With the NFL Free Agency period drawing near, Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of interesting decisions to make that will certainly have an impact on how they approach the NFL Draft this year. Roseman doesn’t like entering the draft with any glaring holes on the roster so that they don’t get tempted drafting solely for need. Therefore, he’s going to have his hands full addressing all the current needs the team has before they get to that point.
While there are several different directions the Eagles could go in free agency that would be smart, the following is the ideal free agency plan I would have laid out if I were in Roseman’s shoes.
Eagles Free Agents to Re-sign:
SS Malcolm Jenkins (restructure)
He may not be a free agent, but Jenkins has already stated that he doesn’t want to play in 2020 unless his contract is restructured. I know his play declined in 2019 and he’s already 32 years old, but he’s still a good player who does a lot of things for the Eagles’ defense. And when you combine that with what he means to the team from a leadership standpoint, I think it’s fair to give him one or two more years of guaranteed money before you cut him loose. Oh, and he’d be a great mentor to help groom a rookie safety added in the draft.
IDL Hassan Ridgeway
The former Colts IDL played well before getting injured. With him only being 25 years old, I believe it’s worth it to give him one more go-around in Philly as a key contributor on the defensive line’s second unit.
EDGE Vinny Curry / IDL Timmy Jernigan
I said weeks ago that I don’t see either Curry or Jernigan coming back for another year because the team would likely want to give playing time to some of the younger players on the roster. I still believe that’s the case, but I wouldn’t be opposed to signing one (or both) of these players to a cheap 1-year deal to insure depth. If the younger players step up during training camp and preseason, then Curry and/or Jernigan could just be cut if needed. And if either of them gets a significant offer from another team, I wouldn’t get into a bidding war for their services.
QB Nate Sudfeld
If Sudfeld hadn’t gotten hurt in the preseason, then he may have had a shot at signing with another team to be a backup. But since he did get hurt it’ll probably cost the Eagles next to nothing to bring him back. Sudfeld would provide some familiarity in the QB room to go with Carson Wentz and another veteran QB they decide to sign in free agency.
Free Agents to Sign:
CB Byron Jones
It’s been reported that the Eagles are the early frontrunners to land the top CB in free agency. There are quite a bit of people who are opposed to paying Jones the contract he’ll likely demand, and I can understand where they’re coming from. They argue that Jones isn’t an elite CB, he doesn’t force many turnovers (2 career interceptions), and the Eagles don’t have a good track record of signing former Cowboys players. Also, they’re afraid of another Nnamdi Asomugha or Byron Maxwell situation. However, just because Jones isn’t an elite CB yet doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a great addition to the Eagles defense. Furthermore, who’s to say that he doesn’t have the ability to enter that elite tier still? He still has more room to improve and could be even better than he has been if he goes to the right team. His skill set fits what Jim Schwartz looks for in a CB, and that wasn’t the case with Asomugha or Maxwell. Jones excels in numerous coverage types and is very good in run support. Asomugha and Maxwell, on the other hand, were asked to do things in Philly that they weren’t asked to do with their previous teams. Jones will likely be overpaid, but that’s the consequence of striking out on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. However, just like how it is with the NFL Draft, if there’s a player out there that is “the guy” then you go and get him, even if you must overpay a little to do so. Finally, people need to stop looking at Jones’ lack of interceptions to gauge how good of a CB he is. He can’t get many interceptions if he has good coverage on his receiver and the opposing QB won’t throw his way.
Is Byron Jones worth the cost for the Eagles? https://t.co/FiSV3xCGlz
— BleedingGreenNation (@BleedingGreen) March 11, 2020
WR Breshad Perriman
Perriman has looked like a 1st round bust for most of his career, but the journeyman WR came on in the last few weeks of the 2019 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He showed the type of ability that had him so highly regarded by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s big, fast, and is only 26 years old. There’s some risk in signing him, but the reward is high. If he pans out then the Eagles will have found their X receiver for the next few years (and yes, I’m working under the assumption that Alshon Jeffery won’t be on the team).
WR Breshad Perriman outside rep target reel.. played well in contested situations, easy speed to separate especially when running away from outside leverage, dude is field stretcher (graphics via @KlipDraw) – pic.twitter.com/6kR2UPpEGf
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 20, 2020
FS Jimmie Ward
The Eagles need to draft a safety. The Eagles have needed to draft a safety for a couple of seasons now. And while I fully expect them to finally draft one this year, it would still be ideal for them to sign a veteran to a reasonable multi-year contract to help the transition. Rodney McLeod is a free agent, but I wouldn’t re-sign him because his play dropped drastically in 2019. Ward is 28 years old and is coming off a career year with the San Francisco 49ers. Just like with Byron Jones, Ward is a great fit for Schwartz’s defense. He’s played at every spot in the secondary during his time with the Niners, and that would be a huge asset here in Philly.
LB De’Vondre Campbell
I’d love for the Eagles to sign Cory Littleton, but I think he’ll end up being out of Roseman’s price range. The team just doesn’t value linebackers as much as they value defensive linemen and defensive backs. But even if that’s the case, I believe Campbell would be a terrific “Option B”. Campbell is very athletic and is a pretty good coverage LB in his own right. He tallied a career-high 129 tackles in 2019 and would be a good starter in the Eagles LB corps.
Those aren’t the only free agents I’d sign, just the main ones I’d target. I’d probably also sign another CB and LB who could be decent options as starters if needed. I’d also sign a veteran QB to be the primary backup to Carson Wentz.
CB Sidney Jones 🡨🡪 WR Dante Pettis
First, I want it to be known that I’d be perfectly happy with keeping Sidney Jones on the roster in 2020. I haven’t completely lost hope in him just yet. However, if there’s a trade out there that’s appealing enough then I wouldn’t be opposed to it. For those who aren’t familiar with Pettis, he was a 2nd round selection by the 49ers in 2018. Without giving a full-length scouting report on him, he’s a WR who excels as an ultra-quick route runner. He’s shown the ability to catch away from his frame with soft hands and play both inside and out. And he can contribute on special teams as a returner as well. After finishing the 2018 season strong, Pettis was supposed to be the Niners’ top WR heading into 2019 but he fell out of favor with Kyle Shanahan. He’s still young and has a ton of physical talent, but a change of scenery is probably best for him at this point as the Niners have a bevy of young WRs on the roster that they like. But would they take Jones? I honestly believe they would. Their starting slot CB K’Waun Williams is entering the final year of his contract and will be 29 years old. Their top CB Richard Sherman is also entering the final year of his contract and will be 32 years old. Therefore, why wouldn’t they take a chance on Sidney Jones? With both Jones and Pettis in similar circumstances, this is a trade that just makes too much sense for all parties involved.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 29, 2018
— NFL (@NFL) February 25, 2019