Post originally appeared on Tha Sports Junkies 101
March 6, 2018
Image: Keith Allison via Flickr
Expected Free Agency Losses For The Philadelphia Eagles
Posted on March 6, 2018
It’s Time To Come Down From The High Of Super Bowl LII
We are now one month out from Super Bowl LII. Although the sheer happiness of the victory will never disappear, some of the integral players might do just that. Unfortunately, it is the reality of the off-season. The thought of potential losses is starting to set in, and it’s a new kind of off-season for the Eagles.
A New Position For The Eagles This Offseason
There are usually a few glaring holes for a team that needs filling going into the offseason. These needs can be addressed by drafting smart, making key trades, as well as strategic free agent signings. Last year’s off-season moves included solidifying the running game and adding depth at receiver as well as in the secondary. Howie Roseman was finally back in the driver’s seat, and it paid off in the best way.
Now, the Eagles are set with their franchise quarterback and have key players set to continue their careers in green and white. Unfortunately, the caveat of being a Super Bowl champion? Losing important players via free agency and trades.
Some of these guys who gave everything they had for 19 games are going to be let go or traded. The Eagles are sitting with the 32nd pick in the first round of this year’s draft, and there are many factors to consider, ensuring the losses are not detrimental to a Super Bowl repeat.
The Question Marks Entering The Offseason
The Philadelphia Eagles have 14 unrestricted free agents this year, as well as one restricted free agent. In a list of 15, some losses are expected. The free agents are:
- RB Darren Sproles
- OLB Nigel Bradham
- TE Trey Burton
- S Corey Graham
- RB LeGarrette Blount
- K Caleb Sturgis
- OLB Dannell Ellerbe
- LT Will Beatty
- OLB Bryan Braman
- OLB Najee Goode
- CB Patrick Robinson
- RB Kenjon Barner
- DT Beau Allen
- S Jaylen Watkins (Restricted)
Where does Philly Start?
The list seems very straightforward. However, it is not only this list that has to be addressed but the one that will come next year that includes names like Chris Long, Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks, and Jay Ajayi. Just glancing at those names, these are losses the Eagles don’t want to go through.
It has already been reported that the Eagles are engaging in talks with Patrick Robinson to keep him in Philly for a few more years, as well as that Brandon Graham has asked to restructure his contract. At his NFL Scouting Combine press conference, Howie Roseman mentioned that Graham deserves that money, and they have a great relationship with his agent and expect to get something worked out.
With kicker Jake Elliott breaking all kinds of league and franchise records, Caleb Sturgis will have to depart. Since the focus is on Patrick Robinson in the secondary, I don’t expect the Eagles to resign Corey Graham either, opening a need for a safety.
Expected Free Agency Losses
It was reported this morning by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, that Trey Burton, Nigel Bradham, and Beau Allen will be losses in free agency. In my opinion, Burton and Bradham should have been the two top free agent priorities going into this off-season.
The Tight End Position
Burton has shown his ability to catch crucial passes, step up in the absence of Zach Ertz, make big plays on special teams, block well, and let’s not forget he threw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. Not only is he a talented player, but has also built great chemistry with Carson Wentz, which is crucial to have in the NFL.
Zach Ertz is without question the Eagles #1 tight end, but with the retirement of Brent Celek inevitably approaching, (Celek has one year left on his contract) locking up Burton would be in the Eagles’ best interest.
After taking some time looking through Twitter, Burton has received several questions about his future. One fan asked if there was any chance he resigns with the birds. Burton directly responded “It’s not up to me. They haven’t offered me anything at all.” There is a decent list of tight ends that the Eagles have interacted with this offseason, indicating that they will not push hard to keep Burton.
The Eagles Have Interacted With These NFL Draft Prospects
- Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
- Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
- Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
- Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
- Jordan Akins, Central Florida
- Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
- David Wells, San Diego State
- Mike Gesicki, Penn State
The depth and variety of this list indicate that the Eagles will draft another tight end to replace Burton and supersede Celek.
The Run Game Also Requires Attention
Another question on the offense is the run game. The three-headed monster of Blount, Ajayi, and Clement was dominant this year, with significant snaps from Darren Sproles (before injury), Kenjon Barner, and Wendell Smallwood.
Out of these six players, only three of them are under contract for the next year. After Sproles broke his arm and tore his ACL, the Eagles brought in Kenjon Barner. Although he made some critical special teams plays, the Eagles can’t afford to keep him around.
