Soaring into the offseason


Prasham Jobanputra

Upgrade Time: After barely sneaking into the playoffs this past season, the Eagles will have a lot of questions this offseason as they try to upgrade at some positions and replace certain players.

Free agency is upon us!  With the Kansas City Chiefs being crowned Super Bowl champions back in February and the Scouting Combine recently concluding, the official start of the 101st NFL season is just weeks away.  The official starting date is March 18th, at 4 pm EST, though announcements can often occur up to two days prior. Following the big name players and where they might end up is an entirely different kind of thrill than an actual NFL game, and some of the larger scale announcements generate unprecedented levels of hype.

With all of that being said, who should the Philadelphia Eagles pursue in free agency this year?  If you followed the team throughout last season, it was painfully obvious that there were three areas the team needed major improvements in.  The Eagles wide receivers struggled to catch passes, their cornerbacks couldn’t cover most receivers, and while not as glaring of an issue, their linebackers were certainly underperforming.

In the wide receiver department, there are certainly some intriguing options this year, with the most prominent name being Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper.  Cooper put up 1,189 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns last season, both of which were top 10 in the NFL. In contrast, the Eagles top receiver, Alshon Jeffery, could only muster 490 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.  It’s worth noting that this was only through 10 games, but Cooper’s average yards per game tower over Jeffery’s either way.

The downside to Amari Cooper, however, is the price tag.  Cooper will undoubtedly want to be paid handsomely, which would hinder how much more the Eagles could do in free agency.  Should general manager, Howie Roseman, want to play conservatively, there are still some good options. They could sign Jets receiver Robby Anderson to add more youth to the group, or bring in Emmanuel Sanders from the 49ers to possibly act as a mentor to the Eagles own young receivers.  Either option would certainly benefit the Eagles, and would also allow them to pursue players in other areas of need thanks to the reduced cost.

As for linebackers, the Eagles have clearly shown that they are willing to replace current players with new ones, as shown with their decision to not resign Nigel Bradham.  It’s unclear if this means that Kamu Grugier-Hill, another Eagles linebacker set to enter free agency, will suffer the same fate, but resigning him would keep a key player involved in the Eagles defense.  

By far the biggest name among the linebackers is Shaquil Barrett from the Buccaneers, who led the league in sacks last year.  However, there are currently whispers of the Bucs strongly considering using their franchise tag on him, so it’s likely that he won’t be an option soon enough.  Other options include Matt Judon from the Ravens, Kyle Van Noy from the Patriots, or Dante Fowler Jr. from the Rams.

Finally, there’s the Eagles cornerback issues.  Arguably more of a problem than their receivers, the Eagles should strongly consider addressing it during free agency, and possibly in the draft as well.  There are plenty of solid cornerbacks in free agency this year, so it would be shocking if the Eagles couldn’t land at least one of them. But before the Eagles start looking at other players, they should first strongly consider resigning Jalen Mills.  Mills may not have played great last season, but he is still the best cornerback the Eagles have. If they can put a better cornerback in coverage against the opponent’s top receiver instead of Mills, it’s not hard to imagine him performing better.

So, who should that better cornerback be?  If the Eagles are looking for young talent, they could try Byron Jones from the Cowboys, Kendall Fuller from the Chiefs, or Brian Poole from the Jets.  Alternatively, they could add a veteran player like Chris Harris Jr. from the Broncos, Prince Amukamara from the Bears, or Jimmy Smith from the Ravens.  However, there are often trades that occur during free agency, and Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay Jr. has been mentioned in trade talks since the trade deadline last season.  It would certainly come with a high cost, but trading for Slay could solve the Eagles cornerback problems altogether.

There are undoubtedly other moves the Eagles could make during free agency, such as adding depth to their offensive line, or signing a young safety to replace Malcolm Jenkins, but most Eagles fans would agree that these three areas are of utmost importance.  Hopefully we aren’t left to a chorus of crickets this time around like we were at the end of the trade deadline last season.