Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Offseason Outlook

January 4th, 2016 by Ryan Waterman | Filed under Eagles, Football, General, NFL, TalkSportsPhilly.

A New Year is now upon us, and I would like to wish everyone a Happy 2016 on behalf of the staff here at TalkSportsPhilly.

Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, a once interesting off-season now seems all the more interesting.

In a bombshell announcement on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they have fired head coach Chip Kelly.  Kelly led the team to a 26-21 record in his almost three full seasons as head coach. Only one of those seasons saw a NFC East championship come back to the City of Brotherly Love.

There’s no secret when it comes to Chip Kelly.  He took the NFL by storm in his first season, winning the NFC East.  The following year, he led the team to a 10-6 season, but faltered down the stretch. Having faltered, the Eagles lost their grip on the NFC East and resulted in missing the playoffs.  For some reason, Chip was then given the keys to the ship. Jeffrey Lurie believed that it as a good idea to make Chip “the guy” and give him complete control. Well, the absolute power went to Kelly’s head.  He tore this team to shreds. As a result of the outgoing talent and influx of new players, this team has wound up at 6-9.

It took 16 weeks, but the Eagles are finally eliminated from the NFC East race. Having lost five of their last seven games, the Eagles have no-one to blame, but themselves for ending their own season. The team has dropped games this season, that they’ve had absolutely no business dropping.  As the season started, it was the offense that cost us games. Defensively, this team stood on its’ damn head to keep us afloat. Holding the Cowboys to a single offensive touchdown in their week 2 loss should’ve been enough for a win. Hell, holding the Falcons to 26 points during the opening game should’ve resulted in a win. But, the Eagles offense failed to live up to their potential, resulting in a pair of heart-breaking losses. As the season has advance, the offense has continued to struggle mightily, and as a result- the defense has seen frequent exhaustion. With the defense constantly on the field, they started burning out easily resulting in an increase in points allowed per game. To just get straight to my point, the Eagles have severely underachieved. Whatever the reason for the Eagles struggles is, it’s glaringly obvious that something has to change in the offseason.

That my dear readers, is why I am here. Through this article, I will layout the offseason that our Eagles face ahead.  Additionally, I will take a look at potential replacements for Chip Kelly, following his shocking departure.

So without further delay, let’s get right down to it.


I.) Address Pending Free Agents 

In the past, the Birds haven’t had great success with retaining their stud players (see; Jeremy Maclin, Brian Dawkins). Maclin is the most recent free agent that the Eagles couldn’t retain. It’s unclear why they let him go, for they had the money to afford matching the offer from the Kansas City Chiefs. The point remains though, Maclin left. That is exactly what cannot happen this offseason. The team has a number of key pending free agents, and they can’t afford to lose any.  Let’s dig a little deeper.

Pending Free Agents: Walter Thurmond (S), Sam Bradford (QB), Nolan Carroll (CB), Vinny Curry (OLB), Cedric Thornton (DE), Seyi Ajirotutu (WR), Matt Tobin (OG), EJ Biggers (CB), Najee Good (ILB), David Molk (OL), Thad Lewis (QB), Steven Means (DE)

Out of this list of players, I see three, maybe four that clearly need to be retained.

For starters, Sam Bradford must return. The Eagles can’t afford to admit defeat on this trade, just yet.  They acquired Bradford from the Rams back in March, in a deal that cost the Eagles a 2nd round pick. If the team is to admit defeat now, they would look like complete assholes for making this deal.  We traded Nick Foles and a 2nd round pick for a rental. That’s just asinine.

Bradford has started coming into his own late in the season, and has impressed a lot of people. With Chip Kelly now out of the picture, the Eagles figure to go through an offensive scheme change. This would be most beneficial to Bradford. Chip’s offense liked to run from the Shotgun formation, and while Bradford is familiar with that formation, it became painfully obvious that it wasn’t working for this team. While Bradford was doing a good job from the gun, the running game flat-out sucked.  Without a running game, Bradford started feeling the pressure of having to carry the team on his back. In a new scheme that sees the Eagles running game become effective, I have the utmost confidence that Sam Bradford can run this offense at a high-level.

Thurmond is another must-keep.  He has been one of the defensive rocks this year, having come in on a 1-year pact, and Walter has made the most of his agreement.  The former Oregon Duck is third on the Eagles with 71 tackles, tied for second on the team with two forced fumbles, and leads the Birds with three interceptions on the season. Once a cornerback, Chip Kelly converted Thurmond to safety upon his arrival. He seemingly hasn’t had a problem with the transition, but one has to wonder if the Chip Kelly connection will work against him.

