Alright, after milking the Eagles’ Super Bowl win for a bit, I’m ready to talk about the offseason.
I don’t know what changed. Maybe the weather? I got back from a wedding and mini-vacation yesterday and just felt like it was appropriate to move on. That’s not to say we can’t continue to exalt the Birds well into the spring, but it just feels natural to get on with it here.
Let’s start with the free agents.
I think the theme with every offseason move is that you have to leave the emotion out of it and just make business decisions. In that sense, I trust Howie Roseman a hell of a lot more than I trusted Ruben Amaro, Jr., a GM who handed out long-term deals to aging veterans while teams like the Saint Louis Cardinals were able to restock, reload, and remain competitive.
As nice as it was to see Chase Utley and Ryan Howard stick around from a knee-jerk, emotional fan standpoint, in hindsight we needed a stone cold killer to say “enough is enough” and focus on the future for the sake of the franchise. Instead, the Phils entered a long and hard rebuild while the Cardinals, or a team like the San Francisco Giants, was able to keep doing their thing.
The Birds are around $8.3 million over the cap right now, a number brought down a bit from Donnie Jones’ retirement. They’ve got work to do in this department, where Roseman has been shrewd in the past. It doesn’t make his job any easier, but Eagle fans should feel pretty confident in Howie’s ability to navigate the cap this spring.
If you read anything I wrote this year, you know I’m high on Bradham. He was one of the top three guys on the Eagle defense this season, led the team in tackles, and made key play after key play while also holding the linebacking corps together alongside Mychal Kendricks after Jordan Hicks went down.
I think the x-factor here is the return of Jim Schwartz, whom Bradham is close with. If Schwartz had left for a head coaching job, I’d think Bradham might pursue and accept a beefy deal on the open market. With the Birds’ cap situation being rough, it’s going to be hard for Roseman to match what other teams can offer.
For context, Bradham made $3.5 mil in 2017, sandwiched in an average salary grouping that included Anthony Barr ($3.1m), Connor Barwin ($3.5m), and Ahmad Brooks ($3.5m). Kendricks made $7.25 million, sitting at the edge of the top 20 with Sean Lee ($7m) and Pernell McPhee ($7.7m). So it depends what kind of value other teams place in Bradham. There are five other outside linebackers hitting free agency this spring who made more than Bradham, with McPhee (released by Chicago) leading a group of mostly underachievers. The only other UFA OLB’s who performed at Bradham’s level this year were Tahir Whitehead ($4m) and Paul Posluszny ($5m).
If I’m Howie, I’m finding a way to get it done, unless some other squad comes in an offer that you just can’t match.
There’s no way they keep him around, not with a Pro Bowl tight end already on the roster and not with the demand Burton will create on the open market.
At 26 years old, nobody else on the tight end list is young enough to warrant the type of money Burton should garner. You’ve got a 31-year-old Jimmy Graham topping the UFA list at a $10m 2017 salary.
You’ve also got:
Trey is gonna do just fine for himself.
The Eagles will go into this season with Zach Ertz and probably Brent Celek for one final year. Burton will deservedly get paid and play first team snaps in 2018.
Allen’s numbers don’t fly off the page and smack you in the face – just one sack and 20 combined total tackles (13 solo, 7 assisted) in 15 regular season games.
But when you look at his 423 total snaps and think about the Eagles’ run defense in totality, you understand how important he was to the defensive line, with the ability to limit drop off in rotation and keep guys like Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan fresh.
Beau Allen's run stop percentage was tops among UFA interior defenders in 2017! pic.twitter.com/DxA79Bw8v5
— PFF (@PFF) February 21, 2018
The tricky thing here is that the Eagles don’t have a cut and dry replacement at defensive tackle. If Bradham goes, you’ve got Kendricks and Hicks. Burton leaves, you still have Ertz.
At DT, Elijah Qualls was a scratch in almost every game and Destiny Vaeao only played about half as many snaps as Allen. Plus, the Eagles aren’t loaded with picks, so it’s going to be hard to address this position, and others, in the draft.
You’re certainly not getting him at one year, $1 million this time around.
Robinson, after a rough training camp, became a revelation at slot corner and one of the key pieces of the Eagles’ secondary. He led the team in both passes defended (18) and interceptions (4), and scored the momentum-swinging pick-six in the NFC Championship game.
The Birds do have options here. Sidney Jones or Jalen Mills could theoretically play the slot next season. Rasul Douglas could return to the starting unit on the outside. But none of those things are a sure bet, not like Robinson remaining in that position.
It’s just going to be difficult to navigate a contemporary NFL that places immense value on corners, especially those coming off a career year. If you prioritize Bradham as a re-signing, then you probably don’t have navigable cap space to bring back Robinson if another team makes a legit offer. I’m not sure what that looks like, considering that he’s 30 years old and entering his 8th NFL season.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) January 22, 2018
Donnie retired this week, riding into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion. He made $1.8m this season.
Last month, the team added Cameron Johnston on a futures contract, who you may remember was in camp last year. The team will likely bring in someone else to compete with him this summer.
The thing here is that I don’t see other teams lining up to sign him. Blount had a really nice season on a one-year, $1.25m deal, and didn’t really seem to drop-off at all when Jay Ajayi was added. He was one-third of a stable that also included Corey Clement.
That’s why I don’t see anybody going out there and throwing money at him to be a feature back. He’s 31 years old and nearing the end of his career, so worst case scenario here is the Eagles get him back on a similar deal. I wouldn’t mind seeing him be the third guy behind Ajayi and Clement, with an expanded role for the latter.
I think he goes elsewhere, and the Eagles would be smart to let that happen.
You just can’t bring back a 35-year-old veteran after the injuries he suffered this year. He made $4.5 million this season and I doubt he takes a vet minimum to play third or fourth fiddle behind Ajayi/Clement and possibly a returning Blount.
Retiring now would be a shitty way for a guy like Sproles to go out, so I’d like to see him contribute somewhere else next season before calling it a career on a positive note.
I’ve always been partial to Najee since he’s a Mountaineer, but he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire as an NFL linebacker.
What he does do well is contribute on special teams, and since he’s inexpensive, the Birds will probably keep him around in the same exact capacity in 2018.
Depends what happens in the draft.
Graham’s case is similar to that of Blount’s, a veteran guy who didn’t break the bank and made some nice contributions this year. If nobody else comes calling, you can probably get him below the $1.6 million he was paid this year. He’s 32 years old.
In related news, Ian Rapoport rapoported that the Eagles won’t tender Jaylen Watkins, which affects safety depth:
The #Eagles do not plan to tender DB Jaylen Watkins as a restricted free agent, I’m told, making him a free agent-to-be. It would have been an original round tender for Watkins, who played 28 regular-season games in Philly over the past 2 years.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 20, 2018
Watkins was the only restricted free agent on the Eagles’ roster.
He was okay this season. Remember, he wasn’t on the roster at the start of the year; he was just brought in to cover for Darren Sproles.
The Eagles can get more out of the kick and punt return slots, so if you can upgrade there, you go for it. Barner is a serviceable player but not a guy you need this time around.
A rental guy who made a big play in the divisional round and delivered a big speech before the Super Bowl. He’s a guy I keep on speed dial if a similar situation arises this year.
A backup on the line after Jason Peters went down, I doubt he’s back next season.
See above. A late season stop-gap, he helped plugged the hole vacated by Jordan Hicks.