Philadelphia Eagles begin to look ahead at off-season moves

Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Eagles can fix some major problems on their roster, and they can do so in the off-season.

It was an equally disappointing and hopeful season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Earlier in the season, quarterback Carson Wentz was seen as the promised child. Head coach Doug Pederson was supposed to unite the team, and a magical unit would be formed that would be unstoppable in the NFC East.

None of that came to fruition.

Seven wins on the season with a new head coach and a wet-behind-the-ears quarterback isn’t anything to sneeze at as a team. Holes in their roster and weakness that became very visible as the season went on. Wide receivers and running backs were inefficient. The coaching staff didn’t seem to figure out the issues, and what was supposed to be a rebuilding season ended with a thud.

With the season over, it’s time to figure out the team’s priorities and where they need to improve. Wentz will, no doubt, start training as soon as possible, but it’s Pederson’s time to show that he is capable of change. Free agency and the draft are going to be ‘The Birds’ best friends.

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Fixing the Eagles issues at wide receiver

The NFL Draft will be the Eagles’ saving grace, and there’s a wide range of talent entering the draft that will fill some of the positional needs of the team. Wide receiver is going to be among the team’s top priorities. Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham performed poorly during the 2016 season. That left Wentz with, basically, no one to throw to down the field. A quarterback, especially one that’s a rookie, is only as good as the targets he has to utilize.

The best downfield talent the Eagles had in 2016 was Zach Ertz, their tight end. According to Bleacher Report, Ertz was one of two Eagles players who went for over 500 yards in receiving. Free agency will be one of the ways to go, and former Eagles and current Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson has expressed interest in coming back to his old team. He’s pushing 30, but in the past few years, he’s produced 1,000 yard seasons. That’s an enticing number for a team that struggled to find someone who could produce 500.

Future free agents like Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor would be huge additions  for Philadelphia, but would they leave their teams for the City of Brotherly Love? Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt would fit the bill. Granted, Britt has only had one 1,000-yard season in his eight years in the league. Those aren’t exactly stellar numbers, but that could also keep his price point low (something the Eagles need to happen). April’s NFL Draft is also going to be an option for the Eagles to find receivers. It may still be better to see who is on the free agency market since those options will already have NFL experience.

Working on the Eagles’ salary cap issues

“It’s our job to make tough decisions and make sure they’re not emotional, but they’re the best for the Philadelphia Eagles going forward.”- Howie Roseman, Eagles VP of Football Operations

Whether or not the team will have the money for the players they need is another issue entirely. Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has made it clear that changes will need to be made.

Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce are names that have come up in trade talks and rumors about who the team could released to free up cap space. Both would, arguably be huge losses for the program, but their contracts are extensive and expensive. It may be a benefit financially to see them go.

As of now, there is about $10.84 million available for the team to spend. That might sound like a lot of money, but it isn’t. It’s the third-smallest total in the NFL, and much of the money tied up is monopolized by the current players on the roster. Releasing or trading running back Ryan Mathews would save the team four million, and doing the same to Connor Barwin would free up just under eight million.

Barwin has expressed interest in staying in Philadelphia and states he would take a pay cut to do so. Mathews’ most recent injury was almost career-ending. It would be in the team’s interest to release him. Restructuring the contract of tackle Jason Peters would also be in the team’s interest. Players who don’t fit the offensive or defensive schemes could be among the personnel changes we see going forward.

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Finding a balance

Changes are necessary. Freeing up the salary cap and finding players to fit what the Eagles want to do on offensive and defense is important. Wide receivers are of huge need. The draft and free agency will determine where they come from. One thing remains clear: things are a changin’ in Philadelphia. What’s unclear is if it will be for the best or the worst.