Eagles’ Offseason: Stay or Go
It’s officially offseason in Philadelphia. It’s a time of contract negotiations, draft evaluation, and personnel evaluation. Me, personally, I’m here for it all. I’m excited to see the next episode of the greatest reality show on earth, sports.
So this exercise will be a Stay or Go for the Eagles free agents. I’ll give my two cents on whether these players should continue their careers here in Philly. So let’s get started:
A fan favorite and a coaching staff favorite as well. Jalen Mills is a smart and tough player, and how can you not love the swagger and attitude he brings to the field? With that said, he can’t run, and the whole NFL knows it. You can only go so far as a defense masking a weakness like that.
Ronald Darby has the physical ability to be a solid player for the Eagles. Problem is injuries, inconsistency, and poor scheme fit has caused Darby to be more liability than an asset. Darby is probably best suited in an aggressive man press coverage defensive scheme that calls for physical play at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles just don’t do that. Add in Darby’s poor eye discipline and lackluster tackling, and we have a poor match.
Do you really need an explanation? Seriously? Ok, here!
He’s been here 5-years and been a decent player for one and a half of those years. You can’t depend on him to be a reliable weapon week in week out.
In a perfect world, the Eagles would win the Superbowl, and Jason Peters would ride off into the sunset towards the Hall of Fame. But alas, a perfect world it is not. That’s why we have to watch Jason Peters play out his last playing days in some other jersey. With Peters’ replacement already on the roster in Andre Dillard, the Eagles are forced to prioritize development over sentimentality.
Jordan Howard was a very effective player when he was healthy. He brought power and physicality to the offense when the Eagles needed tough yards. The question is, will he be willing to take a reduced role? He clearly won’t be the primary RB with the emergence of Miles Sanders, but he can still be effective getting the north/south tough yards.
STAY (Probably a 1-year showcase yourself deal)
Vinny loves being in Philadelphia and has stated his desire to return. He started the season off slow like most of his teammates on the defensive line, but Curry came on strong towards the end of the season, providing solid interior pass rush. The most likely will side with a youth movement because they drafted two defensive linemen in Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller, and the development of young players should be a priority.
Tim Jernigan was supposed to be the third defensive tackle in a deep and talented rotation. That was the plan until an injury to starter Malik Jackson forced Jernigan into a starting position. Not long after that Tim Jernigan got hurt…again. During his tenure in Philadelphia, Jernigan has consistently missed chunks of time with injuries. To his credit, he’s come back and played well, but consistency is an issue. The Eagles probably will choose to go for a younger option.
Enter the younger option. Hasan Ridgeway stepped in for the aforementioned Tim Jernigan and showed serious upside as a run defender and pass-rusher while playing over sixty percent of the defensive snaps. The downside is that he too went down with a season-ending injury. My guess is that the Eagles don’t want to give up on a guy they traded for a year ago.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Yes I spelled it right on the first try)
Big V is the ideal backup. He’s versatile, he’s solid, and he’s ready to work at a moment’s notice. Big V has starting experience at Left Tackle Right Tackle and Right Guard. That type of versatility is in high demand in the NFL. Vaitai isn’t the most fleet of foot, but he’s technically sound and strong as an ox. He can be a starter in this league, and he probably views himself as a starter. If it were up to me, I would certainly want the type of insurance he provides and pay him to stay. But Big V will get a contract offer for starters money from someone, so I’m afraid he’s gonna…
Of the one thousand thirty-seven defensive snaps, the Eagles played this season Rodney McCleod has played in one thousand thirty-five of them. A tremendous feat for a player coming off of a season-ending ACL injury the year prior. Rodney McCleod was solid and dependable, but he also wasn’t much of a difference-maker in that secondary either. The Eagles play a Cover 3 man coverage a ton, leaving Rodney as the only Deep Safety. This season we began to see that he doesn’t have the range to cover that deep end of the field anymore. Safety is a position that the Eagles absolutely have to add youth and speed, and sadly McCleod has neither. On top of that, Safety Malcolm Jenkins has made his desire for a new contract known, which makes it a strong possibility that the Eagles don’t pay both Safeties.
Another player whose season was derailed by injury and a bit of stupidity. During training camp, Kamu and all but won a starting Linebacker position. The former safety converted to Linebacker had added muscle and still managed to keep his defensive back speed. Things were looking up for Grugier-Hill until a knee injury took away half his season. Upon his return, Kamu didn’t look like the same player from training camp. He played limited snaps and more than likely wasn’t 100%. But stupidity comes in when he decided it was cool to hide a concussion from the doctors so he could continue playing. The move backfired, and Kamu ended up on IR, ending his injury-riddled season. He won’t have a huge market so he probably returns for cheap if the Eagles want him back.
STAY (Probably a 1-year cheap heavy incentive deal)
Not necessarily an unrestricted free agent, but Bradham has a team option in his contract that allows the Eagles to terminate the contract or keep him for another year. Currently, Bradham is making around four million dollars a year. If the Eagles decided to keep Bradham, his salary for next season jumps up to nine million dollars. Nigel Bradham has been a very solid player for Philadelphia. He has proven himself to be a legitimate three-down Linebacker that you never have to take off the field. The problem is if he can, he continues to be that player. Judging by this past season, the answer is No. While still playing all three downs, Bradham has shown that he’s lost a step. The opposing team targeted him in pass coverage, picking up on the fact that his reactions in zone coverage weren’t as fast as they used to be. When Bradham missed time with injuries, his backups Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry stepped in, and the front seven looked noticeably faster. Not that Gerry or Grugier-Hill are the answer at Linebacker, but an infusion of speed and athleticism is sorely needed. I also don’t believe the Eagles are very keen on the idea of paying the 30-year-old 9 million dollars a year for the next three years.
Bonus: Malcolm Jenkins
Jenkins isn’t a free agent, but he’s on record saying that he won’t be playing for the Eagles again under his current contract. So the Eagles are forced to address the situation in some way. Malcolm Jenkins has been a tremendous leader on and off the field since the day he signed with the Eagles. He’s the heart and soul of the defense, if not the whole team. But sadly, Father Time is undefeated. The once insanely versatile player that could line up at Safety, Linebacker, Slot Cornerback, or Outside Cornerback is no more. This season Jenkins’ duties were that of a weakside linebacker. That’s the only position he’s effective at now because he can’t run with receivers anymore. So what do you do when you have a player who’s leadership and locker room presence outweigh his value on the field? Hopefully, they work something out.
STAY (Hopefully, some type of extra guaranteed money incentive-laden restructure)
I expect massive roster turnover in the offseason. Let’s see how it plays out.