by Mario Granata
Now that the Chip Kelly experiment is over in Philadelphia, the Eagles are primed to start anew, with a completely revamped coaching staff and a new direction as they head into 2016. The one thing that is working in the Eagles favor is that new coach Doug Pederson doesn’t have a resume large enough for the rest of the league to calculate his tendencies, although he should have the pulse of Philly having coached there under Andy Reid from 2009-2012. As for the fans of Philadelphia, there might not be any ‘Brotherly Love’ if the Eagles stumble out of the starting blocks in a questionable NFC East.
Head Coach: Doug Pederson
Career Record: 0-0
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Frank Reich
12th YPG, 12th Pass, 14th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Jim Schwartz
30th YPG, 28th Pass, 32nd Rush
The Eagles were a mess last year. They had a fire sale of talent that left the team and signed two running backs in an offense that was wide open. Did Chip Kelly do it to preserve DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews? Who knows the real reason why? Philadelphia has seemed to ‘reset’ itself and by bringing in Pederson, fellow AFC West rival OC Frank Reich and DC Jim Schwartz from his 1 year hiatus, the Eagles, at least from a coaching standpoint seem to be headed in the right direction. Reich proceeded over an offense that was ranked 9th in total yards, most of that through the air, but he now had Murray, Matthews and Darren Sproles out of the backfield to rectify that area. Schwartz has a talented group of playmakers and hopefully he can bring some of that magic that made the 2014 Buffalo Bills the 4th ranked defense in the league.
The Eagles currently stand at around 26 million under the salary cap, with that number expected to rise. The number one focus for GM Howie Roseman will be OT Jason Peters. Peters is set to make close to 10 million for the 2016 season and is signed through the 2018 season. He is currently 34 and his skill set is one that seems more suitable at guard. With that shift happening around the league (tackles moving inside) he will have to restructure his deal if he still wants to collect a paycheck in the NFL. Looming is a post-June 1st cut that would save the Eagles nearly 9 million if they choose to do so. All indications point to the Eagles moving on, and Roseman’s 2015 vacation is over and he needs to free up some space, since both the Chiefs and Chargers have free agent targets who are familiar with Pederson and Reich. Details of his contract are below:
Let’s be honest here, with the limited amount of cap space that the Eagles have and the need to free up some more space, they don’t really need to spend any time worrying about their current free agents. Sam Bradford will not be resigned for what he is asking. Bradford has just as good a chance of being paid top dollar as Kanye West has does opening gofundme account. Oh wait.
As mentioned earlier Roseman’s one-year ‘leave of absence’ is over and it’s time for him and his scouts to find some talent in the draft. The most notable names on the Eagles radar could be Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State, Taylor Decker, T, Ohio State, Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech, and Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota. Now, personally, due to the connections that Pederson and Schwartz have in the NFL and the uncertainty of Peters, all of these picks could swing in another direction depending on the free agent moves that the Eagles could make, but for the sake of argument, lets examine the players mentioned.
Big 10 schools are historically known for their run games, and with the failed attempt that Reich had with a Big 10 running back in San Diego (google Melvin Gordon) they could figure out that the running game starts with the horses up front. Either Conklin or Decker have the potential to be career Eagles and stay at that position for the next decade if Philadelphia moves on from Peters and feel that they need a tackle that bad. Both Conklin and Decker have attributes that cannot be measured and motors that don’t stop, especially late in the game.
Butler is an interesting pick for Philly at 13. IF they take Butler, this should tell you two things. Schwartz has more pull in Philadelphia then we originally thought, and Schwartz will try to build what he previously had in Buffalo. With the Bills he had Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, and Mario Williams, but the staple of that group was Marcell Dareus holding things down in the middle. The Eagles will likely move from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and Schwartz’s philosophy is to generate a push with his front four and let the other seven be athletes and make plays. What he discovered in Buffalo was that the front four could be playmakers as well. The Eagles could select Butler and put him with Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thorton and Bennie Logan and have four players under the age of 27 that would be a force and give them instant credibility.
The wild card is Wentz. Impressive and a guy who can take some hits and still stay in the game while the offensive line gets sorted out. With Pederson and Reich both being former quarterbacks, he would have a wealth of knowledge to pull from and develop faster than any other rookie quarterback this season. If the Eagles don’t sign Bradford (which they won’t) or have any faith in Sanchez (which they probably don’t) they could snag Wentz. The last first round quarterback that the Eagles selected was back in 1999 when they took Donovan McNabb coincidentally in Andy Reid’s first season as head coach. Could the same fate befall Wentz and Pederson?
With the cap space that the Eagles have and the previously mentioned familiarity that the current coaching staff has with their previous teams, Philadelphia could have some quality players on their radar, albeit unproven talent that is just waiting to erupt.
If the Eagles need a quarterback, look no further than Pederson’s previous team, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles could take their pick of Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray or Tyler Bray. Daniel spend much of his career backing up Drew Brees and Alex Smith, and there is a reason that this guy has been in the league 8 years and never had any significant playing time as a starter: he gets it. If the Eagles are looking for a quarterback who can get the ball to the playmakers and take care of the ball as well, he has had a front row seat for Brees and Smith.
Murray’s college career was one injury away from him being a first round pick, and the Chiefs took him during Pederson’s tenure there because they saw something in the kid. He could be a guy who comes in with familiarity of the offense that is being implemented and make it successful.
Bray is the most interesting of the group seeing as he has been injured twice and the Chiefs have still held onto him. Not many teams in the NFL have 3 quarterbacks let alone 4, and even though Bray is under contract (as is Murray) the Eagles could get next to nothing for him and he has all the tools that both Pederson and Reich would want in a starter.
Now, of the bunch, Daniel is the leading candidate seeing as he is the only free agent, so look for the Eagles to at least give him a look. If the Eagles don’t sign Bradford and cut Sanchez, they could pick up Daniel and draft another quarterback and not have to worry about that position absorbing a lot of cap space while they roll over cap to build in other areas.
A Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)
On the Clock: 2015 Philadelphia Eagles