Resigning WR Jeremy Maclin is a priority.
By David F. Cohen
The dust is settling on the Eagles’ 2014 season, which ended with a victory over the Giants so the Eagles finished 10-6, as they did in 2013.
The difference, of course, is that this year that wasn’t good enough to win the NFC East and make the playoffs.
And since the Birds can’t actually do anything until March, when the free agent signing season begins, the next two months will be filled with idle speculation about what they should do.
So, let us begin by considering what the astute Rob Maaddi of the AP thinks:
Neither coach Chip Kelly nor owner Jeffrey Lurie gave QB Nick Foles a strong endorsement for 2015. Foles regressed statistically after his breakout year in 2013. He was turnover-prone, but led the Eagles to a 5-2 record in games he started and finished. Mark Sanchez revived his career in Philadelphia, set a franchise-record with a 64.1 completion rate, but also made too many turnovers. Foles has one year left on his rookie contract, so should be back. Sanchez will be a free agent who should get offers to compete for a starting job somewhere.
”I expect to be the quarterback,” Foles said.
Re-signing Jeremy Maclin after his best season one year removed from ACL surgery is a priority. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, safety Nate Allen, linebackers Brandon Graham and Casey Matthews and wide receiver Brad Smith also will be unrestricted free agents. Defensive end Cedric Thornton and running back Chris Polk will be restricted. Fletcher struggled and ended the season benched. He isn’t expected to return. Everyone else is in the mix.
The Eagles will carry over nearly $16 million in cap space from last year so they’ll have room to pursue free agents, keep players they want and extend a few contracts. McCoy, who is heading to his third Pro Bowl, counts for almost $12 million on the cap in 2015. Kelly wants him back, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was asked to restructure his deal. Linebacker Trent Cole’s cap number is $11.6 million, so the 32-year-old former Pro Bowler will have to take a pay cut. Same for cornerback Cary Williams, who counts for $8.2 million against the cap. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans ($6.9 million) is coming off surgery for an Achilles, but Kelly made it clear he’s important to the defense and the team.
Kelly’s one-word response ”good” when asked about his working relationship with GM Howie Roseman suggested perhaps there’s friction between the two men. Kelly praised Roseman for his work on contracts and the salary cap, but also made it clear he has final say on roster decisions and personnel. Roseman, however, takes pride in making football decisions and his 2012 draft suggests he knows what he’s doing. Kelly lauded Tom Gamble, the vice president of player personnel as a ”heck of a football guy” and said he’d support him if he got the opportunity to be a GM for another team. Stay tuned.
The front seven made progress in the second year under defensive coordinator Billy Davis. But the secondary allowed more big plays than any in the league and needs revamping. The Eagles could change three-fourths of the starting unit, bringing back only safety Malcolm Jenkins. Davis’ job is safe, even though he came under scrutiny for allowing Fletcher to cover top receivers such as Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson one-on-one with the season on the line.
”I thought our transition from coming in here and playing a Wide-9, 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense over last two years, I think Billy has done a really good job,” Kelly said.