5 Players the Philadelphia Eagles Should Target in Free Agency

NFL free agency is almost upon us, and it’s time for the Eagles to make use of their $30 million of cap space (which could balloon to over $38 million in the likely event that Nnamdi Asomugha is let go). Come March 12th, the Eagles will tons of personnel decisions to make with new head coach Chip Kelly, and despite there being no good QBs out there, the Eagles still have a lot of work to do in free agency this season.

Without further ado, here are five guys the Eagles must pursue this offseason:

Desmond Bryant, NT

If he can put off-the-field issues behind him, Bryant can be a force.

Don’t read too much into Bryant’s recent arrest and mugshot. He’s the talented space-easter that the Eagles need in Billy Davis’ new 3-4 scheme. Bryant has started in 18 games and recorded nine sacks over the past two seasons. He’s a versatile DT who can play NT but also get to the passer.

The Cleveland Browns are also interested in the 27-year old Harvard graduate, an explosive, young rusher, and for good reason; at 6’6″, 311 pounds, he is a force to be reckoned with inside. He may not get to the QB with regularity, but his presence as a solid pass rusher will force guards to collapse in on the majority of plays and open up lanes for Fletcher Cox and whoever is the Eagles other 5-tackle defensive end.

Expect him to be looking for money in the $3-4 million range, a somewhat cheap fix at nose tackle for the rebuilding-ish Eagles.

Sean Smith, CB

Smith smothers CAR WR Steve Smith and records an INT.

Unluckily for the Eagles, other teams seem to see Smith’s value early on in free agency. Reports are that the Kansas City Chiefs are now out of the Smith “sweepstakes” after signing former Falcon Dunta Robinson, but several other teams are still interested in adding the 25-year old corner out of Utah.

Among them are the Eagles, and for good reason. Smith may have hit a snag or two in his first four seasons in the NFL, but overall he’s been an excellent outside corner for the Dolphins. With the team likely to be down two starting corners (Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), they need a guy who can come in and be a difference-making starter from day 1.

At 6’3″, 218 pounds, Smith has the size to stay with the biggest NFL receivers including Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson, and he proved that in Miami going up against Brandon Marshall in practice every day and Steve Johnson twice a year. He, however, also has the speed to stay with smaller receivers, and if you watch his tape, you’ll see that when he went up against Santonio Holmes and Wes Welker with regularity. Smith’s ball skills are also above-average, meaning you won’t see him lose those jump balls that Nnamdi lost once a game.

Smith has started 56 games over four seasons, and according to Pro Football Focus, Smith was targeted 113 times in 2012, more than any other cornerback in the NFL. But opposing QBs only completed 54.9 percent of their passes against him and he missed only four tackles all season. Those are the type of numbers Howie Roseman will be looking for in a guy who’ll anchor the secondary for years to come. Smith is looking for $24 million guaranteed over three seasons, and with their cap space, the Eagles would be hard-pressed to find a better fit going forward.

Glover Quin, FS

Quin picks off Jake Locker earlier this year.

I’m also a huge fan of 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson, who is a free agent after two straight Pro Bowl seasons in San Francisco. With 14 interceptions over the past four seasons and an All-Pro selection in 2012, he could definitely come in and make the Eagles cornerbacks look better right away. But he might be on the expensive side, hovering around $8-9 million per year. And everyone already knows about him, which is why I want to focus on another top five free safety, Houston’s Glover Quin.

In Houston’s star-studded secondary, Quin didn’t get as much buzz as Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph, but as FOX’s Peter Schrager points out, he had a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2012. He’s not like Goldson; Goldson is a more prototypical “center fielder”-type free safety. He’ll rush the passer from time to time but for the most part hangs around in the secondary just waiting to light up a receiver or pick off an errant pass. That’s one of the main reasons Goldson’s turnover statistics might look better than Quin’s.

