Eagles Free Agent Watch 2017


It’s time. For the third consecutive year, EaglesNotebook.com presents “Free Agent Watch,” a running list of updates on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 offseason transactions, with bits of live analysis:

May 17: The Eagles signed running back LeGarrette Blount to a one-year contract.

Maybe the biggest unsigned name on the market, Blount (6-0, 250) livens the team’s RB committee and reaffirms an anticipated Ryan Mathews exit. The NFL’s 2016 rushing touchdown leader (18 TDs) and two-time Super Bowl champion has split seven years between the New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s 30 with some injury/off-field history but a goal-line bludgeon of an upgrade at RB with a starter’s resume (1,161 yards in 2016).

May 3: The Eagles claimed linebacker Steven Daniels off waivers from the Washington Redskins.

A seventh-round draft pick of the Eagles’ NFC East rivals in 2016, the former Boston College starter was sidelined for his entire rookie season with an injury. A stocky contrast to Nathan Gerry, a converted safety and Philadelphia’s own late-round selection in April, Daniels (5-11, 245) is a potential run-down reserve and adds backup MLB competition.

April 18: The Detroit Lions announced that Eagles free-agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch will retire.

A four-time tackle leader for the Lions from 2011-2015 before a one-year stop in Philadelphia, the longtime middle linebacker racked up six 100-tackle seasons, including one as a 30-year-old 16-game starter in 2015, between Detroit and the Tennessee Titans. As an Eagle, his history with coordinator Jim Schwartz made him insurance for Jordan Hicks. He had seven tackles in a backup spot.

April 18: The Eagles restructured tight end Brent Celek’s contract.

A true team player entering his 11th season, Celek agreed to reduce his 2017 salary by $1 million. On his third contract with the Eagles since being drafted in the fifth round in 2007, the former Pro Bowler had career-low numbers in ’16 (14 catches, 155 yards) but has been durable, missing just one game in 10 years, and gives Zach Ertz and Trey Burton a good role model and blocking complement.

April 10: The Eagles signed quarterback Matt McGloin to a one-year contract.

Undrafted out of Penn State University in 2013, the 27-year-old Scranton, Pa., native made seven starts in four years with the Oakland Raiders, filling in for an injured Derek Carr at the close of 2016. His career stats (11 TDs, 11 INTs, 75.3 QB rating) are symbolic of the average-sized (6-1, 210) and adequate, albeit unspectacular, reserve he’s been. At the least, he’s an offseason arm with enough experience to be a No. 3.

April 4: The Eagles traded a third-round draft pick (No. 74 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens for defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and a third-round pick (No. 99).

For merely a swap of thirds, Philadelphia lands a likely Bennie Logan replacement in the former Florida State University standout. Jernigan (6-2, 295) doesn’t lack name recognition as a 2014 second-rounder with a disruptive pedigree. Just 24 and a 15-game starter as an interior rusher for the Ravens’ 3-4 defense in 2016 (31 tackles, 5 sacks), he’s about as promising as a fill-in opposite Fletcher Cox could be entering his contract season.

March 31: The Eagles restructured cornerback Ron Brooks’ contract.

Saving $850,000 in 2017 and turning 2018, the final season of Brooks’ three-year deal, into an option year, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, the team gives itself flexibility at a soon-to-be restocked position. Signed with fellow ex-Buffalo Bill Nigel Bradham in 2016, Brooks was sidelined for more than half of his Eagles debut with an injury, cementing his history of durability issues, but his nickel and special teams experience are worth keeping around for competition.

March 28: The Eagles signed cornerback Patrick Robinson to a one-year contract.

A hit-or-miss starter since his 2011-2012 peak, when he had seven interceptions over two of his five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the former first-round draft pick has missed 31 career games, starting in 16 between the Indianapolis Colts and then-San Diego Chargers since 2015. So his name – and memories of play-making potential – have a little more pop than his resume. But as a placeholder for younger corners, he gives the Eagles some low-risk depth with nickel experience.

