The start of the 2016 NLF season began when the keys of free agency unlocked the door to a circus for fans and players vying for new and enhanced contracts. The Eagles made their splash in the days prior by “legally tampering” with players. In the end, the Eagles added six new players to their roster. Three were shown the door. It seemed like Howie Roseman and the front office were continually acquiring new talent – and they were for a good eight hours or so – to the point where my co-host, Len, tweeted:
Let’s take a look at what the Eagles did with the first day of free agency and grade these moves.
Trade with Miami Dolphins: CB Byron Maxwell/LB Kiko Alonso for first-round picks swap.
At the start of this week, the Eagles were slated to pick No. 13 overall in this upcoming NFL Draft, the Dolphins at No. 8. Due to this trade, those picks have been swapped. But just as important, the Eagles were able to dump Maxwell’s salary and get rid of a subpar player from last season who really stunk it up while on the field. With Maxwell now gone, the Eagles saved $5.8 million in this trade and they also made a dramatic move inside the top-ten in which they’ll likely draft a blue chip prospect that will contribute for years to come.
Trade with Tennessee Titans: RB DeMarco Murray for fourth-round picks swap.
Roseman has certainly enjoyed swapping picks at the start of this 2016 season. It looks like a new way of doing business in Eagles Land. Dumping another contract (the worst in Chip Kelly’s tenure) and saving money was the goal – and I’m glad they were able to. Last year, the Eagles and Kelly signed Murray to a 5-year, $40 million contract with $18M guaranteed. Yes, as we all know, he was a total disappointment, rushing for only 702 yards. More enraging were his recent comments saying he felt like he “took last year off.” I’m glad he’s not on the team anymore. However, I was not remotely thrilled about the fourth-round swap. Yes, they were able to dump a huge contract and save money from a player who didn’t want to be in Philly anymore. When looking at talent in the NFL and especially players being drafted, my preference would have been another draft pick. A high sixth-round pick would have been feasible. The Eagles now get the 97th pick and the Titans get the 110th pick. That doesn’t do much for me. Assessing additional player’s talent does.
Signing G Brandon Brooks
This particular signing took a little while to come to fruition – and by that I mean a couple more hours than I was comfortable with. The Brooks contract is five-years worth $40 million. $17 million is guaranteed. This is a bit more than some were saying Brooks was worth. But let’s be honest, this team desperately needed to pick up a guard early in free agency. Further, he’s a monster – 6’5”, 343 pounds. He only missed four games within the past three years while with the Texans. I like that he’s coachable. Coming into the league, he was not touted as being a top prospect. He was drafted in the third-round and over time began to truly flourished at his role on the line. The Eagles acquired one of the top guards available in free agency, which, in my opinion was priority number one. Now let’s see how he gels with the veterans on the line.
Signing S Rodney McLeod
It was extremely apparent that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was pulling the strings as the Eagles acquired four defensemen. He came to Philly with the idea that he alone is in charge of this defense – putting it together and implementing the scheme. Signing one of the best, young (25) and available safeties in the NFL, Rodney McLeod (Mick-Loud) was a priority. The deal is worth $37 million over five-years with $17 million guaranteed. He’s a very tough, physical player who wide receivers and tight ends in the NFC East may come to fear. Versatility was also a key component to bringing him onboard. My initial hope for the Eagles was to land Bengals S George Iloka. While that didn’t happen, and with last year’s safety, Walter Thurmond, testing the free agency market, they upgraded the talent at this position with a player who isn’t afraid to tackle and make big hits. The prospects that he and Malcolm Jenkins could be one of the best safety tandems moving forward brings back memories of how the Eagles secondary used to dominate.
Signing QB Chase Daniel
Head coach Doug Pederson recently said that the former Kansas City Chief, Daniel, can enter a game as a starter if need be. He understands the offense Pederson will be running. This acquisition had been discussed at length for weeks leading up to the Eagles free agency and we all expected it. Bringing Daniel onboard has lead to some confusion about the long-term quarterback position. It’s a three-year deal worth up to $21 million with $12 million guaranteed. While many might disagree, current backup quarterback Mark Sanchez is still a viable No. 2 option. If we think about it, there’s a reason why Daniel was a backup to Alex Smith and Drew Brees for years. While I understand Pederson wanting familiarity with his offense heading into the 2016 season, I’m not a huge fan of this signing and the controversy it has brought to the position.
Signing CB Ron Brooks
One of the disciples from Schwartz’s time in Buffalo, Brooks signed a three-year contract worth $6 million, but he can earn up to $8.7 million if he gets a certain amount of playing time on the field. I’m expecting Brooks to compete for playing time in training camp and/or play somewhat regularly in the slot position depending on how CB JaCorey Shepherd progresses should he be welcomed back into the fold after missing his rookie year due to injury. Brooks, who is 27-years-old, is also a main contributor on special teams recently saying he’ll contribute however he can – including kicking field goals if need be, in jest. He provides much needed depth, but isn’t going to be a make or break d-back who can help tilt a game.
Signing CB Leodis McKelvin
He was cut by Buffalo before the week began and then signed with the Eagles one day prior to the start of free agency. McKelvin may just be one of the starting cornerbacks as the Eagles head into training camp. He had his best season in the NFL under Schwartz in 2014 while with the Bills, which is why he’s now in Philly. It’s intriguing that the Eagles only offered a two-year, $6 million contract that McKelvin signed without hesitation. At some point, this secondary – specifically the cornerback position – needs to head into the right direction. McKelvin was initially drafted by Buffalo, No. 11 overall, in the 2008 draft. He has 98 career appearances and made 60 starts, recorded 259 tackles, 13 interceptions, 65 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and one defensive touchdown during that span. Even though it’s a two-year deal and he’s not a dominant corner, I like the signing because it gives the Eagles experience and a proven track record at the position.
Signing LB Nigel Bradham
Bradham is yet another former Bills player who performed incredibly well under Schwartz in 2014. With Alonso now heading to Miami and depth issues at the linebacker position to begin with, familiarity was sought and brought onboard. While Schwartz was coaching him, he recorded a career-high 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six passes defended, and an interception in 14 games played. However, last year was a down year due to an ankle injury and a Rex Ryan scheme change where he accumulated only 59 tackles and one sack in 11 games. At this point, we know he signed a two-year deal that provides his old and new coach more ammunition and stability. I like the value the defense gets with this pick-up.
I wouldn’t characterize the Eagles free agency signings as a slam dunk – and that’s actually a good thing. They addressed needs with value and talent, which is what teams need to do during this time. In one word: upgrade. It’s good to see they’re not trying to build a championship caliber team through free agency signings like some teams attempt. I give the Eagles, Roseman and front office a solid “B” during free agency, thus far.