In free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles did address their shortcomings in the defensive backfield. With starters of cornerbacks Brandon Fletcher, Cary Williams, returning with safeties Nate Allen and Eric Wolff, the Eagles faced only the departure of erratic safety Patrick Chung. But with the arrival of safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Caroll, the Eagles have significantly improved their defensive backside.
The bane of 2013 was a defense that simply did not have enough cover players to line up against the multiple receiver sets rapidly becoming commonplace in NFL offenses. Patrick Chung was a liability in coverage, and teams exploited matchups routinely by setting Chung in space in pass defense.
With the arrival of a much stronger cover safety in Jenkins, and with a greatly underrated Caroll, the Eagles now have the personnel to do just that. Many see the Eagles needs including defensive backs, but considering the investment made to the area in free agency, that may be more of a luxury than a staple in this draft. In addition, the team added Chris Maragos, who played safety behind Seahawk safety and pro bowler Earl Thomas. I will not be surprised to see Maragos earn playing time at the safety postion.
With free agency resolving the critical needs of the team, the Philadelphia Eagles are markedly better off now than a year ago. Should the efforts to improve a pedestrian early season pass rush bear fruit, the team is capable of improving dramatically in pass defense. Should either a safety or a cornerback fall to value for the Eagles, they will certainly make that selection. But the Eagles have adequate depth to enter the 2014 season as is. They will likely add several (three minimum) defensive backs from undrafted ranks at a minimum to groom some young players to fill the practice squad slots.
Shoestring Budget Summary: The only position demanding the use of draft picks is the linebacker position, where the draft should address both inside and outside linebacker positions. If no player falls to the Eagles in the defensive line or backfield, the team can rely upon its roster and on undrafted free agents to round out sufficient depth for the season. So ignoring offense needs, the minimum draft picks needed in this years draft are a fourth round pick and a fifth round pick, for and outside and inside linebacker player respectively.
There are no guarantees in an NFL draft that a first round pick is a guarantee, nor that a later round pick nor an undrafted prospect cannot make the roster. The Eagles have had extremely successful drafts in 2012 and 2013. Should they succeed in 2014 at finding gems, our Birds will be back in the playoffs. With targets that can be met in a fourth and fifth round, the Birds will have lots of leeway to move as the board dictates to gain the best value for the team.