Darren Sproles has said that he wants to finish his career as an Eagle, after being scorned by the New Orleans Saints. He announced his plans to retire after this season. However, his victory lap was cut short by an unfortunate injury.
Sproles has hinted at a comeback, not wanting that to be the way he finishes his spectacular NFL career. I think that if Sproles ultimately decides to play one more year the Eagles should, and will, sign him to a minimal contract so he can finish his career the right way.
After the signing of Barner and trade for Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood was inactive for nine of the final ten games of the season including the Super Bowl. The Eagles will probably try to move him in return for late round draft picks. When it comes to LeGarrette Blount, I would love to see him continue to bully defenses in an Eagles uniform.
However, with the salary he would require, that does not seem like a possibility. The Eagles have also met with and spoken to a high volume of running backs, indicating that the only remaining running backs from the 2017-18 Eagles team will be Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and possibly Darren Sproles.
The Eagles Have Interacted With The Following Running Backs/Fullbacks
- Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
- Chase Edmunds, Fordham
- John Kelly, Tennessee
- Jordan Wilkins, Mississippi
- Ryan Nall, Oregon State
- Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
- Demario Richard, Arizona State
- Akrum Wadley, Iowa
- Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
- Darrel Williams, LSU
On The Defense Side Of The Ball
Linebacker Nigel Bradham has cleaned up his act tremendously since signing with the Eagles two years ago. After two arrests in three months, there hasn’t been any disturbances. Since then, he has not caused a stir off the field but instead stepped up his game on the field. With the early season injury to Jordan Hicks, Bradham became the defensive signal caller.
It’s come to light, however, that the Eagles do not expect to retain Bradham this offseason, opening up a need at linebacker. I assume the Eagles will resign Najee Goode to a low salary deal. He’s proved he belongs on the roster after getting cut countless times by the Eagles.
Dannell Ellerbe and Bryan Braman are two players that are indeed almost guaranteed losses. The Eagles won’t be bringing them back for next season. However, it would be in the Eagles’ best interest to either trade for a linebacker with a reasonable salary, or draft one.
The Eagles Have Interacted With The Following Linebackers
- Ja’Whaun Bentley, Purdue
- Kenny Young, UCLA
- Chris Worley, Ohio State
Given the length of this list, I see the Eagles will try to get a linebacker in a trade. Perhaps in exchange for quarterback Nick Foles.
The Super Bowl MVP St. Nick
Another hot topic of conversation is Nick Foles. At Howie’s presser on Wednesday, he reminded the media that when discussing Foles trades, it was important they remember this guy is a Super Bowl MVP. His treatment while exercising options for the future will reflect that of a Super Bowl MVP.
Reports indicate that the Eagles received only one ‘respectable’ offer for Foles so far. When trading Sam Bradford back in 2016, the Eagles earned a 1st round pick as well as a 4th round pick. That would be the minimum going rate for Foles.
A fascinating candidate to work with could be the Arizona Cardinals, who are in need of a quarterback following the retirement of Carson Palmer. It would not be a bad option for the Eagles to inquire about a linebacker and the #15 pick from the Cardinals in exchange for Foles.
Another interesting conversation to have would be with the Minnesota Vikings. Although I hate the thought of our Super Bowl MVP in that purple and gold that defiled our beloved Rocky statue, it might be a smart conversation. Reports indicate that Teddy Bridgewater will hit the open market in free agency, but Sam Bradford and Case Keenum are also free agents this year as well.
The Eagles, I would assume, would require a player as well as a pick, but since the Vikings are only two picks ahead at #30, there might need to be something else in there to sweeten the deal.The Eagles have only interacted with one QB, Kurt Benkert from West Virginia. This indicates that Nate Sudfeld will be the backup quarterback moving forward.
It’s A Business And That’s Never Going To Change
Although watching some of our playmakers go is sad, it’s part of the game. As Roseman said before the combine, it’s not as easy as just getting the band back together. The key is ensuring that the losses do not outweigh the gains. No matter who stays or who goes, the goal will always be the same – a Super Bowl win.
Everyone on the 53-man roster will always hold a special place in Philadelphia’s heart for bringing a kind of joy the city has never known. Even though it would be great to keep everyone in Philly, teams have now seen our game and will look to emulate pieces of our formula. The team has to keep growing and keep getting better to make parades down Broad Street a Philadelphia norm.
Featured Image by Executive Sport Ltd.
Article originally posted on Tha Sports Junkies 101.