“So what now?” “What’s next on the list?” “Where do the Eagles go from here?” Only moments after the Eagles pulled off what on paper looked like a lopsided deal in acquiring linebacker DeMeco Ryans, a number of Birds fans were onto the next thing. You almost wanted to say, “Hey, can’t you enjoy this trade for a minute?” But the steady stream of what’s-next questions on Twitter seemed borne out of excitement more than anything. And, really, the Eagles still have some work left to do in free agency and before the draft.
So here’s a look at the positions that still need addressing, some of the free agents still available at those spots and how the Eagles might go about filling those needs. We’ll skip the linebacker position in light of the Ryans trade, although the Eagles will probably add another piece, most likely in the draft.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots; Joseph Addai, Colts; Cedric Benson, Bengals; Ryan Grant, Packers; Kevin Smith, Lions; LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets.
The Eagles need a backup running back, but there are still a number of viable options still on the market. Green-Ellis would be a nice complement to LeSean McCoybecause he’s more of the plow-straight-ahead type. But how would he perform in Howard Mudd’s zone blocking scheme? He’s also not much of a pass catcher. But he’s good in short yardage and the Eagles may want to preserve McCoy in those situations. Addai thrived in Indianapolis when Mudd was there. He would seem the best fit, although he may want to start. Benson is beat up and fumbled way too many times last season. Eagles fans remember Grant zipping past Birds defenders in the 2010 opener before he broke his ankle. Smith is still only 25. The 32-year-old Tomlinson took a sharp dip last season. He could be done.
Getting the best available running back doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll solve the Eagles’ problems behind McCoy. Ronnie Brown was hailed by many as a great pickup last summer, but he could not adapt to a lesser role. Dion Lewisshowed some nifty moves in the preseason, but when he got time against first teamers he didn’t look as hot. So the Eagles need to get somebody else, preferably someone who can block and someone that has carried the load in case McCoy gets hurt. The Eagles also need a fullback. Owen Schmitt could return, but his playing time was cut nearly in half last season. Mike Tolbert could have been a hybrid-type back in the Leonard Weaver mold, but he signed a pretty big deal with the Panthers.
Matt Leinart, Texans; Billy Volek, Chargers; Josh Johnson, Bucs.
The pickings are slim if the Eagles are still looking for a backup quarterback. You got to believe they’re looking for upgrades over Trent Edwards and Mike Kafka. Jason Campbell might have been the answer, but he’s headed to Chicago. David Garrard made some sense, but he’ll get an opportunity to start in Miami.
The Jets, thankfully, ended any speculation that Tim Tebow could end up in Philadelphia. He would have been an awkward fit here unless the Eagles wanted to use him strictly as a gimmick.
Edwards did not play last season and Kafka, when he did, looked quite a ways from being a quarterback you could rely on to fill in for Michael Vick in case of emergency. The quieter the Eagles are on the quarterback front, the more likely it appears they’ll invest a relatively high draft draft pick at the position.
Yeremiah Bell, Dolphins; O.J. Atogwe, Redskins; Jim Leonhard, Jets; Abram Elam, Cowboys; James Ibedigbo, Patriots; Deon Grant, Giants.
You don’t expend two second-draft picks on safeties in back-to-back drafts and then give up on them after just two seasons. Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett may never play up to their draft positions, but the Eagles are pot committed at least for this coming season. After that, all bets are off. They also have Kurt Coleman once again as insurance in case Jarrett still isn’t ready.
They’re likely to add some veteran as a possible stopgap. Bell is 34, but he played several years under the Eagles’ new defensive backs coach Todd Bowles. Atogwe was recently cut by the Redskins, but he still has some gas left in the tank. Leonhard has been injury prone. Elam wasn’t much of a playmaker last season.
Brodrick Bunkley, Broncos; Amobi Okoye, Bears; Anthony Hargrove, Seahawks.
The Eagles had some interest in Jason Jones, who went from Tennessee to Seattle. But he’s had some nagging injuries and it was hard to decipher if his slip in production last season had more to do with the bumps and bruises than the move to defensive end.
The Eagles could still bring Derek Landriback. He shined late last season, but could get better offers elsewhere. Bunkley had a productive season as Denver’s nose tackle. Could the Eagles actually bring back their 2006 first round draft pick? (UPDATE: Bunkley signed a five-year contract with the Saints this afternoon.) The 24-year-old Okoye probably will stay in Chicago. Hargrove was with the Eagles during training camp, but couldn’t make the team. Trevor Laws reportedly visited with the Patriots. The Birds will likely let him walk.
If Landri and Laws aren’t back the Eagles could be positioning themselves to draft a defensive tackle high in the draft. They may get one even if one of those guys returns.
Joel Dressen, Texans; Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings; Dallas Clark, Colts.
Once he wasn’t asked to stay in and block as much, Brent Celek took advantage of his pass-catching opportunities and delivered a strong season, statistically speaking. Clay Harbor is a competent backup, but his blocking is still a work in progress.
Getting Dressen would help in that regard, although the Eagles aren’t likely to give up on Harbor. Shiancoe blossomed in Minnesota but he’s on the downslope of his career. Clark, 32, could follow Peyton Manning to Denver.
Vernon Carey, Dolphins; Kareem McKenzie, Giants; Barry Richardson, Chiefs.
When you have only a backup tackle to find for your offensive line, you’re in a good spot. The Eagles would probably like to select a tackle somewhere in the middle-to-late rounds in draft and begin his development with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans holding down the edges for at least the next few seasons.
But that won’t solve the problem of having a ready-made tackle in case one of those guys gets injured. King Dunlap filled that role fairly effectively over the last two seasons. But he isn’t especially durable and he’s a free agent. So he’s probably not back.
Carey has played most of the career at left tackle, but he moved to guard last season. His versatility would seem to make him appealing. McKenzie may be willing to sign somewhere as a reserve. Richardson played every snap for the Chiefs last season and is only 25.