Philadelphia Eagles Free Agency Preview

Philly fans, we did it! Some background about myself: my family’s from the Philadelphia area. Although I’ve lived in Boston and their many championships amongst four sports my whole life, I’ve always been a Philadelphia fan and Sunday was a night to remember.  Coming off of a Super Bowl win, the bar will be set high for success next season. Here is a countdown and preview of what lies ahead for the Eagles.


6 Eagles Key Free Agents this offseason:


Patrick Robinson:

When Patrick Robinson signed a one-year $775k contract with the Eagles in April, it wasn’t thought to be one of their most influential moves. After a bad summer and barely making the team, Robinson broke out to lead the Eagles in interceptions. This included a crucial pick-six that changed the momentum in the Eagles’ NFC championship win over Minnesota. As much as it pains me to say it, because I really like Robinson, it probably isn’t in the best interest for the Eagles to resign Robinson. Second round pick Sidney Jones will be healthy after playing just one game in 2017, and Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will be starters. so there isn’t a roster spot to keep Robinson.


Nigel Bradham:

When Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending achilles injury, Bradham was tasked with taking on the role of the middle linebacker for some plays. He led the Eagles with 88 tackles. Jordan Hicks has been injury-prone to this point in his career and the Eagles don’t have a great amount of depth on their current roster at linebacker. Bradham may be expensive but it would be smart for the Eagles to lock him up on a multi-year deal.


Trey Burton:

If you aren’t an Eagles fan, then you probably only know of Burton as the player who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles at the end of the first half of the Super Bowl. The Eagles starter going forward at tight end is Zach Ertz, so Burton will likely sign elsewhere this offseason. An elite route-runner, Burton deserves to be a starter in this league. In the two games where Zach Ertz was inactive, Burton had 7 catches for 112 yards and 3 touchdowns.


Legarrette Blount:

After the Patriots wouldn’t resign Blount, he signed a 1 year $1.25m contract in late May. Despite losing his starting job after the Jay Ajayi trade, Blount had some great moments for the Eagles. In the playoffs he equalled the total number of touchdowns he had in the regular season of 3 and averaged 4.2 ypc. Blount is an interesting question for the Eagles with all the hype around Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. My gut says that the Eagles won’t resign Blount.


Caleb Sturgis:

The Eagles week 1 kicker, Sturgis was lost for the season after suffering a quad injury on opening day. Rookie Jake Elliot was then signed and played well enough to earn himself the roster spot when Sturgis healed. Elliot’s season was highlighted by a game-winning 61 yard field goal at the buzzer to beat the Giants and began a nine-game winning-streak. Elliot is signed through next season and is possibly better than Sturgis so it wouldn’t make sense for the Eagles to resign Sturgis.


Dannell Ellerbe:

After starter Jordan Hicks and backup Joe Walker suffered season-ending injuries, Ellerbe became the starting middle linebacker for the Eagles in week 16. The one-time starter for the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens, Ellerbe provides a presence in the middle as run-stuffer. At age 32, Ellerbe probably won’t find a starting job for a competitive team so it would be logical for the Eagles to bring Ellerbe back as a veteran presence for their young linebackers.


5 Players who will be playing with something to prove in 2018:


Nelson Agholor:

Agholor finally had the breakout season that the Eagles were hoping for when he was drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. After a terrible sophomore campaign in which he struggled with drops, Agholar wasn’t projected to have a role in the offense. However, a trade that sent Jordan Matthews to Buffalo in August opened up a spot for Agholor in the slot. The change from the outside to the slot made a big difference for Agholor as he improved in every receiving statistic. Coming off his great season, all eyes will be on Agholor to continue to make plays. He will be a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, so a repeat performance next season would result in a large contract..


Halapoulivaati Vaitai:

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (hal-lah-poo-li-VAH-tee VIE-tie) is one of the three standouts from the Eagles’ exceptional 2016 draft class. During his rookie year, Vaitai struggled as he had to play RT with starter Lane Johnson suspended. Vaitai entered 2017 as a backup. However, Jason Peters was lost for the season at LT in week 7, causing Vaitai to get the starting spot. While the second year tackle’s inexperience showed at times, Big V improved a lot and came up big for the Eagles in the playoffs. He only allowed one sack in three playoff games. Jason Peters’ status for 2018 in uncertain and it is likely that Vaitai will be the day one starter for the first time in his career.


Jalen Mills:

Two years into his career, Mills is looking like a steal for a seventh round pick in the 2016 draft. Mills was projected to play alongside Ronald Darby at cornerback going into the season. During week 1, Darby suffered a gruesome ankle injury which caused him to miss a large portion of the regular season. During this period, Mills stepped up with three interceptions. Mills at times looked like a Pro Bowler, but at others got burned on the dreaded double-move that Eagles fans have grown to hate. Altogether, I think that expectations should be high for Mills in 2018.


Torrey Smith:

Smith was signed to a 3 year $15M contract back in March. Smith had great moments for Philly this season, most notably a flea-flicker touchdown in the NFC Championship game that sealed the deal for Philly. However, there were also games where Smith seemed invisible in the Eagles offense. In eight games, Smith only recorded 1 or 0 catches. There is a lot of hype around rookie Mack Hollins so 2018 will tell a lot about Smith’s future in the NFL.


Don’t forget about Carson Wentz:

Nick Foles was incredible, don’t get me wrong. I even had to find his jersey that I had gotten in 2013 to wear on Monday. That being said, Carson Wentz was the NFL’s MVP when healthy. Wentz is the future for Philly. The Eagles will be coming into 2018 with Super Bowl expectations. Wentz has yet to start a playoff game due to his ACL injury suffered this season. It’s unclear whether or not Wentz will have to miss time next season but once healthy, he will be out to prove he can lead the Eagles to a second straight Super Bowl.


