2016 NFL Offseason: Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles (Last Year: 7-9)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Chase Daniel, WR Rueben Randle, WR Chris Givens, G Brandon Brooks, C/G Stefen Wisniewski, DT Mike Martin, OLB Nigel Bradham, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Ron Brooks, S Rodney McLeod.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Carson Wentz, G/C Isaac Seumalo. Eagles Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Mark Sanchez, RB DeMarco Murray, DT Cedric Thornton, ILB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell, S Walter Thurmond.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Offense:
Most teams know who their starting quarterback is going to be. Some organizations, like the Broncos, are deciding between two quarterbacks. The Eagles, on the other hand, have three options at their disposal.

Philadelphia mortgaged its future for Carson Wentz, so he better turn out to be a great quarterback. Wentz played at the 1-AA level, however, so there are some who believe he’s not ready for the rigors of the NFL. Wentz has reportedly done a great job of learning the playbook, so he could see action earlier than most think. Still, Doug Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple, and Reid sat Donovan McNabb for half his rookie campaign in favor of Pederson himself back in 1999. Pederson could opt to do something similar, especially after the front office gave Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel so much money this offseason. Bradford, of course, is the incumbent, but he does not have the advantage because he’s behind Wentz in studying the playbook, thanks to his 2-week binge of pouting about how life is unfair despite being paid far more than what he’s worth. Daniel, meanwhile, knows Pederson’s offense because he just came over from Kansas City with Pederson. He was paid more than an ordinary backup this spring, so it’s very possible that he could be the starter for half the year.

All in all, it doesn’t really matter what happens this season because the Eagles don’t have much of a chance to do anything. Starting the physically limited Daniel or brittle Bradford until Wentz is ready is probably the best course of action, and doing this will perhaps allow Wentz to qualify for the playoffs in his sophomore campaign, much like McNabb did.

One of the reasons why the Eagles will have a difficult time of reaching the playoffs this season is a lack of play-makers. Jordan Matthews had a solid sophomore campaign, catching 85 passes for 997 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s currently Philadelphia’s top wideout, but he’s not a No. 1 receiver in this league. He’s more of a secondary option as a possession guy. Nelson Agholor, chosen in the first round last year, didn’t catch more than three passes in any game as a rookie. He logged 23 receptions in total, showing no signs that he can be an NFL-caliber starter, but he still has time to develop. The Eagles didn’t acquire any receivers in the draft, but did sign Rueben Randle and Chris Givens in free agency. Neither is expected to do very much beyond provide middling depth, however.

Philadelphia has one other solid receiving target. That would be tight end Zach Ertz, who was given a $42.5 million contract this offseason. Ertz is physically gifted, but needs to work on being more consistent. He started slowly in 2015, but lit it up at the end of the season. Those who think that this bodes well for 2016 need to recall that Ertz did the exact same thing the year before.

The Eagles have even greater problems in the backfield. DeMarco Murray is gone, so Ryan Mathews remains the starter. Mathews was better than Murray last year because he was a better fit in Chip Kelly’s Looney Tunes offense. However, Mathews isn’t a great fit for Pederson’s system, and he’s too injury-prone to be relied upon anyway. If Mathews gets hurt once again, the Eagles will have to utilize Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner in some horrifying rotation.

On a positive note, the offensive line might be better. The Eagles found an upgrade in free agency, signing Brandon Brooks away from the Texans. Brooks isn’t great by any means, but he was a solid pass protector for Houston last year. He’ll start in the interior along with the underwhelming Allen Barbre and center Jason Kelce, who didn’t enjoy the best 2015 campaign. Kelce wasn’t horrible or anything, but he was expected to be better. He’s likely to rebound.

“Might” was the key word in the opening sentence of the previous paragraph because it’s unclear how left tackle Jason Peters will perform. Peters has been one of the best blind-side protectors in the NFL over the past decade, but at 34, he’s beginning to regress. Peters had a down 2015 campaign, but was dealing with back problems. If healthy, perhaps he can bounce back, but he could continue to be banged up now that he’s in his mid-30s. Lane Johnson, expected to take over for Peters shortly, will continue to play well on the right side.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Defense:
The Eagles’ problems don’t end on offense, they also have some glaring issues on this side of the ball, and they couldn’t exactly do much about it during the draft because they surrendered so many picks for Wentz. They did sign a couple of players in free agency, however, including a stellar safety who should help to improve what has been a horrific secondary.

