The Philadelphia Eagles surprised everyone with their success this season, finishing atop the NFC East with a 10-6 record. Heading into the season, nobody knew if Chip Kelly’s system would work, and even if it did, most though it would take a year or two to turn the Eagles into competitors again. But due to a strong offseason, the Eagles were able to avoid another losing season.
The Eagles front office went to work early in the offseason, by cutting players, like Nnamdi Asomugha, who had large cap numbers and were not good people to have in the locker room. Howie Roseman and Tom Gamble then proceeded to sign solid veteran players, who they did not have to break the bank to sign, such as Bradley Fletcher and Connor Barwin. This year, the Eagles front office will need to do more of the same because, while the Eagles found success last season, the Eagles still have huge holes to fill, if they want to build off of their success this year.
One of the issues the Eagles will have is cutting their own players. Players like Trent Cole and Jason Avant, who did a lot of good for the Eagles last year, may need to be cut in order for the Eagles to improve their roster. Trent Cole was a great locker room guy and worked really hard to become a 3-4 OLB, but if the Eagles want to continue to improve, they may need to cut Cole, in order to upgrade at that position. The Eagles front office will be tasked to put aside their feelings for their players in order to improve, because if they don’t and place their loyalty first…well they can ask the Philadelphia Phillies how that works out.
The three biggest holes the Eagles have is: Safety, Wide Receiver, and Outside Linebacker.
The Eagles have not had a good safety since the departure of Brian Dawkins. While the Eagles have had their
chances to fix this issue, passing on Earl Thomas for Brandon Graham, the Eagles have not been successful. If the Eagles want to continue to improve on their strong defensive efforts down the stretch, the Eagles will need to fix their issue at safety, and lucky for them, there are some good safeties on the market. Starting at the top, Jairus Byrd and TJ Ward are the best two options on the market and will demand top dollar. If the Eagles don’t want to spend top dollar for either of these players, player like Donte Whitner (or should I say “Hitner”) or Bernard Pollard would be solid buys for the Eagles.
The issue of wide receiver for the Eagles is a bit different because the Eagles don’t need to use the open market to fill this hole, rather they can focus on retaining their own. Both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are set to hit the open market this offseason. Maclin, who was projected for a career year, tore his ACL in training camp and missed the whole season. Riley Cooper thrived in his role as the second wide receiver and had a breakout season. The Eagles should look to bring both players back and, by doing so, they would fill the hole at this position. If they are not able to bring both Cooper and Maclin back, the Eagles have some depth at the position and they can hope a player like, Arrelious Benn could step up, or the Eagles could look to the draft to acquire another wide receiver.
Outside Linebacker is a trickier need for the Eagles, because, technically, the Eagles are paying two players, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole, like starters. Barwin had a fantastic season, while Trent Cole struggled at first, but came on late. But the Eagles could really use an upgrade at this position in order to keep the defense from taking a step back. If the Eagles do cut Trent Cole, the Eagles will free up cap space and they will have an opening to sign a starting 3-4 OLB. A player like Shaun Phillips or Jason Worilds are two players that may entice the Eagles because they are 3-4 OLB who are good at applying pressure on the quarterback, which is something the Eagles desperately need to improve on.
The Philadelphia Eagles exceeded the expectations of many last year, but if they want to build off of their success, they will need to have another strong offseason, and that starts with free agency. The Eagles do not need to fill all of their needs through free agency, they just need to fill a few so that they don’t feel handcuffed during the draft.