Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eagles set up for big splash in offseason

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/
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.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Trudging along through the worst six weeks in Sports

February is the worst month of the year.  The weather is still frigid here in the Delaware Valley, the football season ends on the first Sunday of the month, and there’s nothing else to really get excited about in the world of sports until March Madness.  Then things start to heat up again with the NCAA Tournament, NFL free agency, the beginning of the baseball season, The Masters, the NHL and NBA Playoffs and the NFL Draft.  But in between Super Bowl Sunday and Selection Sunday, there isn’t much to get excited about.

So what does this mean for someone like me?  It means I read lots of NFL mock drafts and free agency rumors, scour through oodles of fantasy baseball analysis, and making sure I check’s college basketball page on Mondays and Thursdays to look at expert bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s updated bracket.  Anything to pass the time in February before things ramp up in mid-March, even if it’s just a bunch of guesses as to who plays where next season in the NFL, who I draft on my fantasy baseball team, and who the NCAA tournament’s four number one seeds are.

NBA All-Star weekend is tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday.  So there’s that.  But I hate All-Star games.  The Saturday events are cool but the game isn’t really a game especially when you consider a lot of players have pulled out this year due to injury.  Maybe I’ll get a call before Sunday.  At least I won’t have to play defense if I end up suiting up.  The NBA trade deadline is on Thursday, so guess what that means? More rumors!  Welcome to February.

An e-mail sent by New York Knicks owner James Dolan is a bigger deal in February, because there’s nothing else to talk about. A Little League team losing its Little League World Series championship as a result of not cooperating with geographical boundaries sounds a little bit worse in February, because it’s February.  Every Summer I’m always wondering how those kids are no older than 13.  I’m sure plenty of other strings are pulled besides bending age restrictions and this time somebody got caught.

The Sixers unveiling a new mascot was so February.  The All-Star break has arrived so why not introduce Franklin the dog? Ray Rice just apologized to everyone in Baltimore and what a perfect time to do it. Josh Gordon got suspended again but that’s not really news at this point is it?  LeBron James tweeted something that may have been directed at teammate Kevin Love and in today’s media atmosphere, that’s important, especially when nothing else going on right now in sports is.

The point is that between now and Selection Sunday, all the nonsense stories in sports tend to come out.   Right now we’re just waiting for the bracket to be released, for NFL free agents to start signing contracts, for first pitches to be thrown across America, for tee shots to be hit at Augusta National, for the NHL and NBA regular seasons to end, and for Roger Goodell to stand at the podium in Chicago and start calling names. 

While media outlets across America are stuck with releasing stories that really don’t mean anything, I’ll stick to reading mock drafts, Joe Lunardi’s brackets, and fantasy baseball magazines.  It’s what keeps me going. Bring on the spring.