March 28: The Eagles signed defensive end Chris Long to a two-year contract.

Resurgent as a seven-game starter for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at age 31 in 2016 (35 tackles, 4 sacks), the former top-five draft pick (No. 2 overall in 2008) gives Philadelphia’s defensive line some short-term insurance on a deal worth close to $2.4 million, according to NFL Network. Hinting at an increase in snaps post-Pats stint, Long offers a noted personality and lots of experience, including five 16-start years – two with double-digit sack totals – with the St. Louis Rams.

March 20: The Los Angeles Chargers signed Eagles free-agent running back Kenjon Barner to a one-year contract.

A practice squad member for most of one season and the Eagles’ No. 3 back for much of two more, Barner (5-9, 195) did not receive a restricted free agent tender from the team. Acquired in a preseason trade with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, he was sparingly used (253 yards, 2 TDs in Philadelphia) but shifty and had some big kickoff returns in 2016. Still, even with Ryan Mathews likely to depart and Darren Sproles nearing retirement, Barner’s change-of-pace role was replaceable.

March 13: The Eagles released quarterback Chase Daniel.

The inevitable result of Nick Foles’ Eagles reunion, Daniel’s departure comes roughly a year after the former New Orleans Saint (2009-2012) and Kansas City Chief (2013-2015) backup inked a three-year, $21-million deal despite throwing only 77 NFL passes. An on-field surrogate for Coach Doug Pederson, he appeared in just one game in ’16, helping mentor Carson Wentz and install Pederson’s offense from K.C. But his release ensures the QB room has a more accomplished and cost-effective No. 2.

March 13: The Kansas City Chiefs signed Eagles free-agent defensive tackle Bennie Logan to a one-year contract.

Working with reduced salary cap space, the Eagles lose some depth and personality with Logan fleeing for ex-Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid in K.C., according to ESPN. A third-round draft pick out of Louisiana State University in 2013, the stout veteran was a fiery run stopper who averaged 56 tackles per year from 2014-2015 as a nose tackle alongside $100-million man Fletcher Cox. Logan had a decent 2016 (2.5 sacks) in a 4-3 system despite missing three games and will need to be replaced up front.

March 13: The Eagles signed quarterback Nick Foles to a two-year contract.

Presumably replacing the pricy Chase Daniel as Carson Wentz’s backup, Foles (6-6, 243) reunites with Coach Doug Pederson after two years away from the team that drafted him in 2012. He was never as elite as his reputed character and 2013 Pro Bowl year (27 TDs, 2 INTs) suggested, and he fizzled out as a St. Louis Rams starter after being dealt as part of a Sam Bradford trade in 2015. But Foles, a class act and solid as the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 2 in 2016, is an ideal insurance QB with a winning resume.

March 10: The Dallas Cowboys signed Eagles free-agent cornerback Nolan Carroll to a three-year contract.

The second starter to leave for Dallas in as many years after Cedric Thornton’s NFC East swap, the gritty Carroll hit his peak as a No. 2 in 2015 (57 tackles, 2 INTs) despite a late-season injury but was more penalized and outmatched in his follow-up 16-game effort. In three years with the Eagles after four with the Miami Dolphins, he was never flashy but more than competent. Yet his age (30) and recent inconsistency essentially made him a yearly rental for a team that needs long-term CB help.

March 10: The Eagles re-signed offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year contract.

Joining Philadelphia in 2016 as left guard competition with an admitted goal of reentering free agency after one year, the former second-round draft pick ended up starting six games in his Eagles debut, flashing solid play reminiscent of his run as a guard/center with the Oakland Raiders (2011-2014) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2015). He returns for roughly $9 million, according to NFL Network, to a suddenly crowded interior O-line. His contract and bond with Carson Wentz make him a good bet to start.

March 9: The Eagles signed offensive guard Chance Warmack to a one-year contract.

