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Halfway through preseason, a fair amount of the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster has been decided, in the heads of the coaches at least. But the other half is still definitely up for grabs, especially at positions where the team has youth and/or inexperience—wide receiver, cornerback, and safety just to name a few. They could use veteran depth to either supplement the existing roster or challenge the younger players to perform at a higher level.
Here are five free agents the team should pursue in preparation for the final two weeks of the preseason:
Steve Breaston, WR
Breaston, released Monday by the New Orleans Saints, is starting the downswing of his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be an effective No. 4/5/6 wideout for the Eagles. Before 2012, Breaston was one of the most consistent wideouts in the league. He caught 240 balls for 3221 yards between 2008-2011—three seasons with the Cardinals, one with the Chiefs.
From the SB Nation Chiefs blog, Arrowhead Pride, in February of this year:
“When you’re looking at his stats and see the big drop last year, remember that the reason behind that could be a number of things. It’s not necessarily because Breaston all of a sudden started sucking. I highly doubt that it is.
Breaston’s best suited for the role he held in Arizona — a No. 3 option. He doesn’t have the size to be a No. 1 and he’s always been second (or third) fiddle to another big play receiver . . . He’s an intelligent dude who works hard and has interests outside of football.”
Breaston was benched without reason by Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, which is why his stats dropped off. He’s still a very valuable third fiddle in any offense, especially an offense that creates space in the middle of the field using the speed of outside guys. He is definitely going to be a better option than guys like Ifeanyi Momah if Chip Kelly chooses to keep six receivers, so why not take a chance on him with a one-year deal and see if he can’t produce some big numbers for the Eagles this season. He’ll supplement Greg Salas and Russell Shepard well and provide a veteran presence that this young group of wideouts needs.
Barrett Rudd, ILB
Besides starters DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, the Eagles have a lot of uncertainty at middle linebacker as they transition into the 4-3. Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews, both Eagles vets, came into camp as the favorites but have been seemingly overtaken by two younger guys, second-year player Emmanuel Acho and undrafted rookie Jake Knott.
You know what that means? DeMeco Ryans is the only ILB projected for the 53-man roster who has a) played in the 3-4 professionally and b) Has more than one year of NFL experience. Woah.
The Eagles could use a veteran, 3-4 presence not only to help the younger guys but to provide depth if necessary. Ruud played one season in the 3-4 in Houston before becoming a free agent this offseason. He had over 100 tackles in four straight seasons between 2007-2010 for Tampa Bay, but has only played nine games in each of the last two seasons. He won’t do much in terms of coverage or rushing the passer, but he can still stop the run which is a skill a one-year deal is definitely worth, especially for this defense.
Atari Bigby, SS
To be brutally honest, the Eagles don’t have much in the way of “hope” at the safety position. Patrick Chung has been better than expected in the run game and Earl Wolff has emerged as an above-average rookie, but this unit is still one of the worst in the league. When Nate Allen is still starting and Kurt Coleman could make the roster, you know things are bad.
Atari Bigby could change all that. A productive starter for the Chargers last season, Bigby would’ve racked up 100 tackles if it weren’t for a groin injury that sidelined him for the last five weeks of the season. He isn’t too reliable in pass coverage, but then again neither are any of the guys the Eagles have right now. He is opportunistic (10 picks between 2005-2007 with the Packers) and a solid run defender, and would be a solid backup or even starter for this team.