage when targeted along with a pedestrian 80.4 passer rating. He finished the season with nine pass breakups while allowing just three touchdowns in coverage.
Davis has the ability to be a No. 1 corner for nearly every team, but he’d be second fiddle to Darius Slay here in Philly, which would ultimately boost his value. He can man-up with the best receivers in the league and his physicality would be a welcomed addition to the Eagles secondary.
At just 25 years old, Davis could be a long-term solution at cornerback for Philadelphia. He would be an immediate upgrade over Steven Nelson and help shore up this Eagles secondary for years to come.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Miami Dolphins
After a few subpar seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City, Emmanuel Ogbah finally began to blossom as a solid edge defender in 2021 with Miami. He posted a career-high 11 sacks and finished the year with 61 total pressures, 37 quarterback hurries, and 13 quarterback hits.
Gannon values versatility along his defensive line and Ogbah certainly provides that. Standing at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Ogbah can lineup along the interior or on the edge and still post the same level of production. Ogbah graded out as the 19th-best edge defender in football this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which means he’ll more than likely be looking for a long-term contract this offseason.
At 28 years old, giving Ogbah a three-year deal would make sense for Philly. He’s in the prime of his career and can fill an area of needs for the Eagles defense, namely getting after the passer. The Eagles finished 31st in sacks this season and are expected to lose both Derek Barnett and Ryan Kerrigan this offseason. Ogbah would be the perfect rotational piece for this defensive line.
LB De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers
After spending the majority of his career in Atlanta, De’Vondre Campbell broke out in a big way this season with the Packers, earning first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. He tallied 146 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles on the year.
Green Bay will certainly look to bring him back after spending just $2 million to acquire him last offseason, but he could be out of their price range given the fact that they’ll need to pay Davante Adams big money this offseason. PFF projects Campbell’s contract to be two-years for $13 million ($6.5 million per year with $8 million fully guaranteed). That’s certainly doable for the Eagles, who’s had a huge need at linebacker for years now.
Campbell could fix that need and then some. Pairing him with T.J. Edwards would give the Birds two stout run defenders in the middle of their defense for the first time in a long time. The worry with Campbell is that he could just be a one-year wonder, which is fair. But he’s been one of the most durable linebackers in football since entering the league in 2016, playing at least 850 defensive snaps in every season since his rookie year.
If the Eagles aren’t going to fill the hole at linebacker through the draft, which doesn’t seem all that likely, going out and getting an established LB of Campbell’s ilk makes a ton of sense.
S Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints
If Howie wants to spend big this offseason, attacking the safety position may be the best avenue to take given the amount of safety talent set to hit the open market. Headlining the safety crop is Marcus Williams from the New Orleans Saints, one of the most consistently stout safeties in the league.
At 25 years old and coming off his rookie deal, Williams will certainly demand a hefty payday in free agency. He’s recorded multiple interceptions every season of his career and has never once been a liability for the Saints secondary. He’s recorded at least a 70.0 overall PFF grade in each of his five seasons.
With Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris set to be free agents, the Eagles have a huge hole at safety. Williams would fill that need for years to come and he’ll be a clear upgrade over both McLeod and Harris. He’s versatile and can play the run when need be. Williams is the complete package at safety and there will be a team that rewards him for that this offseason.
It’s been awhile since the Eagles have made a huge splash in free agency, but given their clear need at the position and the obvious upgrade Williams brings to the table, shoveling over the required capital to acquire a safety of Williams’ caliber would be a smart investment.
DE Melvin Ingram III, Kansas City Chiefs
If the Eagles want to go the Chris Long route of acquiring a No. 3 pass rusher this offseason, Melvin Ingram would be a solid choice. Especially if the team plans to draft and edge rusher or two, Ingram could be the perfect stop-gap in the team’s pass rushing rotation.
Given his age and recent injury history, Ingram is best suited as a rotational pass rusher at this point in his career. And he’s proven he can still be productive in that role. Though his sack numbers have dwindled in recent years, Ingram’s pass rush grade has been in the 70’s since 2013, per PFF. He still disrupts passers at a high rate.
The Eagles will almost certainly look to find a long-term solution at defensive end this offseason, but you can never have too many pass rushers in this league. Ingram is a proven player who can instantly boost the team’s subpar pass rush.
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