With free agency right around the corner, the Eagles have tons of holes to fill, especially on the defense side of the ball. The Eagles also have $30+ million of salary available. This will be the first offseason for the new Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly, and the first time in 14 years where the Eagles will be looking for 3-4 defenders.There are plenty of players on the market for the Eagles to go after to help their defense, but like everyone in this free agent class, everyone has their own issues that could drive teams away. Below, I will go through which players the Eagles should target on defense for every position of need.
Nose Tackle: Under Andy Reid, the Eagles ran a 4-3 defense and played small and fast up front. Because of this philosophy, the Eagles don’t have a player on their roster who can effectively step into the lineup and start at NT for the 2013 season.
- Casey Hampton: Hampton is an older player who would bring a veteran presence to the Eagles young line. Hampton is an 11 year veteran and he would only receive a one or two year deal, possibly with an option and a lot of performance bonuses. Hampton would be brought in to bridge the Eagles into the future either by mentoring a player the Eagles draft or fill the role until the Eagles draft a player next year to fill that position.
- Terrance Knighton: Knighton is a big, young player who can instantly fill the Eagles hole at nose tackle. Knighton is 26 years old, 6’3” and weighs in at 330 lbs. Knighton is from around the Philadelphia area, attending Temple, and he is widely regarded as the top NT on the market. Knighton would come in and anchor the Eagles line for at least the 2013 season and potentially for many years to come.
- Isaac Sopoaga: Sopoaga would also bring a veteran presence to the Eagles line. Sopoaga has spent his entire 8 year career in the Bay Area and has been the anchor to their 3-4 defense for a long time. The 49ers defense has been one of the best and most physical in the league for the last two years and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring someone in who has played in a top tier defense. Also, the Eagles have hired Tom Gamble as the VP of player personnel. Gamble was previously the director of player personnel for the 49ers.
Cornerback: With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie unlikely to return and the impending release of Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles might be in the market for two starting caliber cornerbacks. There are definitely corners available, but all of them seem to have they’re question marks. Here are my top 3 corners in this year’s free agent class.
- Brent Grimes: Grimes is without a doubt the best corner available on the market this year. Grimes has shown over his 4 years in the league that he is a great corner, especially in zone coverage. On tape he looks a bit like Asante Samuel, but the difference is that he doesn’t make nearly as many bad gambles. The question surrounding Grimes is how he will return from his Achilles injury week 1 which didn’t allow him to play for the rest of the year. Grimes will be looking for a short contract with a lot of performance bonuses to help regain his value.
- Sean Smith: Smith is a very big, young corner with some top notch speed. Smith is 25 years old and measures in at 6’4”. Smith has shown throughout his young career that he has the ability and the talent to be the best in the league, but his inconsistent play is the reason he isn’t apart of the ‘best corner in the league” conversation. Smith has the two things you can’t coach, speed and size, and with good instruction Smith can become one of the best corners in the league.
- Aqib Talib: Talib played well for the Patriots this year and he showed his ability to cover the top receivers on any team. Just like every cornerback available, besides Grimes, Talib’s play is inconsistent. Coupled with his inconsistency, Talib is a problem off the field. Talib has the most question marks, which will drop his value, but he also has a great amount of upside. Talib is a perfect example of a “high risk-high reward signing”.
Safeties: Since the departure of Brian Dawkins, the Eagles safeties have been disastrous. Last year Eagles’ safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen ranked in the top ten for missed tackles in the NFL. The Eagles desperately need a solid safety who they can rely on in the pass game, but also in run support. Luckily for the Eagles there are some good options on the market this year.
- Dashon Goldson: As a fan of hard hitting, smash mouth defense, Goldson excites me the most. Goldson is no stranger to to heavy contact, but he also very good against the pass. Goldson is the most complete safety on the market and he is also fairly young (28). Signing Goldson should be the Eagles number one priority this off season.
- William Moore: Moore is another good safety. Moore likes to play down hill and loves to make huge hits on running backs. Moore looks like a linebacker at times because of the physicality of his play. Moore’s only down side is that he is average in pass defense. A lot like Goldson, Moore would bring a solid, physical presence to the Eagles backfield.
- Adrian Wilson: A bit older (33) than Moore (27) and Goldson (28), but he is still a solid option for any team searching for a safety. Wilson has been a mark of consistency throughout his career with his ability to play down hill. What worries me is the fact that Wilson has shown a bit of a decline over the last year or so. If the Eagles miss out on Moore and Goldson, they should take a long look at Adrian Wilson.