The Philadelphia Eagles prefer to sign younger, up-and-coming players when possible. Still, there are interesting names at areas where the Eagles have needs. Will the waiver wire provide help?
Here's a look at suddenly-available players, in the order in which they might catch the Eagles' attention.
Branch has four career interceptions and eight career sacks. He is listed as a strong safety, so he may not be the best complement to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
A couple of offensive guards have been released, providing new candidates to replace Todd Herremans.
Atlanta's Justin Blalock is 31. He has played in all but three games over his eight seasons with the Falcons. A former second-round draft pick, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Blalock was set to count $7.9 million against the salary cap for 2015. He wouldn't be a long-term solution, but he could be a solid addition.
Minnesota's Charlie Johnson probably isn't as good a fit. The 30-year-old gave up five sacks during the 2014 season.
With Jeremy Maclin's situation still unsettled, the Eagles could look to add a wide receiver or two for depth.
Miami's Brian Hartline, 28, caught 39 passes for 474 yards in 2014. The two previous seasons, however, Hartline averaged 75 catches and over 1,000 yards.
Atlanta released wide receiver Harry Douglas, who caught 51 passes for 556 yards in 2014. Douglas also had a better year in 2013, catching 85 passes for 1,067 yards. Douglas, 30, has been a complementary player alongside Julio Jones and Roddy White.
“Todd has been the ultimate professional during my two years in Philadelphia with him,” Kelly said. “He is a tough player and I wish him all of the best as he moves forward in his NFL career. I spoke to him earlier today and one of the things I told him was that by releasing him now, he will have a full opportunity to explore all of his options around the league.”
That is no small thing. The Eagles did the same for tight end James Casey earlier in the week. With free agency set to begin in two weeks, Casey has already visited a handful of teams around the league. Herremans, who has played every position on the offensive line except center, should be able to catch on with another team.
There are logical contenders. The Kansas City Chiefs are coached by Andy Reid, who drafted Herremans in 2005 and who started Herremans in over 100 games. Baltimore Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo held the same job with the Eagles when Herremans got to the league.
Herremans, 32, finished the 2014 season on injured reserve after tearing his left biceps.
First, a quick assessment. The Eagles’ decision to release veteran guard Todd Herremans was cap-related, in that the team can use the $2.8 million in salary-cap space on another player. But the move was not forced by the salary cap. The Eagles were not forced to cut Herremans or tight end James Casey because they were over the cap or pressed against it.
According to ESPN’s Roster Management System, the Eagles currently have $26.4 million in salary cap space. That’s the 12th largest chunk of cap space in the NFL.
Likewise, the Eagles may restructure the contract of outside linebacker Trent Cole, whose salary-cap charge is $11.6 million. They don’t have to do so, but allotting more money in bonus and less in salary would free up more space for the team to use in free agency.
As for Herremans and Casey, the calculations were different. The team decided that Herremans’ performance, including injuries that have cost him 16 games in the last three seasons, wasn’t commensurate with the $4 million salary and $5.2 million cap hit he represented.
If the Eagles are going to spend that much for a right guard, they could sign a free agent they believe would be better. Or they could go with Allen Barbre or Matt Tobin at a much lower cap hit and allocate Herremans’ cap space at another position.
Same with Casey. When the Eagles signed him two years ago, they hadn’t yet drafted Zach Ertz. When they did draft Ertz, Casey’s role changed. He became a very good special-teams player, but caught only six passes in two seasons. That changed his value in dollars, as well. The Eagles can get that production from Trey Burton at a fraction of the cost.
So don’t be surprised if the Eagles take a shot at signing a player released by another team while trimming their own roster. They aren’t being forced to make cuts by the salary cap, although the salary cap is in mind with everything they’re doing.
In his 10 seasons with the Eagles, Herremans never went to a Pro Bowl. That doesn't seem right, now that the Eagles have decided to part ways with their former fourth-round pick.
But maybe it is fitting. Herremans was never a guy who got a lot of public acclaim. He was just good at his job.
The next week, at Houston, Herremans played with a brace on his left arm. It didn't help that much, merely kept his elbow from disclocating due to the torn muscle. But center Jason Kelce was returning to the lineup after surgery to repair a sports hernia. Left guard Evan Mathis was still out with a sprained knee.
So Herremans played. He sprained his ankle during the game and had to leave. He could play with one arm, but one arm and one leg? That was too much to overcome. After that, Herremans decided to have surgery to repair the biceps. He went on injured reserve and missed the rest of the season.
That half in Houston turned out to be Herremans' farewell appearance as an Eagle. He was released Thursday as the Eagles' offseason plan began to take shape. Herremans and veteran tight end James Casey were both released this week.