Nolan Carroll and Vinny Curry are also under the must-keep list. Carroll was signed as a free agent from the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago, while Vinny Curry was drafted in 2012.  Carroll served as a nickel-back in his first season in Philadelphia, before obtaining a starting job this year.  Prior to his season-ending injury, Carroll was quietly putting together a solid season. Tallying 57 tackles and a pair of interceptions, Carroll was the more solid of the two outside defensive backs. In Curry, the Eagles got a true pass-rusher.  The only issue has been his usage.  Curry is easily the team’s best pass-rusher not named Connor Barwin, and he is used like an afterthought.  Ranked 4th on the team in sacks, Curry has the Eagles best reserve. With the Marshall product able to play the OLB position in a 3-4 defensive scheme, it’d be idiotic for the Birds to let go of a player capable of providing depth at a very slim position.


II.) Bringing In a New Head Coach

For the second time in three seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles are now back to searching for a new head-coach.  It’s not a familiar position for the team, as there have only been two coaches over the last 17 seasons- Chip Kelly and Andy Reid.  Reid was wildly successful, leading the Eagles to 9 playoff appearances over his 13 seasons, 6 of which were as NFC East champions. Reid also took the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games, one of which led to a Super Bowl appearance. Despite never winning the big one, Reid made a monumental impact on the NFL.  Under coach Reid, 7 of his assistant coaches went on to become head coaches.  Those names include John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Steve Spagnuolo, and Todd Bowles. Meanwhile Chip Kelly was not as successful.  Granted, he did go 26-21 before being let go. However, he only appeared in the playoffs once in his tenure.


With Kelly gone, Lurie has the opportunity to right the wrong he made three years ago.  He has the chance to wipe the slate clean, and turn this franchise around. With that said, let’s take a look at the top 5 candidates (in my opinion) to replace Chip Kelly.

1.) Sean McDermott (Defensive Coordinator/Carolina Panthers)

The prodigal son returns.  McDermott was an assistant coach that held many titles with the Eagles from 1998-2009.  In 2009, he was promoted to full-time defensive coordinator due to the declining health of Jim Johnson. McDermott had a large number of success with the Eagles secondary in his time as secondary coach, seeing Brian Dawkins reach the Pro Bowl three times, Michael Lewis appear in the Pro Bowl once, and Lito Sheppard appear in two Pro Bowls. McDermott has also constructed a stout Carolina Panthers defense over the past 4 seasons. Since taking the reigns in 2011, McDermott has coached the Carolina defense to a top-10 ranking in each of the last four seasons. Guys like Josh Norman, Greg Hardy, and Luke Kuechly have gone on to be all-pros under McDermott. If hired, the defensive scheme may see a change. McDermott runs a 4-3 defense in Carolina, and if he does bring it with him to Philadelphia…you could see a different defense come next season.

2.) Josh McDaniels (Offensive Coordinator/New England Patriots)

This is a world of second-chances, so who better to bring in, then Bill Belichick Jr?   McDaniels has been a coach for 15 years, and has spent 12 of those 15 seasons under the tutelage of Bill Belichick, arguably the best NFL coach in the modern era. He’s likely to have picked up on a few on Bill’s techniques, no?   Since taking over as Patriots offensive coordinator in 2012, the New England offense has finished no worse than 11th in the NFL. Each team has averaged no less than 365 yards per game, and not a single one has missed the playoffs. If that’s not consistency, I don’t know what is.  Granted, McDaniels didn’t fare too well as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.  However, he also was dealing with a lack of defense, while also having Tim Tebow at QB. The fact that he was even able to win a playoff game with that, is purely remarkable. If Jeffrey Lurie desires a Lombardi Trophy, this is the choice that you’ll want. It may not be a popular choice, due to where he’s coming from. However, it’s the choice that is best for business.

3.) Jon Gruden (Current ESPN Analyst)

Gruden is the first of a few long-shots on this list. He was linked to the Eagles job back in 2013, and has been linked to a number of other jobs. In his time with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden finished 100-85, with 4 division titles (2 AFC West, 2 NFC South), an NFC Championship, and a Super Bowl ring. Gruden was apart of a major trade that saw him go from the Oakland Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2002. The deal saw Tampa’s 2002 and 2003 1st & 2nd round picks, as well as $8 million head to Oakland. It was a huge move, and set the NFL ablaze. Gruden subsequently led the Bucs to a Super Bowl trophy in 2002, but never saw the Lombardi Trophy again. He was eventually fired in 2009, and was later hired by ESPN. He currently serves as the color analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and an analyst for ESPN’s College Football Bowl Games. He’s also the host of “Jon Gruden’s QB Camp”, where he interviews college QBs, turned NFL hopefuls, prior to the NFL Draft.

