The Philadelphia Eagles signed five players within the first hours of free agency, adding fullback/tight end James Casey from the Houston Texans, cornerback Bradley Fletcher from the St. Louis Rams, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga from the San Francisco 49ers, safety Patrick Chung from the New England Patriots and linebacker Jason Phillips from the Carolina Panthers.
1. James Casey, 28: Casey is known for his versatility, something new head coach Chip Kelly desperately seeks in his offensive players. Casey can play fullback or tight end.
In 2012, Casey played in all 16 games and registered 34 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns. He was named to the USA Today All-Joe team following the season.
He will likely be the backup to Brent Celek. It's unknown what the role of Clay Harbor will be in the 2013 offense.
2. Bradley Fletcher, 26: Fletcher is one of the more under-the-radar free-agent cornerbacks, but he's had some success with the Rams. He barely played in 2011, suffering a torn ACL after week four, but he was a pretty good corner in 2012 and 2010.
He allowed a 55.8 passer rating last season and a 68.6 passer rating in 2010. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 0.52 passing yards per snap last year, the best total in the league.
He nailed down 20 of 22 tackle attempts last season and collected 62 tackles in 65 attempts in 2010.
That's a phenomenal rate, and it's obviously a major improvement over Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. In fact, Fletcher has missed just six tackles in his entire career. By comparison, Mychal Kendricks missed six tackles in ONE game last season (the loss to Pittsburgh). Kurt Coleman missed 15 tackles throughout the season.
He will definitely be a week one starter.
3. Isaac Sopoaga, 31: brings eight years of experience from the San Francisco 49ers, and he possesses the ability to fill the nose tackle role that the Eagles so desperately need. He'll be 32 at the start of next season, but he's been very durable, playing in 124 of a possible 128 games since he was drafted in 2004.
For what it's worth, he rated as the fourth-worst defensive tackle in the NFL in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. He was especially weak against the run.
4. Patrick Chung, 25: has an instant connection to Chip Kelly because he played for him at the University of Oregon. A second-round draft pick by the New England Patriots in 2009, Chung has 152 tackles and seven interceptions in his career.
He allowed just a 56.4 passer rating last season.
Chung has played both free and strong safety. He'll definitely be a starter in 2013.
5. Jason Phillips, 27: was a fifth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009, but never lived up to his potential. He played all 16 games for the Carolina Panthers last year, collecting eight tackles.
Phillips has experience playing in a 3-4 defense and could compete for a starting job at outside linebacker, but I think there's a better chance that he opens the season as a backup, also contributing on special teams.
Of the five new players signed by the Eagles, three were signed to three-year deals (Casey, Chung and Sopoaga) and two were signed to two-year deals (Phillips and Fletcher).
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