Good morning, Eagles fans. After more than six consecutive months of football, the players and coaches have a chance to catch their breath this week for one of the few quiet periods during the offseason. The Eagles lost two key assistant coaches, so Doug Pederson must shuffle his coaching staff. The scouting combine is two weeks away, and the coaches and personnel staff will soon be busy working on the 2018 roster.
This is the first offseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will come every Wednesday for the next few months. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Beau Allen came to the Eagles as a seventh-round pick in 2014, outlasted every player in his Eagles draft class, survived a scheme change, contributed for four years as a rotational defensive lineman, and won a Super Bowl.
But Allen's Eagles career could end next month. Allen, 26, is one of 14 pending free agents on the Eagles.
"I remember when I got here as a rookie four years ago, it seems like yesterday," Allen said. "I don't know what to think. Still kind of basking in the glory of the Super Bowl. But I've loved my time here in Philadelphia and hopefully we can work something out. You never really know until the free agency period comes around."
If Allen stays in Philadelphia, it would need to be as a backup. The team signed Tim Jernigan to a contract extension in November, cementing Jernigan as the Eagles' starting defensive tackle next to Fletcher Cox. Allen played 41 percent of the defensive snaps this season, so the third defensive tackle plays a notable role for the Eagles. But that might not be a spot where the Eagles invest much money, and Allen could be better served seeking a starting job elsewhere.
"I want to be a starter. I think I'm a starting-quality defensive lineman," Allen said. "I think I've had a good year, to come back early from a [pectoral] injury and playing all these games, playing well after missing time, it was a tough thing. I'm proud of myself for that. I think I played well. I think guys on the defense would agree that I'm a starting-quality defensive lineman. We'll see how other teams feel about that, I guess."
Allen, who is 6-foot-3 and 327 pounds, could find suitors on the open market. He's able to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense and defensive tackle in the 4-3 – Jason Kelce might have mentioned during his parade speech how there were doubts Allen could fit the Eagles' scheme. His pass-rushing statistics won't prompt teams to break the bank (2 career sacks), but there's usually a spot on rosters for big, run-stuffing linemen. Whether that's a starting job remains to be seen. Allen would be well served to look.
If Allen departs, the Eagles have Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls on the depth chart to compete for the No. 3 job. They could also look for another defensive tackle in the draft.
Former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich was introduced as the Indianapolis Colts head coach on Tuesday. Reich revealed that he told his agent before the Eagles' playoff run that he was "going dark" until the season finished, so he wouldn't take phone calls or text messages about head coaching opportunities during the normal hiring cycle.
"I was focused on one thing, and after experiencing that and the importance of every detail in the preparation of those games, I wouldn't change a thing," Reich said at his news conference.
That meant that Reich didn't get an interview in Indianapolis until Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned down the Colts job last week. Reich didn't seem to mind that the public knew he wasn't the top choice.
"The backup role has suited me well in my career," Reich said.
Reich will call plays in Indianapolis, but he indicated that the structure will be similar to what the Eagles used with their offensive staff.
That leads to the question of how the Eagles will replace Reich — and former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who went to Minnesota. There hasn't been an announcement yet, but as I've written before, my sense during the season was that Doug Pederson wants to have a coaching pipeline and be able to promote from within if the right candidates are on the staff. Because Pederson calls plays, the offensive coordinator role in Philadelphia is different than it is on many other teams. Wide receivers Mike Groh and running backs coach Duce Staley could take on bigger roles with the passing game and running game, respectively, as has been rumored in reports by NFL.com and theMMQB.com. Press Taylor, who has been a quality-control coach, is in line to earn a promotion to become a position coach. The Eagles could still bring another voice in from the outside, but Groh and Staley are both well regarded in the building and would be the top candidates for bigger roles.
Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, but the Eagles won't play in the annual Hall of Fame Game. The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will play in the Aug. 2 game. (Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will also be inducted that week, so the NFL picked two other fan bases that will travel to Canton, Ohio.)
This isn't bad news for the Eagles. The Hall of Fame Game is a fifth preseason game, and coaches often treat it like the preseason finale. The two teams report to training camp one week earlier than the rest of the league to play in the game. Considering the Eagles played one month longer than most of the league, my guess is the players wouldn't be so thrilled to have a shorter offseason. The standard six weeks of training camp and preseason should suffice. (Teams report two weeks before the first preseason opener, then they have four weeks of preseason games.)
The induction ceremony is Saturday, Aug. 4, so Eagles fans will still have the chance to visit Canton that weekend and see Dawkins wear the gold jacket.
Mychal Kendricks is a player I'll be watching. He wanted a trade last offseason and the Eagles didn't move him. The Eagles might need him more this offseason than last season, considering Nigel Bradham is a free agent and Jordan Hicks is recovering from a major injury. But if the Eagles re-sign Bradham and if there's confidence that Hicks can return to form, the Eagles would need to make a decision about Kendricks. He's a good player who's a legitimate starter, but if Bradham and Hicks are ahead of him, Kendricks is a part-time player in Philadelphia because of how infrequently the Eagles play three linebackers. Kendricks counts $7.6 million against the salary cap next season — that's a big number for a part-time player, especially given the Eagles' salary cap situation. They would save $4.4 million by moving him. So the only way I wouldn't look to trade Kendricks is if the Eagles are committed to playing him the majority of the snaps. (And they might have to depending on Hicks' recovery.) Otherwise, this is the offseason to try to get value for him.
The Eagles don't have that "bust" needing a turnaround season, so I don't know if there's anyone on the roster who would fit that description. Their first-round picks after Agholor were Carson Wentz and Derek Barnett. Wentz is an MVP-caliber quarterback, and Barnett was a productive player when on the field. His production should be even better as his playing time increases. He would fit the description of a role player who becomes a "really important player," but he wouldn't fit with that "bust" label. Another player who I think will be far more productive next season than he was this season is Ronald Darby, who didn't have an offseason with the team and then missed the first half of the season with an injury. He can make a big leap in 2018.