4.) Doug Pederson (Offensive Coordinator/Kansas City Chiefs)

I can honestly say that I’m not very familiar with Pederson.  Although, he does have ties with the Eagles organization, having served as the team’s quarterback in 1999 and holding a pair of offensive assistant positions from 2009-2012.  Pederson later left the Eagles, to join former coach Andy Reid in Kansas City as his offensive coordinator.  While the Chiefs offense hasn’t exactly “shined” under Pederson’s rule, Jamaal Charles has found a load of success tallying almost 4,000 yards from scrimmage over the last three seasons, a number that would’ve been higher had Charles not gotten hurt. With Charles having that kind of success in Pederson’s offense, it’s not exactly a stretch to believe that DeMarco Murray could be Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles.

5.) John Harbaugh (Head Coach/Baltimore Ravens)

Probably the least likely long-shot on this list is Harbaugh.  John has deep roots with the Eagles, have served as the Special Teams Coordinator from 1998-2007, prior to leaving to become the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens. In his time as Ravens coach, Harbaugh has found himself coaching in January all but two times. Surprisingly enough, this year is the first year under Harbaugh that Baltimore will have a losing record. With a Super Bowl ring and two AFC North titles under his belt, Harbaugh is not likely to be on the chopping block. However, I could see a situation similar to that of Jon Gruden, playing out. I could definitely see a scenario where the Eagles and Ravens agree to a trade, that sees John Harbaugh come to Philly in exchange for a package of draft picks/cash or players. While it’s not likely for Harbaugh to be on the Eagles sideline come next season, it’s not an impossibility.  He’s got the history, he’s got the connection, and it makes a ton of sense.


III.) Improving Through Free Agency

The Eagles have had mixed success in free agency acquisitions.  There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly. Filed under the “good” title is the 2004 offseason, which saw the acquisitions of Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. Under the category of “bad” is the 2013 offseason, which was Chip Kelly’s first as head coach. This was the year that saw Connor Barwin, Donnie Jones, Zach Ertz, and Bennie Logan enter the fray. However, it also saw the end of the “Dream Team” in addition to the acquisitions of Patrick Chung, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and Issac Sopoaga among others. Finally, deep in the category of “ugly” is the 2011 “Dream Team” offseason. Oh boy, what an offseason it was.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Jason Babin, and Cullen Jenkins just to name a few. Seems like a contender on paper, right?  WRONG! This offseason was the final nail in the coffin of Andy Reid, as this team went 8-8 in 2011, and 4-12 in 2012 leading to the departure of Coach Reid.

With all of this said, let’s dive into this year’s Free Agency class. It’s a rather weak one, that is highlighted by the potential appearances of Carolina DB Josh Norman, Chicago WR Alshon Jeffrey, and Denver OLB Von Miller. Coincidentally enough, these are all positions of need for the Eagles. Without wasting too much more time, let’s take a look at my top five free-agents targets for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016.

1.) Von Miller (OLB/Denver Broncos)

By far, the top target on any team’s wish list this year is Von Miller.  If he’s not, then that team is lying to itself.  Miller is an absolute beast of a defensive stud, and an incredibly talented pass-rusher.  Since entering the league five years ago, Miller has tallied 59 career sacks….an average of approximately 12 sacks per season.   12 sacks per season from an outside linebacker!!!   That’s an insane stat, and one stat that the Birds desperately need. Between the combo of Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham, they have accounted for 12.5 of the 35 sacks by the team. Von Miller alone has tallied 10 sacks, just this season. So once again, if Miller is not at the top of any team’s wishlist…let alone the Eagles, there is a serious problem.

2.) Alshon Jeffrey (WR/Chicago Bears)

This is a major area of concern for quite a long time with the Birds.  DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were very good receivers, but were inconsistent.  Then, they ditched the combo of D-Jax and J-Mac for Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor.  Well, that hasn’t exactly worked out well.  There’s potential, but too many drops have plagued the Birds this year. While Jeffrey has dealt with his fair share of issues, he is a dangerous weapon when he’s on the field.  A dangerous weapon is exactly what this offense has lacked.

