As ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported today, the Eagles plan to release guard Todd Herremans. The consensus opinion on Twitter today was that this was a move made to free up some extra cap space. The move is expected to save the Eagles 2.8 million dollars, which brought the team’s cap space up to 27 million dollars.
| Clem Murray/Philly.com|
Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie choose Chip Kelly over Howie Roseman
in the Eagles front office shakeup that took place in early January.
While it’s stating the obvious, this move sets up Chip Kelly to have a huge offseason after winning the power struggle with Howie Roseman in January. For a 10-6 team, the Eagles have quite a few holes to fill, so it helps to have money to spend. The most glaring deficiencies are in the secondary. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Nate Allen are both expected to hit free agency and it’s highly unlikely either one comes back. Seattle corner Byron Maxwell, New England safety Devin McCourty, and Denver safety Rahim Moore are three names the Eagles should give hard looks to in free agency.
With Herremans gone, offensive line becomes a question mark for the Eagles. San Francisco guard Mike Iupati is slated to become a free agent in a couple weeks and is someone else that could easily be on Chip Kelly’s radar. Iupati turns 28 in May and going from a 32-year-old Herremans to Iupati would help the Eagles get younger on the offensive line despite still expecting to have 33-year-olds Jason Peters and Evan Mathis starting in 2015. Additionally, the Eagles should look at offensive line in the later rounds of the draft and develop them from within. They got Herremans in the fourth round in 2005 and more recently Jason Kelce in the sixth round in 2011.
Next is inside linebacker. Mychal Kendricks isn’t going anywhere and will soon need an extension as his rookie deal is set to expire after the 2015 season. The upcoming season will be the last one on Demeco Ryans four-year contract with the Eagles. Ryans will turn 31 in July and is coming off an Achilles injury. If he can rehab and get healthy for training camp, Ryans could still be a productive player in 2015, but the Eagles will probably look for another inside linebacker to pair next to Kendricks down the road. However, the crop of free agent inside linebackers isn’t the strongest this year so the Eagles may look long and hard at inside linebacker in the draft as well.
Outside linebacker could get interesting. Brandon Graham will become an unrestricted free agent and I don’t expect him back. Since being drafted by the Eagles in 2010, Graham has been significantly underused and I expect him to bolt. Trent Cole’s cap hit is over 11 million for 2015 and he’s signed through 2017 so the Eagles will likely need to restructure Cole’s contract. If this can’t happen then they may decide to part ways with Cole and pursue Pittsburgh’s Jason Worilds in free agency whom many thought they could pursue last year before the Steelers franchised him. Who knows how 2014 first round pick Marcus Smith fits into the equation after what was essentially a redshirt rookie season failing to get on the field much at all.
Then there’s wide receiver. First and foremost, the Eagles must ensure Jeremy Maclin is on the roster in 2015. Whether they franchise him, or get an extension done, he had a career year in 2014 and the Eagles don’t have enough depth at the position to afford to lose him. However, even if they are able to bring Maclin back, Riley Cooper started opposite Maclin last season. That can’t happen again. After releasing DeSean Jackson around this time last year, the Eagles have yet to find a deep-threat playmaker in the vertical passing game. Jordan Matthews was a good find in the second round in last year’s draft but he’s better suited as a slot receiver and was used as such last season. Torrey Smith is someone who intrigues me in free agency as does Auburn’s Sammie Coates if the draft is where the Eagles choose to bring in another wide receiver.
Then comes the question that’s been all over the Internet since Chip Kelly gained full control over personnel decisions. Will Kelly trade up in the draft for “his guy” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota? After an outstanding 2013 season, Nick Foles certainly regressed in 2014 before his collarbone injury. Foles has one year left on his rookie contract and if the Eagles have another double-digit win season but are unwilling to commit to Foles long term then what happens at the quarterback position? Do the Eagles have too many holes to be able to afford a trade up for Mariota involving several draft picks going to a team picking in the top 10?
With their 27 million dollars of cap space it’s certainly feasible for the Eagles to make a run on defensive backs like Maxwell, McCourty, and Moore. I think secondary should be the top priority in free agency and then it gets hairy. Maybe Kelly believes Demeco Ryans can get healthy and give the Eagles a solid 2015 and they don’t need to look at an inside linebacker in the first couple rounds. Maybe the Eagles have enough money to sign Torrey Smith and Iupati as well. Or maybe they have faith they can draft and develop offensive lineman in the later rounds of the draft like they did with Herremans and Kelce. Perhaps Cole restructures his deal or maybe Worilds comes for the right price in free agency. If all or most of these maybes come to fruition then I think Chip Kelly should try and move up for Mariota as he’ll have addressed most of the team’s bigger needs in free agency. Chip Kelly is headed into his third season as Eagles head coach and for an offensive-minded coach to not have the ideal fit at quarterback would seem weird especially if they stick with Foles and he leaves a lot to be desired in 2015. Buckle up Eagles fans. The next two months are going to be interesting.