FREE AGENCY EDITION: Special Teams focus

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Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles kicker Alex Henery (6) and punter Donnie Jones (8) react after a missed field goal against the New Orleans Saints during the first half 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The first names you think of when thinking the Philadelphia Eagles and their special teams are  punter Donnie Jones and kicker Alex Henery.    Donnie Jones is currently a free agent, but not due to lack of love and respect from the fans.   Everybody knows his name, helped by the fact that he was twice named as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.    Despite his age (he will be 34 this year) he has set the franchise record for net punting average with 40.4 yards per punt.  That is 1.4 yards better than Sav Rocco’s 39.0 best set in 2010.

So it looks like the Eagles have an established punting game.  But there is one problem.   Donnie Jones is now a free agent and the Eagles have not made any indications of their interest in resigning Jones back to the team.     Everyone expects this to happen, but there have been stranger things happen when a highly productive player hits free agency.

The Eagles will likely try to resign Jones.  But should that prove impossible, there are a number of known punters currently not signed.   Expect the team to offer contracts to as many as three punters for training camp and to sign the best of the bunch to a two year deal.

Alex Henery is in the final year of his contract, and coming off a year where he regressed.  In 2013, he ranked 27th in NFL kickers with an average kickoff of just 64.7 yards.  Per Pro Football Focus, he was ranked 31st out of 32 kickers.    Statistically, that is unacceptable.   Look for the Eagles to bring in a kicker to compete with Henery, and even replace him in 2014.

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  • Ryan

    How can you call boykin a lagger he was far and away the best gunner on the team and a lot of guys felt he was one of the best in the league. Also we have been in negotiations with Jones agent during this legal tampering period. We cannot sign him to anything more than veteran minimum until Tuesday at 4. All signs point to us having a deal signed at that time. I don’t know where you get your facts but there wrong. I usually like your stories but this one is filled with holes

  • Bret Stuter

    Thank you for your comments. The article is specific to special teams, and as cited I used the grading system of PFF. Special Teams is unlike true defense, as it requires speed, tackling, and a component of reckless abandon. In special team coverage, Boykin did not excel as he did as a slot cornerback – where he was one of the best in the NFL.
    As far as the information of Donnie Jones, if you see the statement of the article, I referred to actual team statements. The assumption was, all along, that Donnie Jones would be a high priority in free agency and as we now know, it was.
    Thanks for your comments. Free Agency is underway for Philadelphia and so far, the measured activity appears to be taking the Eagles in the right direction.