3.) Janoris Jenkins (CB/St Louis Rams)

Jenkins may not be the flashiest option to hit the market this spring, but he’s the safest.  Sure, fans can sit there and clamor for the likes of a Josh Norman, but let’s not forget how the Byron Maxwell experiment has worked out.  Is it worth it, to dish out another mega payday to a defensive back?   I don’t think so.  Jenkins may not be an elite corner such as Josh Norman, but he is still a strong play-maker. There were questions surrounding this kid’s character as he made his way out of Central Florida. As a result of those questions, Jenkins fell from a first-round pick to an early second-rounder. In four seasons, Jenkins has tallied 224 total tackles, 10 interceptions, 3 fumbles, and an impressive 5 defensive touchdowns. He’s has improved in every year that he’s played, and likely will cost significantly less money than Josh Norman.  Those factors lead me to believe that the Birds could take a serious look at Jenkins.

4.) Cordy Glenn (OT/Buffalo Bills)

It’s definitely no secret that Jason Peters is entering the twilight of his career.  It’s also no secret that the Eagles haven’t exactly been “grooming” his replacement.  Hell, they don’t even have an actual “replacement”.  Who’s slated to take Jason’s spot when he leaves?  Dennis Kelly?   Ugh.  Franchise left tackles don’t come around often enough, and it’s important to grab them when they become available. Glenn has been an amazing talent since entering the league, continuously putting out quietly solid performances. At 6’6, 345 pounds, it’s awfully difficult not to notice him. But, Glenn is the type of player to rarely bring attention to himself….on or off the field.  He steps in and does his job, no questions asked…

5.) Danny Trevathen (ILB/Denver Broncos) & Muhammad Wilkerson (DE/New York Jets)

Am I crazy for wanting to add another inside linebacker to this team?  When you consider that DeMeco Ryans is closing in on the twilight of his career, Mychal Kendricks is undersized and over-pursuing, and Kiko Alonso is not fully recovered from his torn ACL…no, no I am not.  Sure, we have Jordan Hicks coming back next season. However, you can’t put all of your eggs into one basket. With Alonso’s knee injury being the second time in the same knee, there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever be the same again. Ryans may not even make it to next season, and can Kendricks become the linebacker that we assumed he would be coming out of California?   These are the questions that remain unanswered, and exactly the reasons why Trevathen needs to be on the Eagles shopping list.

As for Wilkerson, he should be higher on this list….but, I’m factoring in the probability that the Jets retain his services. The former Temple Owl has been a total beast since entering the NFL, totaling 29 sacks in four seasons. Wilkerson has also piled up the tackles, 236 to be exact in his career.  He’s also forced 7 fumbles (1 of which he’s recovered), intercepted a pass, deflected 14 passes, and has 30 stuffs in his short career. The 6’4, 315 lb beast has established himself as one of the best defensive ends in football, and would create a nightmare for opposing offensive lines if paired with Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan.


IV.) Potential Trade Targets

With every offseason, there are occassional trades made.  Brandon Marshall has been an offseason gypsy, having been dealt from Denver to Miami back in 2010, and late being dealt from Miami to Chicago in 2012, before finally landing with the New York Jets as a result of a trade last offseason.  Donovan McNabb also found himself as a victim of the offseason trade circle, being moved to the Washington Redskins back in 2010. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at three (potentially) interesting trade targets for the Birds, come March.

1.) Josh Gordon (WR/Cleveland Browns)

This is an interesting one. Josh Gordon has struggled with the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, resulting in a pair of suspensions….his most recent being a season-long ban. Even with Gordon’s off-field issues, he’s still an electric playmaker.  In a little under 2 1/2 seasons of play, Gordon has over 2,700 yards with 14 touchdown grabs.  He set four NFL records in the 2013 season, including most consecutive games with 200+ yards receiving.  Additionally, he recorded the most receiving yards in a span of 2 games, 3 games, and 4 games. When Josh Gordon is healthy (and clean), he is a very dangerous offensive weapon. Cleveland has entertained the idea of moving the former Baylor Bear for a couple of seasons now, and reportedly came close last offseason. It figures to take a fourth or fifth rounder, to pry the playmaker away from the Browns. Personally, that’s a risk that I’d be willing to take.

2.) Calvin Johnson (WR/Detroit Lions) 

Yet another interesting name, is Calvin Johnson.  “Megatron” has nine NFL seasons under his belt, and has solidified his status as one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers.  The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has also etched his name into the history books a number of times.  Most notably, Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yards record in 2012, and he also set the new mark for most receiving yards in a non-overtime game in 2013.  While Johnson is considered to be a Detroit Lions legend, he likely will not take the field in Lions blue next year. That is, unless he restructures his $16 million cap hit. With the uncertainty in Detroit, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Calvin traded this year. I fully expect to see a draft-day blockbuster. Whether it’s with the Eagles or not, remains to be seen.