That player is former Ram Rodney McLeod. He thrived in St. Louis, which would explain why Philadelphia gave him $37 million over five years. McLeod will help fill the void created by Walter Thurmond’s retirement. Thurmond was one of only two Philadelphia defensive backs who performed well on a consistent basis last season. The other is fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins, who enjoyed a prolific 2015 campaign.

While the Eagles figure to be great at safety with McLeod and Jenkins, the cornerback position is an entirely different matter. Byron Maxwell is gone, which really doesn’t matter because he was terrible anyway. The top remaining corners entering the offseason were Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll. Rowe struggled as a second-round rookie last year, but definitely has potential. Carroll, meanwhile, was just average last year, so he’s not much of a liability. The Eagles signed former Bills Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks to help out, and it sounds as if one of them will beat out Rowe for a starting job. That’s not a good sign for Rowe, considering how mediocre (at best) McKelvin and Brooks have been.

One other prominent signing the Eagles made was linebacker Nigel Bradham, also formerly of Buffalo. Bradham had performed well in 2014, but struggled mightily last year because he didn’t fit well into Rex Ryan’s scheme, prompting the Bills to part ways with him. It was important to add a linebacker like Bradham, as the Eagles will be transitioning back to the 4-3 after Chip Kelly nonsensically moved to a 3-4. Bradham will start along with Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks. The latter will be relegated to two downs, as he’s forceful versus the run, but weak in coverage. Hicks, on the other hand, thrived as a rookie until he was lost for the season with a torn pectoral.

As for the defensive line, the same personnel is pretty much in place even though the Eagles are shifting to a different formation. The sole difference is that Mike Martin will be a depth player in the interior instead of Cedric Thornton. Martin is a quality defender, so he should be solid behind All-Pro Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan, a monstrous run-stuffer. Cox is the best player on Philadelphia’s roster.

Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham won’t be standing up anymore, but they’ll continue to rush opposing passers from the edge. Graham had a great 2015 campaign, while Barwin had a bit of a disappointing season. Curry is more interesting, as he projects as a much better fit as a 4-3 left end than a five-technique in the 3-4. Curry is definitely a candidate to have a breakout season in 2016.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule and Intangibles:
Philadelphia has an awful homefield advantage. The team hasn’t put together a winning record at the Linc in five of the past six seasons, owning a 22-28 record in that span. Oddly enough, the Eagles are 27-21 as visitors in that time frame.

The Eagles were an average kickoff team in 2015, but their punt game was incredible. They outgained opponents by 6.3 yards and scored twice, thanks to Sproles.

Cody Parker played in just three games last year because of a groin injury. He hit 32-of-36 attempts in 2014, including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond 50.

Donnie Jones ranked just 19th in net punting in 2014, but redeemed himself this past season, finishing sixth in that department.

Four of Philadelphia’s first five games are against the Browns, Bears, Lions and Redskins, so there’s potential for a good start. However, things get much more difficult down the stretch.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Rookies:
Go here for the Eagles Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Philadelphia Eagles Analysis: This season figures to mirror what the Eagles went through in 1999. That team won about five games, enduring the growing pains of a rookie quarterback and first-year coach in the process. However, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz will learn together, and if all goes well, a playoff appearance the following season sounds very realistic.

Projection: 5-11 (4th in NFC East)

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Eagles moved up for a quarterback, but that means that they won’t have many resources to complement their new franchise signal-caller. This is not a recipe for success, as Philadelphia will have to hit on every single draft pick to give Carson Wentz a chance. The Eagles will need to add a receiver and a blocker, and they have needs on the other side of the ball as well.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: In the individual grades, the Eagles failed to make a single selection that was graded higher than a “B” until the seventh round. Granted, I absolutely loved what Philadelphia did at the very end, grabbing great values like Jalen Mills and Alex McCalister, but that wasn’t enough to salvage the rest of the draft.