The Eagles could look to replace Herremans with one of the players already on their roster. Allen Barbre, who went on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain in September, can play guard. The Eagles have been developing Matt Tobin, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013. Tobin started two games in place of Herremans, but was also dealing with an ankle injury.
Andrew Gardner started the last five games of the season at right guard. He'll get a chance to compete for the job.
But coach Chip Kelly may want to add another potential guard in free agency or the draft. Some very good guards are expected to hit the free-agent market -- Denver's Orlando Franklin, San Francisco's Mike Iupati, Cincinnati's Clint Boling among them -- but the Eagles already have big money tied up in the other four offensive line spots.
That would make the draft a more likely avenue for finding a potential starting guard. Oregon's Jake Fisher can play guard or tackle, which would make him a valuable addition on the second day of the draft. South Carolina's A.J. Cann, Florida's Tre Jackson and Duke's Laken Tomlinson are also highly rated guards.
Somebody will line up in Herremans' right guard spot. It won't be so easy to take his place in the locker room.
The Green Bay Packers dashed that plan, taking Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick. The Eagles immediately traded their pick to the Cleveland Browns, who used it on quarterback Johnny Manziel. At No. 26, the pick obtained in the trade with the Browns, the Eagles selected Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith.
If Todd McShay’s third mock draft is correct, the Eagles will be in a similar situation in this year’s draft. McShay has them drafting another Alabama safety, Landon Collins. Only this time, the Eagles are sitting at No. 20 overall. If they’d had that pick last year, they probably wouldn’t need Collins. They would have Clinton-Dix.
As I wrote the other day, I think the Eagles do need to use the draft to add talent in their secondary. I’m a little leery, though, of relying on the draft to plug the holes created by the likely free-agent departures of safety Nate Allen and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, asking him to step right in and start from Day One.
But if they are going to do that, it makes more sense to do it at safety than at cornerback. A rookie mistake at cornerback means a wide receiver running free. A rookie mistake at safety can be covered up a little bit more readily.
Clinton-Dix played in all 18 games for the Packers, including the playoffs. He started 10 regular-season games and both playoff games. He had one sack and one interception during the regular season.
Collins appears to be a more physical player than Clinton-Dix. At 6-foot, 228 pounds, he would be more suited to playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Eagles like their safeties to be versatile, able to play inside the box or drop back into coverage. Playing center field is not Collins’ strong suit, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be an upgrade from Allen.
Collins ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine last week.
McShay had the Eagles taking Collins in his last mock draft. There was one interesting change worth noting. Cornerback Marcus Peters, who has been projected as the Eagles’ pick in other mock drafts, dropped all the way to No. 26 in McShay’s new version. Peters was the 22nd pick in McShay’s second mock draft.
If the takeaway is that Peters’ stock fell, even a little bit, based on the combine, that would make the Eagles less likely to draft him. Chip Kelly is big on players fitting into the culture of the Eagles’ organization. Peters, who was kicked off the team at Washington last season, may not be on the Eagles’ draft board.
In McShay's third mock draft , Washington's Marcus Peters is the Ravens' selection at No. 26 overall. If Peters is available when the actual first round occurs April 30, it will be very, very difficult for the Ravens to pass on him. He is a more NFL-ready cornerback than Louisiana State's Jalen Collins, who was McShay's pick for the Ravens in his second mock draft.
So, why would an impact cornerback be sitting there at the bottom of the first round? Peters is known for being a hothead and was kicked out of the Washington football program. Plus, Peters' performance at the combine was disappointing. It was only three days ago when I wrote about the chances of Peters sliding to the Ravens.
So, why would the Ravens want Peters? The Ravens took a chance on red-flagged cornerback Jimmy Smith four years ago, and it has turned out extremely well. Peters has the size and speed that teams covet at that position. He would significantly upgrade the Ravens' nickelback spot, and he could emerge as a starter in 2016, when cutting Lardarius Webb can create $6 million of cap space.
In order for Peters to get to the Ravens at No. 26, the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 20) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 22) would have to pass on him. McShay has the Eagles selecting Alabama safety Landon Collins and the Steelers taking Jalen Collins.
Ravens' picks in Todd McShay mocks
1.0: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
2.0: Jalen Collins, CB, Louisiana State
3.0: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
As first reported by ESPN's Adam Caplan, the 32-year-old right guard was released after nine seasons with the team. Originally a fourth-round pick in the 2005 draft out of Saginaw Valley State, Herremans was due to make $4 million in 2015, with a salary-cap charge of $5.2 million. His release will leave the Eagles with $2.4 million in dead money on their salary cap.