A bargain signing at $1.51 million, according to USA Today, Warmack’s arrival almost mirrors that of Stefen Wisniewski in 2016. The 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Tennessee Titans after a big stint at the University of Alabama under current Eagles line coach Jeff Stoutland, Warmack (6-2, 323) missed all but two games in 2016 due to an injury, struggling to uphold a first-round reputation, but his 48 career starts and intriguing size make for a low-risk, high-reward depth addition.

March 9: The Eagles signed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to a one-year contract.

The consensus No. 1 unsigned receiver and a Pro Bowler for the Chicago Bears, Jeffery (6-3, 218) inked a one-year, $14-million prove-it deal, according to ESPN, giving Philadelphia a big starter to top a remade WR corps. Durability is a concern for the former second-round pick, who’s missed 11 games since 2015 with injuries and a suspension. But when he’s available, he’s been an impact target with back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2013-2014. Jeffery, 27, is a game-changing addition with a creative contract.

March 9: The Eagles signed wide receiver Torrey Smith to a three-year contract.

Inked to a $15 million pact that, according to USA Today, is actually a one-year, $5-million deal with two $5-million options, the former Super Bowl champion gives the Eagles the deep-ball target they coveted. His numbers have declined since a 1,128-yard 2013 outing with the Baltimore Ravens – he had just 20 catches in a porous 2016 San Francisco 49ers offense. But the 28-year-old, a reported trade target prior to his release, boasts a top-tier career yards-per-catch average (17.0) and offers low-cost, big-play potential.

March 9: The Eagles released defensive end Connor Barwin.

Esteemed as much for his off-field dedication to Philadelphia as a once-thriving 3-4 outside linebacker (14.5 sacks in a 2014 Pro Bowl year), Barwin was an anticipated victim of his own contract, as his departure saves the Eagles nearly $8 million. After a quiet 2016 (34 tackles, 5 sacks) as a defensive end in coordinator Jim Schwartz’s system, his role all but vanished, but he will be remembered as a rock-solid 2013 signee from the Houston Texans – an often-unheralded but reliable Swiss Army knife for the “D.”

March 8: The Eagles re-signed linebacker Najee Goode to a one-year contract.

One of the Eagles’ own players set to hit the market, the sixth-year reserve returns at a mild cost of $875,000, according to ESPN. A former fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who has appeared in 45 games in roughly three seasons with the Birds, Goode offers linebacker and special-teams depth with 21 tackles since 2015.

March 4: The Eagles re-signed safety Jaylen Watkins to a one-year contract.

As an exclusive rights free agent, the three-year veteran couldn’t test the market once the Eagles made him an offer. A fourth-round pick by Philadelphia in 2014, he saw a big uptick in playing time as the No. 3 safety in 2016 (32 tackles, 3 pass deflections) after two years at cornerback, on and off the roster and the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad. His versatility is nice, but it remains to be seen if he has a long-term future at the back end of the secondary.

March 4: The Eagles placed a second-round restricted free agent tender on tight end Trey Burton.

Everything from an emergency long snapper to Carson Wentz’s security blanket as the No. 3 tight end in 2016, Burton is a reliable, if unspectacular, short-yardage pass target and special teamer. He’s obviously valued, as the Eagles would get a second-round pick in the event Burton signs another team’s offer. Even for an upped cost of about $2.81 million, why wouldn’t the team hang onto one of its core role players? Burton, an undrafted pickup in 2014, had career highs in catches (37) and yards (327) with Wentz.

Feb. 8: The Eagles released cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

A salary cap casualty whose departure saves the Birds $3.2 million, according to ESPN and NFL Network, the former Buffalo Bills first-rounder was ailing in his lone Eagles season, missing three games and struggling to keep up in others. He had his moments (2 INTs, 1 TD), especially for a low-cost veteran who fit coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense, but he was bound to be the latest in a growing list of free-agent corners to come and go. McKelvin, 31, had energy but was an inevitable subtraction from the long-term “D.”


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