Having said that, I don’t think Philadelphia’s haul, in terms of the players picked, was poor at all. I like Carson Wentz better than Jared Goff, and adding versatile lineman Isaac Seumalo in the third round to help protect Wentz was a good idea. Last May, I actually had Seumalo in the first round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft, but he dropped because of injury issues. If he can remain healthy, he’ll be a good player for Philadelphia.

The problem with the Eagles’ draft was that they surrendered way too much to move up for Wentz. Teams trading up for players have a dubious track record, even if those prospects pan out. The toll taken on the depth of the roster is too much to overcome, and Philadelphia’s lack of resources in the next few years will hurt. Thus, I can’t give the Eagles anything higher than a “C.”

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

2. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State B- Grade
As with the Rams’ grade, I’m going to have to penalize Philadelphia for its trade. I gave the Eagles a Millen on my NFL Draft Trade Grades page, as they surrendered way too much. Even if Wentz hits, Philadelphia will struggle to maintain success because of a lack of resources. Think about what happened to the Falcons in the wake of the Julio Jones deal. Matt Ryan is a solid quarterback, and Jones obviously panned out, but Atlanta hasn’t visited the playoffs in a while because of a severe lack of depth. Unless Wentz is the next Andrew Luck and can single-handedly carry the Eagles as Luck does with the Colts in a soft division, Philadelphia will have trouble consistently reaching the postseason for quite a while.

Having said that, I think Wentz is the better option, so the Eagles will be given a full letter grade higher than the Rams. Wentz is seen as the superior signal-caller by most of our NFL contacts, and it’s easy to understand why. While the rail-thin Jared Goff played in a goofy spread system and maintained a losing record in college, Wentz won and was more accurate in a pro system, and he doesn’t look like he’ll snap in half at any second.

While it would probably be better for the Eagles to wait a year or two to land a franchise quarterback – again, check the 2017 NFL Mock Draft for what appear to be two top-five signal-callers next April – it seems like Wentz is the better option of the two available in this class.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

79. Isaac Seumalo, G/C, Oregon State B Grade
Isaac Seumalo is a versatile lineman who can play both guard and center. He even saw some action at tackle in college, but he probably won’t be able to do that at the next level. Seumalo is a high second-round talent, so why the drop into the third frame? He has an extensive injury history regarding his feet. Still, he’s worth the risk here in the third round, especially considering Philadelphia’s offensive line concerns.

153. Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia B Grade
The Eagles had to find a running back after losing DeMarco Murray this offseason. Ryan Mathews is now the starter, but he’ll be injured at some point. I don’t think Wendell Smallwood will be able to carry a full workload in the NFL, but he’ll at least be a solid third-down option, thanks to his receiving skills. Smallwood tested as just an average athlete, but he was very productive at West Virginia. He makes sense in th fifth round.

164. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT/G, TCU C+ Grade
Jason Peters won’t be on the Eagles much longer, and when he departs, Lane Johnson will slide over to the blind side. With Johnson moving, a new right tackle will be needed, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai has enough potential to perhaps win the job. However, Vaitai’s pass-protection skills can be called into question, as he’s pretty slow. Perhaps the Eagles will be able to develop him, but they probably should’ve obtained him a round later.

196. Blake Countess, CB, Auburn B Grade
The Eagles had a number of positions to address, but couldn’t really address much because of their lack of picks. Ideally, they would’ve found help for the secondary earlier, but they just couldn’t do so. Blake Countess fits the range here in the middle of the sixth round. He’s a sound tackler and could one day end up starting in the slot.

233. Jalen Mills, S/CB, LSU A+ Grade
This is Philadelphia’s best pick in the 2016 NFL Draft just in terms of pure value. I can’t begin to explain why Jalen Mills dropped all the way to the seventh round when he easily could’ve been a day-two pick. Mills is coming off an outstanding 2015 campaign at LSU and then showed off his excellent athleticism at the Combine. Mills can play both cornerback and safety, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he eventually emerged as a starter at one of those two positions in Philadelphia.