4 possible breakouts seasons:


Sidney Jones IV:

The former cornerback from Washington, Jones only appeared in one game for Philly after he tore his achilles during his pro day last April. If Patrick Robinson leaves in the offseason, Jones will likely be the starter next season. Jones’ ball skills and speed bring comparisons to Marcus Peters from Kansas City. It was a risk for the Eagles to spend a second round pick on an injured cornerback. 2018 could prove that the risk was worth it.


Mack Hollins:

Despite playing a majority of his snaps on special teams, Hollins is one of my favorite players on the team. If it were up to me, Hollins would be taking most of the snaps from Torrey Smith. Active for every game, Hollins had 16 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown in his rookie year. The 2017 fourth-round pick was one of the Eagles’ best special teamers. Hollins is 6’4” and has great speed down the field as he showed on a 64 yard touchdown catch in week 7 against the Redskins. Hollins should receive more offensive snaps in 2018 and has the potential to break out in a big way for the Eagles.


Derek Barnett:

The Eagles’ 2017 first round pick, Barnett had a good season as he split snaps as an edge rusher with Vinny Curry and Chris Long. He has a habit for getting to the football. He forced a fumble that resulted in a touchdown and recovered three fumbles in 2017. That includes one of the most important plays from Super Bowl LII, where Brandon Graham stripped Tom Brady and Barnett picked it up to help clinch the win. Barnett had 5 sacks as a rookie and with more snaps can be a 15 sack per season player.


Corey Clement:

The undrafted RB out of Wisconsin, Clement was a pleasant surprise for the Eagles as their third down back. He completely made up for Donnel Pumphrey, one of the Eagles’ most disappointing players, who tore his hamstring in practice in week 2 and was never active after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Clement had his best performance in the Super Bowl with 4 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. He won’t have to worry about whether or not he’ll make the roster this September and will likely receive an increase in snaps in his second season.


3 players with retirement speculations:

Darren Sproles:

The theme is this section is how these players’ talents have been replaced by those of younger players. With Sproles, he came into the season as a receiving back on third downs. When he tore his ACL and broke his arm in week 3, his role was replaced by Corey Clement. Sproles, 34, is headed for free agency this March. Coming off a major injury, it’s illogical for Philly to resign him. Sproles can end his career with a Super Bowl ring in his final year if he decides to retire.


Jason Peters:

After Peters suffered several injuries in 2015, he finally had a healthy year in 2016. He was off to another Pro Bowl season when he tore his ACL and MCL against the Redskins in week 7. Peters, a 14 year vet who broke into the NFL as an undrafted tight end with Buffalo in 2004, is probably at the end of his career. Big V is the future at LT for the Eagles and bringing back Peters would put a dent in Vaitai’s development. Pains me to say this because all Philly fans love Peters. If he does retire, he went out a Super Bowl champion.


Brent Celek:

Over the past two seasons, Celek’s productivity has decreased. The 33-year-old tight end was taken by the Eagles in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.  He is the longest tenured Eagle. Since 2016, Celek only has 27 catches and 1 touchdown. During that time, Zach Ertz has had 152 catches and 12 touchdowns. Celek is another player who is well-liked in Philly but as he gets older, his production will continue to decrease. Celek got a ring and can retire a Super Bowl champion.


2 Positions that should be improved in the offseason:

Linebacker Depth:

In three NFL seasons, Jordan Hicks has only been healthy for one of them. Joe Walker tore his ACL in his rookie year and had a season-ending neck injury this season. Nigel Bradham and Dannell Ellerbe are free agents. For all these reasons, the Eagles could use more depth at linebacker. One other thought: Kamu-Grugier Hill, a special teamer and linebacker, should get more snaps. He is one of my favorites and had many key plays on special teams.


Backup quarterback:

Obviously this is dependant on the Eagles’ trading Nick Foles away. With Foles gone, the only other QB on the roster besides Carson Wentz is Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld was taken in the sixth round of the 2016 draft by the Washington Redskins. After getting cut by the ‘Skins, Sudfeld signed on to the Eagles practice squad and eventually was signed to the active roster in November. He appeared in just two games and did no more than just kneel in one of those. While Sudfeld didn’t look bad in week 17 against Dallas, the Eagles would like to improve their backup if Foles is traded.


1 theory about what will happen to Nick Foles:

There are many questions for Nick Foles following the Super Bowl. Carson Wentz will be the quarterback of the Eagles when healthy. However, a Super Bowl MVP deserves to be a starter in the NFL. Foles was unstoppable in the playoffs, throwing for a 115.7 passer rating. Foles is 29 and on a two-year deal that ends at the end of next season. While it would be smart to keep Foles in case Wentz has to miss more time, it’s also reasonable to trade Foles away for the right price. There are many theories about what will take place, and while it’s unlikely to happen, I have a theory about Nick Foles.

Projected trade: Foles, along with a draft pick and RB Wendell Smallwood are traded to the Buffalo Bills for Lesean McCoy.

Seems crazy. The Eagles wanted to get Shady back to Philly last offseason but failed to close in on the right deal. McCoy has said that he would be open to a return and that his leaving was due to his disliking Chip Kelly and not the Eagles’ organization. Tyrod Taylor won’t be in Buffalo much longer as his contract expires at the end of 2018. Taylor has had many injuries over the past few seasons. Foles would fit the need at quarterback for Buffalo. And Wendell Smallwood would help the Bills replace Shady. Smallwood can be explosive at times but lost all his playing time when Jay Ajayi was traded to Philly. It’s still unlikely, I know, but it could benefit both teams if it happens.  Either way, I’ll always love Foles.

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