Herremans was, along with outside linebacker Trent Cole, the longest-tenured player on the Eagles' roster.
Herremans missed the second half of the 2014 season after tearing a biceps muscle during the Eagles' Oct. 26 game in Arizona. He was placed on injured reserve.
Before that, Herremans started seven games at right guard and one game at right tackle for the Eagles. Throughout his career, Herremans started at every offensive line position except center.
As a rookie, Herremans started four games at left tackle. He spent the next five years as the starting left guard, with some left tackle mixed in.
In 2011, after the Eagles signed free-agent left guard Evan Mathis, Herremans moved to right tackle. He stayed there until halfway through the 2012 season, when a foot injury put him on injured reserve.
In 2013, with first-round pick Lane Johnson
Want to get an NFL player to be your date for prom? All you have to do is ask -- and then get 10,000 retweets. That's exactly what Eagles fan Hannah Delmonte did.
Delmonte surpassed the quota -- with room to spare -- in just a few hours.
A man of his word, Acho made the surprise trip to Delmonte's high school in Purcellville, Virginia, to formally ask her. If you can't tell by the photo below, she was a wee-bit excited.
Acho will be back in Virginia for the big night, but in the meantime there's no doubting he's made quite the lasting impression already.
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Either the Eagles make a blockbuster trade to move up in the first round and take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or the Eagles select a defensive back with the 20th pick.
Both of those scenarios make sense. Jimmy Kempski of phillyvoice.com took a different tack, though. Kempski went with the eyebrow-raising headline, “The offensive line, not the secondary, is the Eagles’ most pressing need in the draft.”
But the catch is the end of the sentence: “in the draft.” If you buy into the philosophy that teams should build through the draft and then plug holes in free agency, the Eagles are in a position to plug holes in their secondary. They should be looking to replace safety Nate Allen and cornerback Bradley Fletcher.
They can draft replacements, but then they would be stuck waiting for rookies to find their way in the NFL at vital positions.
So it makes sense for the Eagles to address the secondary in free agency. When the draft rolls around, they can focus on getting the best players available, without having to concentrate on certain positions.
That is the best time to address the future of their offensive line. Left tackle Jason Peters turned 33 last month. Left guard Evan Mathis is 33. Right guard Todd Herremans is 32. The time to start preparing their replacements is now.
The Eagles raised eyebrows in 2002. They had a very strong secondary at that point, including safety Brian Dawkins and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But the Eagles draft Lito Sheppard in the first round and added Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis in the second round. It took two years for all three of them to be fulltime starters, but the Eagles avoided having to replace the older guys piecemeal.
Lane Johnson, last year’s first-round pick, can be seen as the first piece of a gradual rebuilding of the line. The Eagles didn’t draft any offensive linemen last year. They can get back to that process in this year’s draft.
That is, unless they toss all of that out the window to trade for Mariota.
PHOENIX -- Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Keelan Johnson has been sentenced to two months of supervised probation for pushing a police officer in suburban Phoenix last year.
Maricopa County prosecutors say the 25-year-old Johnson, who played 49 games for Arizona State, was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault.
The officer was investigating a fight between a bouncer and an acquaintance of Johnson's at a bar in July in Tempe, home to Arizona State.
Johnson had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault on an officer and resisting arrest and had been facing trial.
The Miami Dolphins signed Johnson as an undrafted free agent in April 2013 but waived him that fall. He signed with the Eagles in September 2013 and was released in August 2014.
That is discouraging, but let’s look at the first major mock drafts (that is, mock drafts by relatively heavy hitters in the business, not your cousin Chuck) that project trades to reunite Oregon compadres Kelly and Mariota.
Kirwan has Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston going No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay. Tennessee, which is at No. 2 and could draft a quarterback, then takes USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Jacksonville, which has Blake Bortles at quarterback, selects Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory at No. 3. That makes a deal for the fourth pick good enough to bring Mariota to Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, Peter King of MMQB.si.com posted his first mock draft. King went only as far as the 15th pick in the first round, but that was far enough to project an Eagles trade with Washington. Considering the history – the trade of Donovan McNabb to Washington in 2010, plus the swap of Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Snead in 1964 – there’s a certain elegance in having those two franchises make a quarterback-centered trade.
In King’s mock, Winston goes first overall to Tampa Bay. He has Tennessee taking Dante Fowler, an outside linebacker from Florida. Jacksonville then takes Williams, the defensive tackle from USC. Oakland, in need of weapons around quarterback Derek Carr, selects West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White.
