Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Eagles free agency 'best bets,' offense edition

Free agency will begin at 4pm on Tuesday, but the "legal tampering" period begins at noon today, when teams can begin speaking with the agents for players, but not yet the players themselves. Of course, every team has been talking to agents "illegally" for the last month, so there really isn't that much of a difference. Still, with the floodgates open, over the next few days we'll hear about which players interest the Eagles. Some of that information will be legitimate, some of it will not.

Eagles free agency 'best bets,' offense edition

Free agency will begin at 4pm on Tuesday, but the "legal tampering" period begins at noon today, when teams can begin speaking with the agents for players, but not yet the players themselves. Of course, every team has been talking to agents "illegally" for the last month, so there really isn't that much of a difference. Still, with the floodgates open, over the next few days we'll hear about which players interest the Eagles. Some of that information will be legitimate, some of it will not.

Here are my "best bets" for the Eagles to sign at each position, starting with the offense:

Quarterback: Michael Vick

Current team: Eagles

After the season had concluded and Chip Kelly was conducing a final press conference, he was asked about Michael Vick. "I love Michael Vick," said Kelly. "I mean, that guy is awesome." Kelly seemed to genuinely like and respect Vick in his first season with the team, so it would make sense that Kelly would continue to have interest in Vick returning to Philly.

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Vick is going to explore his options in free agency, and if he finds a place where he can compete for a starting QB job, that will likely mean the end of his tenure as an Eagle. However, if the market doesn't shape up for Vick the way it he would like, don't rule out a return to Philly in a backup role. Vick would be among the best backups in the league. The Eagles and Vick have reportedly not ruled it out.

Running Back: Darren Sproles

Current team: Saints

Technically, Sproles is not yet a free agent, but the Saints are reportedly poised to release him if they can't find a trade partner. I'm not sure who would trade for a player they know is going to be released. In theory, you could trade for a player so you don't have to compete with other teams in the free agent market. However, you could probably get Sproles on the open market for lower than his current cap number ($4.25 million), so don't expect the Saints to find a suitor sucker.

The Eagles have not had a good kick returner in a long time. Sproles would be an interesting fit in the return game and as a situational receiving threat out of the backfield, but obviously, signing a running back is not an urgent matter.

Wide Receiver: Ted Ginn

Current team: Panthers

Last season, Ginn was 6th in the NFL in punt returns, with an average of 12.2 yards per return. By comparison, the Eagles as a team averaged 6.6 yards per return, which was 27th in the league. Ginn also averaged 23.8 yards per kick return, which was 16th in the NFL. The Eagles averaged 21.4 yards per return, which was 26th in the league. Ginn has 6 kick/punt returns for TDs for his career. He will turn 29 in April, but he still has jets.

Ginn also had a nice year with the Panthers in 2013 as a receiver, catching 36 passes for 556 yards (15.4 per recpetion), and 5 TDs. More importantly, he excelled at making plays with the ball in his hands, averaging 6.3 yards after the catch. That would have led Eagles' receivers last year, who, with the exception of Jason Avant, all had YAC averages in 2013 that were higher than their career YAC averages.

WR depth is always a good thing to have, although the WR position isn't a glaring need at the moment. Ginn could significantly upgrade the Eagles return units and give them another very speedy weapon in their offense. But again, this is low probability.

Tight End: Ed Dickson

Current team: Ravens

Dickson's career seemed to be on the upswing in 2011, when he caught 54 passes for 528 yards and 5 TDs. In the two years since (29 games), Dickson has managed to produce just 46 catches for 498 yards and 1 TD, and that was with starting TE Dennis Pitta out for 12 games in 2013.

Because his career has stagnated, Dickson will likely not be pursued vigorously in free agency. Dickson is an athletic TE who played under Chip Kelly at Oregon (Duck bias!), where Kelly used him in the TAZR role. The Eagles are stacked at TE, with Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey all likely to return. However, if Dickson sits on the market for a week or two without much attention, it would make sense for the Eagles to bring him in to compete for a job.

Offensive line: Guy Whimper

Current team: Steelers

That's right! Guy Whimper! Championship!

OK, seriously though... While the Eagles could certainly draft an offensive lineman to groom behind the guys already in place, they don't have much of a need for help in free agency along their offensive line. Last year, the Eagles brought in an athletic journeyman in Allen Barbre, who was a pleasant surprise as a versatile backup. Guy Whimper has very similar measurables to Barbre, as evidenced by their NFL Combine spider charts:

Whimper has also displayed versatility, playing both tackle and guard in the NFL, and can likely be had at the veteran minimum.

Next up: Best bets on the defense

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