A Look at Upcoming Philadelphia Eagles Unrestricted Free Agents

Posted: January 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

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On March 11th, NFL teams will be free to sign unrestricted free agents to new contracts. Likewise, players whose contracts are expiring will venture to the feeding frenzy known as free agency with an opportunity to ink that next megadeal with one of the league’s 32 teams. For the Philadelphia Eagles, this is a critical offseason. A year ago, this franchise was in rebuilding mode, putting together the pieces after a dismal 4-12 campaign under Andy Reid. Now, the Eagles have their sights set on returning to the playoffs and repeating as NFC East champions. To do that, they’ll need to find the right mix of new players while deciding whether or not to bring back a talented crop of free agents ready to depart for “greener” pastures. With the team over $30 million under the cap, they should be able to bring in any offseason target they desire. Below is a look at each of the key Eagles’ free agents and whether or not SkoodSports believes the team should resign them. The players are listed from most important to least:

1. WR Riley Cooper – Unrestricted Free Agent

Heading into the preseason, I (along with plenty of others) considered Riley Cooper to be expendable. The former Florida Gators star had not done much during three years in Philadelphia and made audible noise by uttering a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert last summer. But, Cooper came back with a vengeance. The 26-year old broke out in 2013, catching 47 passes for 835 yards and 8 touchdowns while becoming one of Nick Foles’ favorite redzone targets.

Whether or not that improvement in production warrants a new contract is up for debate. The Eagles will likely need to find at least one new receiver whether or not they keep Cooper and Jeremy Maclin (more on him in a bit). The latter is unlikely to command anything more than $3-4 million per season, so it’s not as though Howie Roseman and Co. will need to break the bank to bring him back. The questions around whether or not Cooper would be able to fit into the locker room after his off the cuff remarks are behind him, and the veteran was an integral part of Philadelphia’s offensive surge in the second half of the season.

If the Eagles do not bring Cooper back, then someone like New England’s Julian Edelman should be considered to replace him. Though, at this point, it’s a stretch to say that Edelman would be any more cost effective than Cooper. Seeing as how Riley has proven to be a fit in this offense, bringing him back would probably be the best move for the Eagles.

2. WR Jeremy Maclin

The forgotten one, Jeremy Maclin, will turn 26 on May 11th. After missing the entire 2013 season due to knee surgery, it’s easy to forget that J-Mac was one of the best young receivers in the game prior to going down early in training camp. Even during the Eagles’ dismal “Dream Team” era, Maclin was a force. The 2009 first round pick caught a combined 132 passes for 1716 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2011-12. Those maclin2numbers came despite an offense that was turnover prone with Michael Vick under center. Now, imagine his performance with an accurate and efficient passer like Nick Foles at the helm. When one considers these facts, bringing Maclin back doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Of course, there are significant risks to resigning the veteran receiver. While surgery to repair torn ligaments has come a long way over the last few decades, ACL injuries still cause concern in athletes. Especially considering that speed was such an integral aspect of Maclin’s game prior to the devastating injury. If that acceleration doesn’t come back, will the former Missouri Tiger even be worth tendering an offer to? Maclin has also been called “soft” by some, and that is unlikely to be remedied by spending a year out of football.

Still, Maclin has proven to be one of the best #2 receivers in the league, and he wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to sign. If Philadelphia, who has monitored his rehab closely, considers Maclin on schedule to start the season; they should strongly consider a reunion with their former first round pick.

3. P Donnie Jones

It’s unusual for a punter to be considered a critical aspect of any team’s offseason. But, “Donnie Football” was such a huge part of the Eagles’ run to a division title that leaving him off this list would be criminal. It would also make it a very short list, seeing as how the Eagles arent exactly crippled by pending free agents this offseason. Jones, 33, was among the league’s leaders in net average and punts inside the 20. His ability to launch 65+ yarders in crucial fourth quarter moments helped the team overcome tough tests against Arizona and Dallas en route to a division crown.

It’s unlikely that the Eagles are going to find an available punter that is as trustworthy and experienced as the former St. Louis Ram. If they’re smart, Philadelphia will stick with the guy they know and bring back Jones on a multi-year contract.

4. FS Nate Allen

Few will shed a tear if the Eagles don’t return Nate Allen to their defensive secondary in 2014. The 2010 2nd round pick got off to a fast start on his career, including an interception of Aaron Rodgers in his first career game. However, Allen has never developed into the ball hawking safety that the Eagles hoped he’d be when they drafted him out of South Florida. His inability to cover or tackle anybody handicapped him on the field and crippled the Eagles’ pass defense over the last few seasons.

Granted, Allen was far from the worst of the worst with regards to Eagles’ safeties in recent seasons; Kurt Coleman and Patrick Chung deserve that honor. But, his lack of distinctive moments and plethora of questionable efforts make it easy to list him toward the bottom of this list. If the Eagles bring Allen back, they will also need to add a bonafide starter with star potential across from him. Another season of Allen and a mediocre strong safety will leave the Eagles’ defense looking average once again.

5. FS Colt Anderson

Granted, a special teamer is rarely considered a valuable commodity. But, that’s what makes Colt Anderson such an intriguing possibility this offseason. Most teams will look at the veteran and say, “too short, too small, too slow.” But, the Eagles know what Anderson brings to the table on their respective coverage units. The fan favorite has long been the best of the Eagles’ coverage teams, and bringing him back on the cheap would allow the team to focus on other needs in free agency and the draft.

Many fans will not forgive Anderson for his admitted mistake on the final kick return against New Orleans in the Eagles’ 26-24 Wild Card round loss. But, all players make bad plays, and Anderson was hardly the reason why the Eagles succumbed to the Saints. His leadership and experience as a gunner allows the special teams coach to focus on other issues.

Best of the Rest

6. QB Michael Vick – Few expect or want the former starting quarterback of the team to return. Vick’s propensity for turnovers and poor redzone performances overshadowed his big play ability and led to his demotion in favor of Nick Foles last season. He’ll head to free agency hoping for a starting job. Honestly, I just don’t see it out there for him. Though, the Cleveland Browns (led by former Eagles executive Joe Banner) should consider it. If they draft Johnny Manziel early in round one, Vick could prove a worthy mentor for the dual threat gunslinger.

7. DL Clifton Geathers – Geathers had his moments last season. But, he was far too inconsistent to be considered an important free agent. Just another dime-a-dozen lineman, the Eagles could get by without him.

8. SS Kurt Coleman – Last on this list is Kurt Coleman. A decent special teamer, Coleman became known in 2011-12 for his propensity to get completely lost in coverage, leading to many, many big plays the other way. I wouldn’t be broken up if he returns for the minimum to lay some wood on special teams. But, if he is considered a potential starter at safety, your team is going to suffer.

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