The winds of change, at least when it comes to roster turnover, are sure to start howling as the 2017 NFL offseason draws nearer and the Philadelphia Eagles look to up their chances of a postseason run following a second consecutive 7-9 finish.
Whereas some spots, like at quarterback and safety, appear to be stocked for years to come, other positions, whether in the running backfield or defensive backfield, could be in for an Eagles makeover.
As 12 teams prepare to begin their hopeful marches to the Super Bowl and the Birds anxiously await the opportunity to better themselves for such a journey down the road, here’s a look at two of the positions Philadelphia is all but assured to address come March:
The question here isn’t whether or not the Eagles should or intend to upgrade cornerback, but rather how – and to what degree – they will go about doing so.
Hotshot Jalen Mills showed enough confidence in his rookie campaign to warrant a nice look-see in ’17, and maybe Ron Brooks sticks around just for the sake of familiarity with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Nolan Carroll, whose solid, if unspectacular, role as a No. 2 may have worn out one-year renewals, is due to be replaced in either 2017 or 2018. But so is an aging Leodis McKelvin, the product of the Eagles’ annual dip into the mid-tier free-agent CB pool from 2016. Their impending departures, the latest by a growing line of so-so vets who have come and gone, make soon-to-be available corners like Captain Munnerlyn and Prince Amukamara a little less appealing.
Unofficial general manager Howie Roseman’s recent suggestion that Philadelphia has often used “Band-Aids” to fix secondary holes indicates April’s 2017 NFL Draft could be where the team most hopes to find fresh talent.
Even so, it’s not out of the question that, salary-cap-space depending, Roseman and company target at least one veteran addition.
Unless the Birds find a way to break the bank for perhaps the shiniest of all former Schwartz gems in Stephon Gilmore, the Buffalo Bills’ 26-year-old stud, the pickings are dicy. When aren’t they, though, considering the Eagles have swung big before, only to miss? Trumaine Johnson (Rams) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Bengals) headline the rest of the hit-or-miss free agent bunch.
It’s like the 2000s all over again, right?
Production, or a lack thereof, at the Eagles’ No. 2 wide receiver spot has been so sparse in recent years that even one- or two-catch showings have somehow begun to seem acceptable. But the front office knows it needs help, especially with a young gun in Carson Wentz now under center for the foreseeable future.
Just like at CB, the draft-and-develop strategy seems wise and, in all likelihood, is a path the team will take. But recent drafting blunders, whether in the form of Josh Huff or – depending on how 2017 unfolds – Nelson Agholor, make the Birds surefire contenders when it comes to the veteran market. Adding both immediate help and projects for down the road seems inevitable.
In addressing the former, the most-discussed potential acquisition, of course, involves the big-play wideout the Eagles themselves cut loose in 2013 – DeSean Jackson. Maybe D-Jack is older and maybe he’s mostly a one-trick pony with a pesky penchant for showmanship. But at even a semi-sizable salary, his game-changing speed would have to be a welcome addition to Doug Pederson’s bottled-up offense.
Outside of Jackson, the 2017 free agent class is largely populated with older wideouts who may or may not warrant serious investment, from Pierre Garcon (Redskins) and Vincent Jackson (Buccaneers) to Anquan Boldin (Lions) and Brandon LaFell (Bengals). In between, excluding future big-money target Alshon Jeffery (Bears), there are a handful of younger options like Kenny Stills (Dolphins), Kendall Wright (Titans) and Terrelle Pryor (Browns) who offer varying levels of potential but also are not undoubted No. 1 WRs.
Considering the Eagles’ weekly struggle at the position, however, who’s to say even a second-rate signee like Stills or Wright would not drastically alter Wentz’s ability to open up the passing game?