Free Agency Primer: Birds On Hunt
This could be a different kind of free agency that the Eagles are about to embark upon compared to the quieter open markets of the past few years.
Thanks partly to some poor drafting and to an aging roster badly in need of a youth infusion, the Eagles can’t afford to rely on their 10 draft picks to fill their roster holes and expect to compete for a Super Bowl in 2020.
They need immediate help and they have cap space. So expect Howie Roseman, executive president of football operations, to make good on his promise of entering the market with his sights set on some young, building-block free agents to help upgrade his team.
Roseman hasn’t spent big bucks in free agency since 2016, when he lured in right guard Brandon Brooks and safety Rodney McLeod on long-term, multi-million dollar contracts. Brooks and McLeod weren’t considered blue-chip signings at the time, but both emerged into central figures of the team’s 2017 Super Bowl run and played integral roles throughout the team’s three-year playoff run.
Here’s a look at areas the Eagles are expected to target and names at those positions.
As Adam Caplan has reported on Inside the Birds, the Eagles are expected to hard after Byron Jones, the former Cowboys corner who has also played nickel and safety. His frame and athleticism would fit well on the outside in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. And let’s face it — he’s better than anyone currently on the Eagles’ roster.
But as Caplan has reported, the Eagles won’t be alone. Jones is widely considered the top corner on the market, a distinction that could push his price tag to the neighborhood of $15 to $17 million per year. Expect to hear the Jets, Raiders, Giants, Redskins and maybe the Broncos bidding for Jones’ services.
Other corners who should command some attention are James Bradberry, Chris Harris Jr., Logan Ryan, former Vikings Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, Prince Amukamara, Brian Poole and Kendall Fuller.
If the Eagles don’t land Jones, they could target Waynes or Amukamara to get that veteran presence at far fewer dollars.
The top name on the market, Amari Cooper, isn’t likely to end up in Midnight Green. The new CBA should help the Cowboys find the money to pay their star receiver.
After Cooper, the talent subsides. Jets wideout Robby Anderson has the elite speed the Eagles covet but could get vastly overpaid in the open market. He’s not a true No. 1 receiver. Emmanuel Sanders is the most polished receiver on the market, but he turns 33 on Monday (Happy Birthday!) and wouldn’t fit with Roseman’s pledge to get younger.
Coming off his breakout season for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, Demarcus Robinson would be a good No. 3 for the Eagles, who won’t be re-signing Nelson Agholor. The Eagles have checked in on Robinson in the past, sources told me, but it remains to be seen if they’ll come calling early in free agency. If Robinson’s price tag soars in free agency — word is, he’s looking for $8 million annually — don’t expect Roseman to be hot on his tails.
Breshad Perriman is another receiver looking to capitalize on a breakout, his with the Bucs. He’s another speed receiver whom the Eagles liked coming out of Central Florida in 2015. The market for Perriman is likely be around $6-7 million per, league sources said, which could also be too high for Roseman’s liking.
Roseman might be better off targeting Taylor Gabriel (Bears) for much less money and using the draft to restock the position.
The Eagles would like to add to their defensive tackle depth, but numbers are expected to be exceedingly competitive. Arik Armstead (49ers), D.J. Reader (Texans) and Jarran Reid (Seahawks) will be the big winners.
Word is, the Eagles are fond of Jaron Hargrave (Steelers) and David Onyemata (Saints), but league sources expect both to command in the neighborhood of $12-14 million annually, an extremely high price tag given that neither has had more than 4 sacks in a season.
Beau Allen would be a nice consolation prize for the Eagles as their No. 3 tackle. He knows the defense, having played for the Eagles from 2014-2017, and wouldn’t cost nearly as much as the aforementioned free agents.
At defensive end, it’s unlikely that Roseman breaks the bank to sign Jadeveon Clowney. If there’s a good deal to be made for Jags franchise-tagged Yannick Ngakoue, it’s feasible to think Roseman would be interested, but the Jags aren’t giving Ngakoue away.
It’ll be interesting to see how Roseman maneuvers here. Caplan reported that the Eagles are interested in re-signing Rodney McLeod, who bounced back in 2019 after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2018.
Malcolm Jenkins has said he won’t play under his current deal. The market was reset Sunday when Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who’s a few months older than Jenkins, signed a two-year, $23 million deal. We’ll see what becomes of that situation. Anthony Harris (Vikings) and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Bears) should hit big paydays.
Tre Boston (Panthers) would be a solid signing if Roseman doesn’t mind bringing in a one-dimensional safety who primarily plays the post. The same can be said for Jimmie Ward (49ers) and Damarious Randall (Browns). But the Eagles bring back McLeod, it’s probably to serve as the deep safety.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is a veteran Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter, co-host of Inside the Birds and 97.3 ESPN sports-talk host.
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