That brings up Washington’s spot. King’s deal: The Eagles send their first- and second-round picks this year, plus their first- and fourth-round picks in 2016, to Washington for the No. 5 pick. They select Mariota.
Now it must be made clear that neither Kirwan nor King presents his idea as a deal being discussed by the teams. They are simply taking the assumption that Kelly would like to coach Mariota again and figuring out ways to make that possible.
Do the deals make sense? Sort of. The inclusion of McCoy is interesting but hard to figure. The trend has been toward devaluing running backs in the draft. McCoy will be 27 in July and has carried the ball almost 1,500 times (plus 300 receptions) for almost 7,000 yards in his six seasons. He is still a very good player, but a drop-off in the near future seems inevitable.
McCoy plus two first-round picks seems a little light to move all the way from 20 to 4. Maybe if the Eagles added a pick, that deal would be more likely. On the other hand, the exact terms of the deal aren’t really the main point. Kirwan is mainly suggesting that the Raiders would be a possible trading partner for the Eagles.
Same with King. His proposed deal seems more practical. Washington would be dropping from No. 5 to No. 20. In exchange, they get another first-round pick, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. That’s four players for one.
Considering Washington has a new general manager, Scot McCloughan, and is just a few years removed from the asset-depleting deal to get Robert Griffin III, such a trade might be appealing. On the other hand, getting back less than the bounty paid to move up from No. 6 to No. 2 might be a problem. Washington gave up three first-round picks and a second-round pick in that 2012 deal.
The only certainty is that there will be plenty more speculation between now and the draft. Might as well enjoy it.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by four other NFL Nation reporters.
Eric Williams (San Diego Chargers reporter) joins to give an idea of how feasible it would be for the Raiders and Chargers to share a stadium in Southern California. Pat Yasinskas (Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter) discusses why he thinks Jameis Winston is all but a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Rich Cimini (New York Jets reporter) breaks down which direction the Jets will go with the No. 6 overall draft pick. Will they go with a quarterback? Defense? Receiver? Paul Kuharsky (Tennessee Titans reporter) weighs with his thoughts on where the Titans will turn at No. 2 if Winston is off the board.
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Last year, during this part of February, the Eagles agreed to new contracts with left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
But that business was all conducted under general manager Howie Roseman. While Roseman is still in charge of contract negotiations and the salary cap, head coach Chip Kelly now has control over personnel matters. Kelly may do business the way Roseman did in the past, or he may choose to wait and see how free agency develops before finalizing new contracts with current players.
“Here’s the thing,” Maclin said last year. “I don’t think it’s a one-year deal. … I believe the two sides can come together and, with all we’re going to go through this season, we can get something [long-term] done.”
Maclin excelled in his first season in Kelly’s offense. He caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now that he has proven himself, Maclin may want to wait and see how the market develops.
Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant is the top wide receiver due to reach free agency. But the Cowboys have indicated they will use the franchise tag on Bryant. That would effectively keep him off the market. It would also make Maclin that much more valuable to teams desperate for wide receiver help.
On the other hand, this year’s draft is expected to be rich in wide receiver talent. That could depress the market a bit.
The Eagles could use their franchise tag on Maclin. That would mean paying him close to $13 million for the 2015 season. It is believed they would prefer to do a long-term deal that would pay Maclin fairly but keep his salary cap number lower than the franchise tag number would.
The Eagles have a few other players in similar positions. Outside linebacker Brandon Graham, like Maclin a former first-round draft pick, could be looking to return to defensive end in a 4-3 defense. This would be his chance.
On the other hand, Graham excelled in a limited role as an outside linebacker in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme last season. He played in just 43 percent of defensive snaps, but sacked opposing quarterbacks 5.5 times and forced four fumbles.
Graham may be looking for some assurance that he’ll be a starting outside linebacker in 2015, along with a competitive contract. But his abilities as a pass rusher will also make him a valuable commodity in the open market.
Mark Sanchez is another interesting case for the Eagles. Sanchez is arguably the best option for teams looking for a veteran backup quarterback in free agency. Sanchez, who is just 28, may want to take his time and hope that an opportunity to start presents itself.
Safety Nate Allen and cornerback Bradley Fletcher are likely to move on through free agency.
As for players the Eagles could sign to contract extensions -- as they did with Kelce and Peters last year at this time -- there are several candidates. Defensive ends Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks are all eligible for contract extensions this offseason.
So is quarterback Nick Foles. The Eagles could look to do a short extension for Foles, paying him more as their starting quarterback while leaving themselves wiggle room in case he fails to reach his 2013 performance levels. If they decide to draft a quarterback this year, then they may choose to let Foles play out the final year of his rookie contract.