The Philadelphia Eagles and their situation at the safety position has been discussed ad nauseam not only this offseason, but since 2008, and not without reason. The team has failed to fill the departure of former Eagles great Brian Dawkins with an adequate replacement after many attempts, and while it’s clear that the Philadelphia brass hope to address their longstanding issues in the secondary in some capacity this offseason, is it even in their control?
If none of the safeties who played on the Eagles roster in 2013 are re-signed, the only safeties on the roster this offseason will be Keelan Johnson, Earl Wolff, and Patrick Chung. With Chung widely expected to be released, that leaves safety as a barren wasteland in Philadelphia. Wolff appears promising, but a knee injury hampered what looked to be a promising rookie season.
The Buffalo Bills are reportedly interested in retaining potential-free agent safety Jairus Byrd by any means necessary, including using the franchise tag per NFL.com. The former Oregon safety is widely regarded as the top safety target in free agency that would be a potentially good fit for the Eagles, but he would also command top dollar.
The Cleveland Browns also have a top safety who they are reportedly interested in re-signing with T.J. Ward, per FOX Sports. If Byrd and Ward are retained by their respective teams, the Eagles will be out of luck at acquiring a proven top available safety but still have alternative options in the second-tier of signings.
Do the next-best safeties like Chris Clemons (Miami Dolphins), Mike Mitchell (Carolina Panthers), Major Wright (Chicago Bears) or Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans Saints) strike fear in the hearts of offensive coordinators? Will they be enough for fans, not unlike myself, still bitter after five full seasons over a legend’s departure if they can’t land a top target? This is where I believe the team ends up, regardless of Byrd or Ward’s availability.
It makes sense not to overcommit in free agency, and if they can get a bargain on a middle-level safety or two while still keeping their options open in the draft, it’d be the best outcome possible. This Eagles team is about competition, and you wouldn’t be able to realistically create starting competition with a Byrd or Ward-type contract if they were signed.
Lastly, if the Eagles are interested in acquiring a rookie safety, the field is open. This appears to be a stronger safety class than typical of recent years, likely since the 2010 NFL Draft which spawned Eric Berry, Earl Thomas and late-round steal Kam Chancellor. This year, the prospects often linked to the Eagles are Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward. Even late round prospects like Vanderbilt’s Kenny Ladler and Louisville’s Hakeem Smith are sure to generate some interest.
Which safety combination of draft picks and rookies would you be satisfied with? For me, there’s no definitive combination. What it boils down to is that the Eagles have fielded five years of teams since Dawkins left town, and not one of the safeties on any of those teams were worthy of filling the shoes of #20. It’s time for that wait to end. I don’t care how, Eagles, just get a safety who is.