240. Alex McCalister, DE/OLB, Florida A- Grade
The good news here is that Alex McCalister is one of the top edge rushers in this class in terms of pure athleticism. He was also very productive when on the field for the Gators. The bad news is that McCalister doesn’t have much experience, and he was also kicked off the team. Still, McCalister is the sort of boom-or-bust prospect worth taking a chance on in the seventh round.

251. Joe Walker, LB, Oregon B Grade
Was this done to stick it to Chip Kelly, so he couldn’t pick up yet another Oregon player as a UDFA signing? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. Based on his play alone, Joe Walker wasn’t worth drafting, but he has elite athleticism that’ll give him a chance. He might latch on to Philadelphia’s final roster as the fifth linebacker.

Season Summary:
It seemed like the entire world expected the Eagles to make a deep run into the playoffs, but the team’s struggles should’ve been easily predictable. Chip Kelly was not a professional coach, as he didn’t understand that talent trumps scheme in the NFL. Kelly also spent the entire offseason downgrading his roster, so the Eagles had to get rid of him before he could further damage the organization.

Offseason Moves:
  • Eagles announce retirement of S Walter Thurmond
  • Eagles sign DT Mike Martin
  • Eagles re-sign G Matt Tobin
  • Eagles sign C Stefen Wisniewski
  • Eagles sign WR Rueben Randle
  • Eagles sign WR Chris Givens
  • Eagles re-sign CB Nolan Carroll
  • Eagles cut DE/DT Brandon Bair
  • Broncos acquire QB Mark Sanchez from Eagles for conditional late-round draft pick
  • Eagles sign CB Ron Brooks
  • Eagles sign OLB Nigel Bradham
  • Eagles sign G Brandon Brooks
  • Eagles sign S Rodney McLeod
  • Titans acquire RB DeMarco Murray from Eagles for swap of 4th-round picks
  • Eagles sign QB Chase Daniel
  • Dolphins acquire CB Byron Maxwell, ILB Kiko Alonso, No. 13 from Eagles for No. 8
  • Eagles sign CB Leodis McKelvin
  • Eagles re-sign QB Sam Bradford
  • Eagles cut ILB DeMeco Ryans
  • Eagles cut ILB Najee Goode
  • Eagles cut WR Riley Cooper
  • Eagles re-sign DE Vinny Curry

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: The Eagles’ No. 1 priority is upgrading the secondary, which was an abomination this past season. The team overpaid for Byron Maxwell, so they’ll have to make amends for that. I’m sure Philadelphia would love to grab Vernon Hargreaves at No. 13 overall. Re-signed Nolan Carroll; signed Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks

    2. Two Guards: Philadelphia’s offense had a ton of problems. One glaring issue was that the interior of the offensive line couldn’t block at all. Proving how incompetent he was, Chip Kelly foolishly cut Evan Mathis, a top-five guard, for absolutely nothing. This area is a priority this offseason. Signed Stefen Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks

    3. Wide Receiver: The Eagles opted not to re-sign Jeremy Maclin, creating a hole at receiver. If they don’t get anyone in free agency, they’ll probably have to take a wideout with one of their third-round picks. Signed Rueben Randle and Chris Givens

    4. Quarterback: Sam Bradford is a free agent. He’s probably the best the Eagles could do at the position. However, re-signing him for big money is very risky, given his extensive injury history. A backup signal-caller is also needed. Re-signed Sam Bradford; signed Chase Daniel

    5. Safety: Walter Thurmond played well this past season, but he’s a free agent. If he’s not retained, the Eagles will obviously need a replacement. Signed Rodney McLeod

    6. Running Back: The Eagles traded away DeMarco Murray, so they’ll need a new running back.

    7. Defensive End Depth: Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton have performed well for Philadelphia, but both happen to be impending free agents. This will be a big need if both leave. Depth should be added if one is brought back. Re-signed Vinny Curry

    8. Right Tackle: Jason Peters isn’t going to be around much longer, so the Eagles will be moving Lane Johnson to the blind side once Peters moves on. Thus, a right tackle of the future is needed.

