With the Eagles having released both cornerback Cary Williams and guard Todd Herremans in the past few days, $30 million in cap space exists in the warchest. Just who might Chip Kelly spend it on?
One option the entire city has rallied behind is Seahawks’ cornerback Byron Maxwell. Maxwell had a solid season for Seattle, recording 39 tackles and two interceptions in twelve starts. At 6-1 and 207 lbs, Maxwell matches the Chip Kelly/Billy Davis mold for defensive backs. Approaching 27 years of age, Maxwell is the ideal signing not only for 2015, but for at least a few years beyond.
The move would be similar to the typical signings this regime has made. The Eagles passed on high-priced free agents the last two seasons, opting instead to build through second-tier players like Malcolm Jenkins and Connor Barwin (at the time, Barwin wasn’t regarded as highly as he is now). Maxwell also played a stellar game when Seattle visited the Eagles in 2014, notching four tackles and brewing up two passes. With solid toe against the Eagles, Maxwell will have caught the eyes of the Eagles staff, the same way Jenkins and Darren Sproles did when the Saints beat the Eagles in the 2013 playoffs.
To help replace the abysmal Nate Allen, who will likely be let go into free agency, the Eagles would be wise to take a look at former Bronco Rahim Moore. The safety is infamously known for allowing the Baltimore Ravens to score a near-miracle long touchdown pass and force overtime in the playoffs, ultimately wining the game and the Super Bowl that year. In spite of his blunder, Moore has shown the potential to become a serviceable NFL safety, with strong cover skills and decent speed. The UCLA graduate started all 16 games for the Broncos, and was tied for fifth among safeties with four interceptions. Moore is only 25 years old, and likely still has room to grow and play at a higher level, the same way Malcolm Jenkins did in his first season in Philadelphia. Moore would likely command a contract similar to the one Jenkins earned last year.
With the Eagles nearing the release of linebacker Trent Cole, Philadelphia will need a pass rusher to play opposite Pro Bowler Connor Barwin. Last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers placed the transition tag on linebacker Jason Worlds, one of the brightest young edge rushers in the league. ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweeted last preseason that Worlds would have signed with the Eagles if he was let go. Worlds is 6ft 2in, 262 lbs, and has recorded 15.5 sacks in 2014 and 3025 combined. One would think that the Eagles, who were prepared to sign Worlds last offseason, will be in the sweepstakes to reel in the former Steeler. Just how competitive those sweepstakes are will determine if Worlids lands in Philly, but it seems likely that the Eagles will be bringing Worlds down from their in-state rivals.
Another player the Eagles could pluck from the Seahawks defense is linebacker O’Brien Schofield. With fellow pass rusher Brandon Graham set to hit free agency, the Eagles seemingly lack depth at the pass rusher position. Scofield, 27, would be a useful death signing to replace Graham’s role in the pass rush rotation. After Cole departs in one or two years, Scofield will be in position to take over that linebacker spot as a 28 or 29 year old, still in the middle of his prime (2015 will only be Scofield’s sixth professional season).
A possible offensive upgrade the Eagles could obtain comes from Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith, who started all 16 games for the Ravens last year, totaled 757 yards on 49 receptions. The former Maryland Terrapin averaged 15.7 yards per catch in 2014, good for ninth best in the league. Current Eagle Riley Cooper recorded 10.5 yards per catch last year, over two yards less than Smith. Though Smith isn’t bigger than Cooper, his 6 ft, 206 lbs frame is large enough to be useful in Chip Kelly’s offense. Considering his strength is speed, Smith possesses adequate size to fit in as a “burner” in the 2015 Eagles offense.
Last offseason, wide receiver Golden Tate received a five-year, $31 million contract from the Detroit Lions. Tate had similar stats to Smith prior to hitting free agency, holding a slight edge in yards and receptions. For the Eagles to make this move, they will need to allocate significant cap space to the receiver position. Considering they will have to re-sign Jeremy Maclin, it seems unlikely the Eagles will make this move, unless the team can restructure Riley Cooper’s contract. Still, the possibility of Smith and Maclin lining up on the outside could seriously improve the Eagles offense that much more in 2015.
If the Eagles are going to push the demons of 2014 to the past, they will have to make significant stride in free agency. While by no means should they repeat the “dream team” fiasco, the team must improve its weaknesses by signing proven veterans, and add some needed size and ability to positions of serious need.