V.) Improving Through The Draft

Arguably the most important part of any team’s offseason, is the NFL Draft. The Draft is where teams bring in their futures. They spend months, even years scouting prospects to determine who best fits their respective team’s scheme. Such an exhausting process results in a 10 minute period, where teams must decide on the future of their organizations. In some cases, there are obvious picks like Peyton Manning, or Calvin Johnson. In other cases, you have your players that were thought to be blue-chip prospects, but don’t materialize, players like Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell. Then, you have the dark-horse category. In this category, teams have discovered “Diamonds in The Rough” like Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Joe Montana, all of whom were selected in the third round or later. As you can see, the NFL Draft is pretty much a crap-shoot.  There is no such thing, as a true “guarantee”. Some teams luck their ways into a superstar pick, but others spend months studying the upcoming draft class and make the pick they feel is best for the organization. It just so happens that this year is a very important draft for the Eagles.  With Chip Kelly out and a new director of player personnel at the helm, all eyes will be on Philadelphia come “Draft Day”.  That is why I have compiled a list of six Draft Day targets that would be a great fit in Philly.

1.) Paxton Lynch (QB/Memphis)

Lynch has really burst on to the scene this season, after leading the Memphis Tigers to a shocking upset over the Ole Miss Rebels. In a game that saw Lynch throw for almost 400 yards and three touchdowns, Lynch was fantastic.  He showed composure, great accuracy, and good mobility.  Most recently, Lynch has found himself compared to Blake Bortles, because of his strong arm and mobile legs. If that thought was to prevail, that could see Lynch land anywhere from No.3 overall to No.13 overall, a pick that the Eagles just happen to possess. With the QB situation uncertain, Philadelphia would be very wise to take a very close look at this kid.

2.) Vernon Hargreaves III (CB/Florida)

The Eagles secondary has long been a problem, and Hargraves could very well be apart of the solution. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deeming this kid as the savior or anything….but, he’s an ultra talented young man, easily the most talented defensive to come out of Florida since Joe Haden. Hargraves has been praised for his excellent hand-eye coordination, as well as his all-around coverage ability.  His footwork is phenomenal, his hip work is great, and he’s fantastic in jump ball situations. The only knock on him, is that he is occasionally considered “over-aggressive”.

3.) Taylor Decker (OT/Ohio State)

Another area that was of major concern this season: the Offensive Line.  With the departures of Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the Eagles suffered big-time up front.  Jason Peters is coming up on the end of his career, and the Eagles haven’t even considered an heir to Peters’ throne. Well, they now have to. Decker is just the guy to replace the all-pro.  His large frame (6’7) allows him to meets runners right at the line of scrimmage, and stand them up. One of his only knocks, is that he tends to lose the leverage battle at the line, due to his large frame.

4.) Shaq Lawson (DE/Clemson)

The Eagles defensive line struggled often times this year, to get consistent pressure on the quarterback.  At times, it seemed like Fletcher Cox was the only one of the front-three that was even trying. Lawson has spent three seasons at Clemson, and has 19 sacks to his credit.  The power that he possesses partnered with his quick hands, allow him to get the upper-hand on offensive lineman and get pressure on the quarterback. Shaq is dominant in both the rushing and passing attacks, which makes him a great fit for the Eagles defense.

5.) Jaylon Smith (OLB/Notre Dame) 

Widely considered to be one of the most pro-ready linebackers in the country, Smith suffered a significant setback on New Year’s Day due to a “significant knee injury”.  It’s currently unclear what the severity of said injury is, and it’s also unknown what this means for his draft eligibility. Should the injury bring Smith back to Notre Dame, he will be a top pick in the 2017 draft. However, if he were to still come out this season, he could very well slip down the boards. Currently projected as a top-10 pick, it wouldn’t take much for Smith to fall into the Eagles lap. The linebacker is an amazing football talent, that fits both a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Smith has been praised for his pursuit in the past, with his clear strength being his explosiveness.  He’s also been praised for his ability to quickly read plays, the incredible closing speed that he possesses, and his forceful tackling. If he enters the draft this year, he’ll be a great asset to any team.

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This offseason is shaping up to be one of the most important, in Eagles history.  The Chip Kelly era is now over, and the Eagles have to find a way to repair the damage that Kelly has done.  He’s set this team back a good three years, unless they can dig themselves out of the hole this year. No matter what is said, everything will run through Jeffrey Lurie. He made the mistake of hiring Chip Kelly, and later giving him the keys to this franchise. He saw what Kelly did with it, and he was borderline humiliated. I will guarantee that he won’t allow that to happen again. It may take a few years, but Mr. Lurie will make sure that this organization, is once again atop the NFL’s food-chain.

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