    9. Rush Linebacker Depth: Depth is needed behind Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Marcus Smith hasn’t proven anything yet.

    10. Kicker: Cal Sturgis’ 18-of-22 was his best percentage ever, which is not good. He also missed two extra points.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Rodney McLeod, S, Rams. Age: 26.
      Signed with Eagles (5 years, $37 million)

      Rodney McLeod was solid but unspectacular in 2014, but made big improvements to his game last season. McLeod was excellent, showing no weaknesses.

    2. Stefen Wisniewski, C, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year)

      Finally healthy after an injury-ridden 2014 campaign, Stefen Wisniewski played well in his first year with the Jaguars. He’s especially strong in pass protection.

    3. Brandon Brooks, G, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (5 years, $40 million)

      Brandon Brooks is a solid pass protector. He isn’t as good in terms of run blocking, but he’s a quality guard nonetheless.

    4. Rueben Randle, WR, Giants. Age: 25.
      Signed with Eagles

      Rueben Randle, who is a year removed from catching 71 passes for 938 yards, is just a sub-par No. 2 receiver. There’s nothing special here, as Randle sometimes struggles to get open.

    5. Nigel Bradham, OLB, Bills. Age: 26. — Signed with Eagles (2 years)
    6. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Bills. Age: 31. — Signed with Eagles (2 years)
    7. Mike Martin, DT, Titans. Age: 26. — Signed with Eagles
    8. Chris Givens, WR, Ravens. Age: 26. — Signed with Eagles
    9. Chase Daniel, QB, Chiefs. Age: 29. — Signed with Eagles (3 years)
    10. Ron Brooks, CB, Bills. Age: 27. — Signed with Eagles (3 years, $6 million)

    Philadelphia Eagles Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Walter Thurmond, S, Eagles. Age: 29.
      Announced retirement

      Walter Thurmond told the media that he doesn’t believe he’ll be back in Philadelphia next season because the team has “only $17 million in cap space.” It’s great that Thurmond thinks so highly of himself, and he did play extremely well in 2015, but he has a poor injury history that can’t be ignored. He’d have a higher rating if it wasn’t for that.

    2. Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Eagles (2 years, $36 million)

      Sam Bradford played well down the stretch. In a quarterback-starved league, he’s going to command a big contract. The danger is that giving Bradford a huge deal could really backfire, given his dubious injury history.

    3. Vinny Curry, DE/DT, Eagles. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Eagles (5 years, $47.25 million; $23 million guaranteed)

      Vinny Curry notched nine sacks in 2014. He didn’t quite get there this past season – he logged 3.5 sacks – but he still put great pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He struggled in run support, which is why he was just a rotational player, but Curry could be better in a 4-3 as a left end.

    4. DeMeco Ryans, ILB, Eagles. Age: 32.
      DeMeco Ryans struggled mightily this past season, but blame clueless Chip Kelly for making the horrible mistake of installing a defense he wanted rather than one that fit the skills of his players. Ryans had never performed well in the 3-4, so perhaps he’ll rebound on a new team that utilizes the 4-3. Unfortunately for Ryans, he turns 32 in July.

    5. Cedric Thornton, DE/DT, Eagles. Age: 28.
      Signed with Cowboys (4 years, $18 million)

      Cedric Thornton missed three games with a broken hand, but he’s a major reason why the Eagles were so effective at stopping the run at times. Thornton doesn’t offer anything in terms of a pass rush, however.

    6. Nolan Carroll, CB, Eagles. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Eagles (1 year)

      Nolan Carroll was the best cornerback on Philadelphia’s roster this past season, but that’s like picking a fat chick in a room full of them and calling her the most attractive one. Carroll missed the final five games of the year with a broken ankle.

    7. Matt Tobin (RFA), G, Eagles. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Eagles
    8. E.J. Biggers, CB, Eagles. Age: 29. — Signed with Patriots
    9. Najee Goode, ILB, Eagles. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Eagles
    10. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles. Age: 28.
    11. Brandon Bair, DE/DT, Eagles. Age: 31.
    12. Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Eagles. Age: 29.
    13. Thad Lewis, QB, Eagles. Age: 28. — Signed with 49ers

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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