5 Cost-Effective Moves Philadelphia Eagles Should Make This Offseason
The Philadelphia Eagles enter the offseason with a pretty good roster intact. The core of the team is set with Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and the offensive line all signed through 2014 and beyond. General manager Howie Roseman has done an underrated job managing the salary cap, and the Eagles now have nearly $20 million to spend.
For now, the team could use a couple of elite players to push it over the edge. The NFL draft would be a prime opportunity to address that. Chip Kelly can get a big wide receiver, a stud pass-rusher or a playmaking safety.
In the meantime, Philly could afford to adjust a handful of contracts to maximize the talent on the '14 roster.
Trade Bryce Brown
This may come as a surprise, but the Philadelphia Eagles would be wise to look into trading Bryce Brown.
The running back isn’t an ideal fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, and unofficially he was demoted to the No. 3 running back spot by the end of 2013.
Brown has plenty that could intrigue a potential suitor. He’s big, strong and fast, and he’s still just 22 years old, even after two NFL seasons. Brown has a lifetime average of 4.2 yards per carry. He’s one of only two running backs (Adrian Peterson is the other) to rush for a 65-yard touchdown in each of the past two seasons.
His weaknesses are obvious: He bounces every run to the outside and all but refuses to run between the tackles. As a result, a great number of his carries are for negative yards. Of his 190 lifetime carries, 18.4 percent have been negative plays.
By comparison, in 2012, LeSean McCoy was stopped for a loss 15.5 percent of the time.
So what could the Eagles get for Brown?
Considering he’s signed for two more seasons at nearly the NFL minimum and he has high upside, Kelly could probably get around a fourth-round pick for Brown, like the New Orleans Saints were able to get for Chris Ivory a year ago.
Restructure Trent Cole’s Contract
The Philadelphia Eagles have to be pleasantly surprised with the performance from Trent Cole this past season. Entering his ninth NFL campaign, Cole was asked to make the switch from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker in Billy Davis’ new defense.
Cole began the season with no sacks in his first nine games but ended with eight in his last seven. He finished with 28 quarterback pressures, rating as Pro Football Focus’s seventh overall 3-4 outside linebacker (subscription required). Cole was pretty effective against the run as well.
He’s a valuable part of the Eagles’ defense, and he’s due to make a $5 million base salary in 2014. He has a $6.8 million total cap hit, and he will likely need to restructure that to return.
Those figures jump up to $11.6 million against the cap in ’15, $12.6 million in ’16, and $14 million in ’17.
Even if Cole survives next year, he'll have to restructure at some point.
Trade Brandon Graham
The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t gotten the results they hoped for from 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham. After a semi-breakout season a year ago, Graham stalled in ’13 when he transitioned to a 3-4 outside linebacker role.
Graham is due to make $3.2 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract. He’s made it very clear he wants to start, and a team that plays a 4-3 defense may be interested in trading for him. Graham saw his playing time slashed this past season, appearing in just 331 snaps after seeing 435 the year before.
Via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, there has been talk of the Miami Dolphins trading last year’s third overall pick, Dion Jordan, to Philly. Jordan really struggled in his first season in the NFL, picking up just two sacks and 18 hurries. He didn’t get much playing time behind All-Pro Cameron Wake and breakout player Olivier Vernon.
Should the Dolphins be interested, trading Graham and a first-round pick may be a good fit to acquire Jordan.
If not, the Eagles should see what they can do about trading Graham to a 4-3 defense interested in an end.
Restructure Cary Williams' Contract
When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Cary Williams to a three-year, $17.5 million deal last offseason, they had to know they would be restructuring or releasing him before the end of that contract.
After all, Williams is set to make a $4.75 million base salary in 2014 with $6.4 million against the cap. The following year, those totals jump up to $6.5 million and $8.2 million.
That’s way too much money to pay a cornerback who isn’t a Pro Bowler.
Williams is a solid starter who played surprisingly well last year. He lowered his passer rating allowed by 18 points from the previous season and recorded three interceptions.
The Eagles have to bring him back next year, although that’s a big base salary. But they'll just have to restructure if they want him back in 2015 and beyond.
Sign T.J. Ward
But it’s worth paying for top talent at this position.
The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had a quality safety since Quintin Mikell left following the 2010 season, and they’ve failed to replace either him or Brian Dawkins.
Ward rated as Pro Football Focus’ third overall safety in 2013. He’s the top safety against the run, and he held opposing quarterbacks to a 61.3 passer rating. He was one of just 11 safeties with multiple sacks and interceptions this past season.
Simply put, Philly needs to add a player of Ward’s caliber.
The Eagles may have to pay big money, perhaps to the tune of $7-8 million per season. But it’s time that defensive coordinator Billy Davis gets a Pro Bowl talent on his defense.