Five Free Agents Philadelphia Eagles Should Pursue

Posted: January 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

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It was a tough Wild Card Saturday for SkoodSports. Not only did our beloved Philadelphia Eagles succumb to the New Orleans Saints (and their “off the streets” kicker). But, our predictions went 0-2, after Andy Reid and Kansas City choked away a 28-point second half lead to lose 45-44 in Indianapolis. 

As bitter as I felt last night about the Eagles’ game. With a good night’s sleep, I can now happily say that I am pleased with the season that this team had. Last summer, few believed that Philadelphia would even climb out of the NFC East’s gutter, let alone win the division on the final day of the year in Dallas. Chip Kelly has the Eagles going in the right direction. He came in less than a year ago to a roster torn apart by poor drafting and personnel decisions by the man who just allowed the second largest comeback in NFL history. 

With a solid offseason and another brilliant draft, the Eagles should find themselves back on top of the East again next year. With more experience for the coach and his quarterback, the Eagles might just be “Super” before you know it. The Eagles will have tons of cap space this offseason. So, let’s look at the top-5 free agents that Philadelphia should pursue this winter:

5. WR Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers

sanders2Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson are talented receivers who provide the Eagles with potent threats. However, Cooper’s true talent is in the red zone, not between the twenties. Sanders, 26, enjoyed the finest season of his career (67 rec, 740 yards, 6 TD) with the Steelers this season. He’s a dynamic slot receiver who would benefit by moving from Pittsburgh power-run offense to Kelly’s high-tempo unit. 

Yes, Jeremy Maclin is a free agent and all signs point to Philadelphia at least being interested in a reunion with the former Missouri Tiger. However, ACL injuries, especially for receivers, are a concern. Will Maclin be full strength and ready to go by September? That’s a difficult thing to guarantee. One thing is for sure, the Eagles cannot go into another season with Jason Avant as their third receiver. I’ve always liked the guy and value what he does in the locker room and on running downs. But, he’s a statue with the football in his hands whose speed is reminiscent of a 1980s Ford Pinto. 

The Eagles need to find a receiver to compliment Jackson’s ability to go deep. Sanders could be that guy.

4. NT Paul Soliai, Miami Dolphins

Philadelphia’s run defense was solid most of the season. But, they were beaten to death on the ground in the Wild Card loss to New Orleans. This isn’t the biggest need for the defense. Still, depth on both lines is necessary for a contending team. Soliai, 30, is a dynamite run-stuffer who could provide assistance to Bennie Logan on running downs (2nd/3rd-and-short). Once Philadelphia shipped Isaac Sopoaga to New England, their depth along the defensive line was nonexistent. 

3. K Nick Folk, New York Jets

The Eagles cannot spend another season waiting for Alex Henery to finally “figure it out in the NFL.” A very successful kicker at Nebraska, Henery just doesn’t have the leg to be a reliable boot in this league. His missed 48-yarder last night was just another example. Henery was 15-16 from under 40-yards this season. From beyond that mark, he was 8-12 (including 0-1 last night). folkimages

There’s actually a pretty decent crop of free agent kickers available this offseason including Adam Vinatieri, Rian Lindell, Steven Hauschka, Graham Gano, Dan Carpenter, David Akers, and Jay Feely. However, none of them had as illustrious a season as Folk.

The former Cowboys’ placekicker went 33-36 for the Jets while kicking outside in the elements most of the season. Even more impressive is the way he did it, going 3-3 from beyond 50-yards and 15-17 from beyond 40-yards. Folk had his struggles prior to 2013. So, there’s always a risk involved. But, there’s no denying that his leg is stronger than the noodle of Henery. 

2. OLB Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

Philadelphia’s defense far exceeded expectations this season. But, one critical issue they had was the lack of a pass rush without sending multiple-blitzers. While I respect his contributions to this franchise over the past decade, 

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Trent Cole is done. He can’t run anymore, nor can he consistently beat even the most inexperienced of left tackles.

Orakpo, on the other hand, is a 27-year old former first round pick with at least 8.5 sacks in every full season he’s played. The 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year put together a 10 sack campaign for the lowly Redskins this year. Imagine what he could do on a team that isn’t wildly dysfunctional. Orakpo, opposite Connor Barwin, would be a terror for opposing quarterbacks. 

 

1. S T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns

The man best known for ending Rob Gronkowski’s season was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the third best safety in the league this year. Ward has decent cover speed and is a great run-stuffer at strong safety. His selection would allow the Eagles to move Nate Allen back to free safety while drafting his possible replacement in round 2 or 3. 

nfl_ward_shipley1_300Nicknamed “Boss,” Ward just turned 27 years old in December. He also just completed one of the best seasons of his career, recording 112 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions on a porous Cleveland defense. Jairus Byrd of Buffalo is another option. Though, the Bills have made it a trend to apply the franchise tag on him. I’m also not thrilled with Byrd’s ability to stay healthy. 

Ward (along with Byrd, in fact) went to Oregon, so Kelly is familiar with him. I would be shocked, as long as both aren’t tagged, if one isn’t in midnight green come training camp. The Eagles and their fans know that they can’t waste another season with Patrick Chung blowing coverage and missing tackles. 

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