But the bigger picture is that Quin is just a fantastic all-around player. He can cover wide receivers almost as well as most cornerbacks and is deadly in 2-on-1 situations coming over the top. He’s also a great run stopper, which is what the Eagles need from their safeties in the new 3-4 defense.

In Week 16, Christian Ponder didn’t throw a single one of his 31 attempts to Quin’s side, and for good reason. The Texans will sorely miss Quin once he is gone, and his asking price is a tad lower at $7 million.

Eric Winston, OT

Winston would complement Jason Peters well.

Andy Reid might have just done his old team a huge favor by releasing offensive tackle Eric Winston. One heck of a favor, in fact.

For one, releasing Winston means that the Chiefs are going to take Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 overall pick; there is no other offensive lineman worth the number 4 overall pick, meaning the Eagles will likely look at the defensive line when their turn to select comes around.

Secondly, Winston is a much cheaper version of fellow free agent Jake Long. He dominated opposing ends in Kansas City for several years, snubbed of Pro Bowl honors two or three seasons in a row in my opinion. He’s been ranked a top ten offensive tackle by many, including B/R’s Matt Miller and Pro Football Focus. In 2012, rushing plays to his side went for 4.9 yards per carry, third-highest in the NFL. He’s also nimble, meaning he’d fit Chip Kelly’s mold for mobile offensive linemen.

Todd Herremans is best-suited to play guard in the NFL; signing Winston would solidify the right tackle position for years to come at a relative bargain ($6 million per year) and allow Herremans to slide back inside where he plays at a Pro Bowl-caliber level year-in-year-out.

Paul Kruger, OLB

Kruger celebrates after sacking Andrew Luck.

Here’s my plan for the Eagles front seven: Fletcher Cox slides out to DE, they draft Shariff Floyd across from him, and add Desmond Bryant to play NT. Mychal Kendricks moves inside to join DeMeco Ryans while Brandon Graham moves back to stand-up OLB. But then what do they do about that weak-side linebacker position in Davis’ defense?

Yes, there are concerns about Paul Kruger’s ability to stop the run and he does have a tendency to over-commit, but then again, the Eagles aren’t looking for a premier run-stopper at the position. They are looking for a guy who can put pressure on the quarterback across from Brandon Graham, and there’s no one better at that than Paul Kruger, who racked up 9 sacks in 2012.

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, “there was no better 3-4 outside linebacker in the National Football League last year at pass-rush productivity (which measures measures “pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks”).” Not San Fran’s Aldon Smith. Not Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Kruger. That’s incredible praise for a first-year starter.

Kruger’s value has continued to rise ever since it was confirmed that he’d hit the free agent market, up to as much as $10 million per year now, but the Eagles have to be willing to take a risk to fix their defensive struggles from a season ago.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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3 Comments on “5 Players the Philadelphia Eagles Should Target in Free Agency”

  1. Absolute QB
    March 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    I think it s a solid group that addresses needs. Bob, most free agents are on the market because their team doesn’t find them as valuable as another team might. Many of the free agents are flawed in some way. Do you have alternatives?

  2. Bob
    March 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    All of them are definite no’s. Bryant not worth it because of off the field issues, and its not like he played much in Oakland. Smith is a terrible cornerback who cant cover, Quin played a role in the collapse of the Texans secondary at the end of the year, Winston is already declining, and Kruger is going to get wildly overpayed because he had one good year.

    • March 11, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      Bryant has had one off-the-field issue. Doesn’t take away from his value.

      And you are blaming too much blame on Quin. Joseph fell apart as well… Quin was fantastic for the greater part of the year (I’m not the only one who thinks so, ask Peter Schrager – FOXSports).

      Finally, I’m not the biggest fan of Kruger or Smith, Kruger more so than Smith, but both are good fits in Philadelphia. Smith is a good corner, not sure where you got “terrible” from, maybe tad overrated and Kruger will be perfect OLB across from Graham. When he has another solid pass rushing presence across from him, he’s lethal.

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