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Thread: Eagles' offseason to-do list

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    Eagles' offseason to-do list

    by Zach Berman
    philly.com

    The positions on the Eagles roster that caused griping on barstools, talk radio airwaves, and online comment sections were relayed to Howie Roseman last week as team needs: wide receiver, cornerback, running back. Roseman nodded as each position was mentioned before quickly interjecting.

    "I wasn't nodding toward the positions," Roseman said. "I was just nodding toward the question."

    Roseman understood that what he says is dispersed around the NFL, and he doesn't "want to give the answers to the test to anyone."

    Of course, there was 16 games' worth of evidence showing what the Eagles need. But just in case, here is a study guide for the test about the Eagles' offseason:

    Wide receiver

    The Eagles stuck with youth at the position in 2016, and it did not work out. Jordan Matthews' production declined in his third year (73 catches, 804 yards, four touchdowns) while he fought an ankle injury in the final month. The top two outside receivers - Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham - couldn't even combine to reach those numbers.

    Look for the Eagles to be active upgrading this position in both free agency and the draft. Chicago's Alshon Jeffery is the top pending free agent, but the Bears could apply the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year. The Eagles could also be priced out if he hits the market.

    They could look for a reunion with DeSean Jackson, who had 56 catches for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson turned 30, so the question is how productive he'll be entering his 10th NFL season. Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor (77 catches, 1,007 yards, four touchdowns); Los Angeles' Kenny Britt (68 catches, 1,002 yards, five touchdowns); and Miami's Kenny Stills (42 catches, 726 yards, nine touchdowns) will be among the other top names on the market.

    Clemson's Mike Williams is the top draft-eligible wide receiver, with Washington's John Ross, Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Southern California's JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook also likely to draw interest in the top two rounds.

    Cornerbacks

    Roseman admitted the Eagles went the "Band-Aid" route at cornerback, trying to get by in 2016 with Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. This is a position the Eagles must upgrade in 2017, and Jalen Mills might be the only cornerback sure to return.

    The Eagles signed two cornerbacks from Buffalo last offseason, but the Bills have the cornerback who might be the most attractive free agent in March: Stephen Gilmore. He was the No. 10 pick in the 2012 draft, is only 26, and has started 66 career games - including nine for Jim Schwartz in 2013. He had a career-high five interceptions in 2016.

    Other pending free agents of interest are Los Angeles' Trumaine Johnson, Oakland's D.J. Hayden, Houston's A.J. Bouye, Cincinnati's Dre Kirkpatrick, and New England's Logan Ryan (a Voorhees native).

    This is considered a deep draft class at cornerback, so it would be prudent for the Eagles to look in that direction. They haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round since Lito Sheppard in 2002.

    Florida cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are both top prospects, along with Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Washington's Sidney Jones, Iowa's Desmond King, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, and Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley. Not all of them have declared for the draft.

    Running back

    Ryan Mathews is recovering from major neck surgery, counts $5 million against the salary cap, and will turn 30 in October. The Eagles will likely need to find another running back who can join Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood.

    Free agency is not often fruitful for running backs, and it's unlikely that Pittsburgh Steelers star Le'Veon Bell will hit the open market. After Bell, Oakland's Latavius Murray (788 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) is the top pending free agent at the position.

    Fortunately for the Eagles, this is another year of depth at running back in the draft. LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook are potential franchise running backs who would be worthy of first-round picks like Ezekiel Elliott last season. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey is also a decorated prospect, along with a bevy of running backs who could be attractive on Day 2 of the draft.

    Free agents

    Only two Eagles starters are pending free agents: defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Nolan Carroll. Logan, 27, is a homegrown player who has started since 2013 and wants to stay in Philadelphia. The Eagles already have significant financial commitments on the defensive line, though, and Logan could generate interest if he hits the open market.

    Carroll started all 16 games this season, although the Eagles are expected to make changes at cornerback.

    The other unrestricted free agents are offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, defensive end Bryan Braman, and linebackers Najee Goode and Stephen Tulloch.

    Tight end Trey Burton and running back Kenjon Barner are restricted free agents, so the Eagles can offer them one-year tenders and have the right of first refusal if they sign elsewhere. Safety Jaylen Watkins is an exclusive- rights free agent, so he will stay in Philadelphia.

    Roster decisions

    The Eagles must decide whether to bring back some expensive veterans or make them salary cap casualties.

    The biggest decision is left tackle Jason Peters, who will count $11.2 million against the salary cap if he's on the roster. Roseman said Wednesday that he "certainly" wants Peters back. But at what price? Peters also has a decision to make on his end considering he turns 35 this month and already has a Hall of Fame resumé. Peters started all 16 games and played at a high level this season.

    Defensive end Connor Barwin counts $8.35 million against the cap, and the Eagles would save $7.75 million if they released him. Barwin, 30, has created a home in Philadelphia and wants to stay; he could be a candidate for a restructured contract.

    The Eagles would save $4 million of Mathews' $5 million cap number if they released him. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who saw his playing time diminish this season, counts $6.6 million against the salary cap and the Eagles could save $5 million if they cut him after June 1.

    Resources

    The salary cap space will look different in March because of trades, cuts, and salary maneuvering. The cap is also expected to grow in 2017, and the Eagles can carry over $8.22 million. They won't be flush with money, but it won't be as dire as it appears now, when the Eagles are projected to have among the least amount of space in the league.

    The Eagles also have eight draft picks. The first-round pick, which is from Minnesota, will be No. 14 or No. 15, depending on a coin toss. They have their original picks in Rounds 2-7 and a pick from Cleveland that will be in either the fourth or fifth round, depending on compensatory selections.
    ...
    Last edited by Talon_60; 01-07-2017 at 02:48 PM.
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