The Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to terms with four players as of this writing: the top two via former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing of last season’s punter, Donnie Jones, to three-year contracts worth $16.5 million and $5.5 million, respectively. Second-tier signings have begun to roll in as the team agreed to contracts with former Seattle Seahawks safety/special teamer Chris Maragos (three years, $4 million) and former Houston Texans linebacker/special teamer Bryan Braman (two years, $3.5 million) on Wednesday morning.
While Jenkins clearly has the fastest road to playing time (sans Jones, of course) and he’ll likely end up as one of the Eagles starting safeties, these signings all leave the Philadelphia Eagles in the same position they were prior to free agency opening. Safety, outside linebacker (pass rusher, specifically), and cornerback were the most oft-discussed positions, and none of them can be checked off as addressed just yet after considering the additions.
Cornerback is the easiest to dissect, as the team has yet to add a player at that position. Short and sweet, yet effective. It remains to be seen if the Eagles have any interest in remaining players, but there are plenty of players capable of stepping in still available like Antoine Cason (Arizona Cardinals), Walter Thurmond III (Seattle Seahawks), Captain Munnerlyn (Carolina Panthers), and Chris Cook (Minnesota Vikings).
Outside linebacker was lightly addressed, but the impact that Bryan Braman will have (and is primarily intended to have) is geared more around special teams. Chip Kelly has said that Braman will have the opportunity to compete at OLB, but it’s most likely that the level of competition is versus Josh Kaddu, not Trent Cole. What happens with Brandon Graham, who is entering a contract year, is still up in the air but there is still no clear heir apparent to Trent Cole on the roster. Unfortunately, the players who would have gotten the Eagles closest to addressing their need were retained by their current teams when Jason Worilds signed his franchise tag with the Pittsburgh Steelers before free agency opened and Mike Neal agreed to a two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers early Wednesday evening.
As far as safety goes, the Eagles actually hurt their numbers (read: numbers, not effectiveness) at safety before Jenkins was signed when they released Patrick Chung from his contract shortly after 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday. Sure, it’s as close as addition by subtraction as the team could get, but after already losing three safeties to the open market (Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson) the team was already thin there. The good news is that Chris Maragos’ signing effectively replaces Colt Anderson, who was primarily on the roster for his play on special teams. That role is clear enough to pinpoint. While Malcolm Jenkins is not Nate Allen, and in my opinion is certainly an upgrade from him, he comes the closest to Allen’s play style of the two. The team is still two safeties away from where the roster ended up as last season, and it’s difficult to see the team placing full trust in 2013 fifth-round pick Earl Wolff as a long-term starter yet.
The good news is that the Eagles still have considerable time (just under two months) before the 2014 NFL Draft, and still have all of their assets for any potential means of filling these voids. The Eagles aren’t done in free agency, either, but if in the worst case scenario these needs remain constant until the Draft, there are players in each round and position who would immediately make up for any lack of activity (or interest) towards open market signings. If you thought waiting for the start of free agency was anguishing, now isn’t the best time to look at your calendar.