- Alex Hand
Philadelphia Eagles’ Grocery List: How To Be Successful In 2016
The first step to solving a problem is accepting that there is one. The problem for the Philadelphia Eagles is that they still have plenty of holes to fix before being considered Super Bowl bound, not to mention that they are the center of attention for a fan base that expects immediate results. The position of quarterback is still a question mark, the offensive line is due for a rebuild, and the defense is switching fronts again. However, this does not mean that the Eagles cannot be a contender within their division or even surprise some top ranked NFC teams, but before that, Doug Pederson and company will have had to efficiently renovate this franchise and the list below shows the areas the new coaching staff will have to tackle in order to win come 2016.
Finding the Field General
Sam Bradford is due to be a free agent, as is the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez is under contract, and this is not the smoothest draft class for quarterbacks. Here is the best-case scenario for the Eagles to get the most bang for their buck.
Sign Bradford for a four-year deal or more using the money saved by the recent contract extensions for Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and Lane Johnson, and potentially Fletcher Cox as well as Vinny Curry. These extensions are expected to help free up cap space in the case of signing a pricy free agent like Bradford. Their next step should be to draft a promising, scheme-fit QB in the later rounds such as Jacoby Brissett; using their first-round selection to draft an offensive lineman instead.
While the Birds hold the thirteenth overall pick in the NFL Draft this year, the talent is not strong enough to warrant the hopes that any of these quarterbacks could start week one, let alone take over the reigns as a starter in this league. This is why the idea of signing a bridge quarterback such as Daniel would prove to be pointless, not to mention the fact that the team already has Sanchez on payroll through next season.
Rebuild the Offensive Line
Jason Peters’ decline in 2015 was apparent and he is also due to have an $11.2 million cap hit after next season. While Lane Johnson has signed a five-year, $56.2 million extension, the team should still look to draft a player in the first round such as Ronnie Staley from Notre Dame to take over at right tackle after Johnson inevitably moves to the left.
The rebuilding should not stop there. The Chiefs have a total of 22 free agents heading into the upcoming season, one of which is former second-round pick and 26-year-old guard Jeff Allen. If unsigned by K.C., Allen might gladly accept an offer to play for his old offensive coordinator. Another two names to be on the look out for are Le’Raven Clark from Texas Tech and Cody Whitehair from Kansas State. Both players served as their school’s left tackle but project better as guards, and are expected to be available in the second day of the draft.
Drafting two-to-three lineman and signing a possible fourth in free agency might seem like a little much, but do not forget that despite harboring the so-called three-headed monster in DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles, the Eagles ranked 14th in rushing yards in 2015, after being ranked 9th in 2014 and 1st in 2013. All three tailbacks only rushed for a combined total of 1,558 yards.
Pay the Defense
The list of defensive free agents is a little unnerving, especially knowing that the personnel department in Philly is not as black and white as say the New York Jets, which features the classical general manager who makes all the personnel decisions and the coach who coaches. E.J. Biggers, Nolan Carroll, Curry, Najee Goode, Cedric Thornton, and Walter Thurmond are all pending free agents heading into 2016, and Fletcher Cox is due to become a FA the season after. The good news – as stated above – is that Curry and Cox are both reportedly in the process of working out contract extensions.
Despite breaking an ankle in 2015, Carroll will likely command starter money, given that was his role for all 11 games. Opposite starter, Byron Maxwell, is only due to make $9.7 million this year so a restructure appears unlikely at least for 2016. Biggers and Thurmond played terrific on the inside, but odds are only one of the three DBs listed will even get a contract. Not to mention the fact that Thurmond might not have a choice to return to safety if defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz chooses to implement a larger, in-the-box, strong safety to play his defense.
Thornton’s days are numbered with the switch back to a 4-3, but chances are he will easily find a job elsewhere as a solid 5-technique, defensive end. Finally, Goode – while being a terrific backup – will likely not see a future contract with Philadelphia given the team’s current roster holding DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and Jordan Hicks.
It is absolutely imperative that reborn GM Howie Roseman guides the free agency and draft decisions for the Eagles so that they bring back the playmakers that could decided how far this team plans on going in 2016 and beyond.