Friday, December 19, 2014

What free agents will the Eagles bring back?

Of the 58 players the Eagles have under contract -- excluding practice squad members -- 12 are playing in the final year of their deals.

What free agents will the Eagles bring back?

DeSean Jackson is among 12 Eagles in the final year of their deals. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)
DeSean Jackson is among 12 Eagles in the final year of their deals. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Of the 58 players the Eagles have under contract -- excluding practice squad members -- 12 are playing in the final year of their deals.

While the majority are signed at least through 2012, suggesting that the core of the team will stay intact for next season, there are few under-contract players that won't likely be back. Tackle Winston Justice and cornerback Asante Samuel come to mind.

But the Eagles front office faces a number of decisions on whether to re-sign any of their players with expiring contracts. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is obviously the headliner, but there a few other key contributors to this season that Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, et al may want to stick around.

Of the 12 only defensive tackle Antonio Dixon will become a restricted free agent. The rest are eligible to become unrestricted free agents.

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If Howard Mudd leaves after this season, should the Eagles move Juan Castillo back to offensive line coach?
Yes. He did a good job there before this year.
No. The line has been too good. They should find someone who teaches Mudd’s techniques.

Here's a closer look at the dozen:

Victor Abiamiri:The former 2007 second round pick of the Eagles has been a colossal bust, and somehow has maintained a locker stall at the NovaCare Complex even though he hasn't played since 2009. Abiamiri was granted another contract year last off-season because he spent 2010 on the PUP-Injured Reserve list. But when he tore his Achilles tendon during training camp his tenure with the Eagles was essentially over, as was likely the injury-prone defensive end's career. Won't sign.

Ronnie Brown:The former Pro Bowl Dolphins running back was a disappointment this season, but Brown was never going to see significant time in this Eagles offense and with LeSean McCoy as the lead tailback. That being said, he never made the best of his opportunities. And his brief stay in Philadelphia will always be marked by that ill-advised pass he attempted to throw at the goal line that resulted in a fumble. Won't sign.

Antonio Dixon:The burly defensive tackle was lost for the season in Week 4 when he tore his triceps. Dixon was the Eagles' top run stopper in 2010, but he seemed out of place in Jim Washburn's rush-and-not-read defensive line. Dixon is restricted, meaning the Eagles will have to tender an offer if they want to keep him. If they don't think he fits in with this scheme they may not tender him at a high level. If they do -- and I would -- Dixon could be tendered at a first or second-round level. The Eagles would have to give him a fairly decent contract for next season, but they would receive a high draft pick in return if another team tried to sign him. Should sign.

King Dunlap:Four years as a reliable backup is pretty much all you could ask for out of a seventh-round draft pick. I never understood the ire directed toward Dunlap. Was he ever great? No. But he was able to jump in at both tackle spots and at guard during his tenure and wasn't anywhere near a disaster. But I'm afraid his time here is up. If Howard Mudd returns as offensive line coach -- and probably even if he doesn't -- I can't imagine Dunlap returning. Won't sign.

DeSean Jackson:This is a tough call, obviously. Many have predicted that Jackson's days as an Eagle are over. Colleague Paul Domowitch did a nice job the other day of explaining why he doesn't believe the mercurial receiver will be back. I've gone on record as saying that I think Jackson returns. He probably won't get the multi-year contract he seeks and the Eagles may risk another holdout if they franchise him, but $10 million is $10 million and it would be unwise for Reid to dump a big piece of his offense with so much riding on next season. Should sign.

Derek Landri: The defensive tackle was a pleasant surprise this season. Of course, the Eagles dumped him before the season and didn't think to bring him back until Dixon went down. But when he returned Landri seemed to blend in well with Washburn's way. Not only was he able to generate pressure -- he has two sacks -- but Landri was also effective against the run, especially in short yardage situations. He said he wants to return. I'd expect the Eagles to offer a contract. Should sign. 

Trevor Laws:For the second straight season, Laws jumped out to a nice start only to fade down the stretch. At some point Landri, his former Notre Dame teammate, starting taking snaps away from the former second round draft pick. Laws wasn't a flat-out bust for a high draft pick, but he never played up to what the Eagles paid to get him. Shouldn't sign.

Evan Mathis: An argument could be made that Mathis deserved to go the Pro Bowl. That was never going to happen because of his relative anonymity, but the left guard was almost as consistent as left tackle Jason Peters this season. Who could have predicted as much when Mathis showed up at training camp relatively unnoticed? Like Landri, he's on a one-year free agent deal. And like Landri, he said he wants to stay in Philly. Should sign.

Owen Schmitt:When Leonard Weaver suffered his likely career-ending knee injury last September, Schmitt was picked up and filled in admirably at fullback. While his chief role was as a lead blocker, Schmitt also caught 19 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown last season. This year his role on offense was limited. When the Eagles inexplicably called on him at the goal line against the Giants and he failed, that was the end of his ball-carrying opportunities. He was still a solid blocker, but the Eagles worked out a few fullbacks before and during the season and should be able to find someone else in the off-season. Shouldn't sign.

Steve Smith:Like Brown, Smith's short Eagles stay will be remembered for the mistakes he made -- the dropped pass that turned into an interception against the Giants, the falling down short of the sticks against the Cardinals. The Eagles probably didn't expect much from Smith because he was coming off microfracture knee surgery -- and in the end he ended up back on Injured Reserve with swelling in his knee -- but do you spend $2.2 million on a question mark? Won't sign. 

Vince Young:At least he had that 18-play, game-winning drive against the Giants. Other than that one shining moment, Young's one-year stop in Philly was a failure. He doesn't deserve all the blame, though. The Eagles probably shouldn't have signed a quaterback with little knowledge of the West Coast offense coming off the lockout and with Vick sure to get injured at some point. That is, of course, exactly what happened. The Giants win was nice, but Young had no shot against the Patriots and Seahawks. His most lasting moment, unfortunately, was his uttering of "Dream Team," a label that hounded the Eagles all season. Won't sign.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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