The Philadelphia Eagles were among the NFL’s most active teams on Day One of free agency, with Howie Roseman’s immediate priority to upgrade the supporting cast for quarterback Carson Wentz.
Despite the Birds entering with one of the lowest amount of available salary cap space to work with, Roseman brought in two starting wide receivers, including the most coveted name on the open market, Alshon Jeffrey. He also bolstered the offensive line by signing former Titans guard Chance Warmack.
To help pay for Jeffrey, Warmack, and Torrey Smith, the team did release defensive end Connor Barwin, creating over $7 million in cap room.
What do these moves mean for the Birds? Let’s break it down.
Instant Upgrades At Wide Receiver
The 2016 Eagles’ receivers was one of the most sorry bunch of losers you’ll ever see. The Jordan Matthews/Nelson Agholor/Dorial Green-Beckham trio actually made some fans long for the days of not only James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, but Charles Johnson and Torrance Small.
The team’s biggest need coming into this offseason was without a doubt the wide receiver position. They just couldn’t let Carson Wentz go into his second year without some kind of viable threat. And Howie addressed the issue in a big way at his first chance.
Now, while the Jeffrey and Smith signings are tremendous upgrades over the incumbents, they aren’t without issue. Jeffrey at times has looked like a dominant receiver, but has also struggled to play through certain injuries and his numbers have been on the decline for several years. The counter to that point is that the Chicago Bears have been a barren wasteland of an organization that have done little right, and Jeffrey is still young and talented enough that he could be poised to thrive and breakout with a change of scenery.
Of all the wide receivers that the Eagles were linked to, my preference was for them to pursue a trade for Brandin Cooks. But given that Roseman was actually able to land Jeffrey on a pretty team-friendly deal despite his lack of cap space, I really don’t have a problem with the move.
On a contract of three years for $15 million, its hard to not to like the Torrey Smith signing either. Smith gives the Birds the best deep threat they’ve had since DeSean Jackson left, and as a second starting wideout he should compliment Jeffrey very well.
What Do These Moves Mean For The Rest Of The Offseason?
I don’t think its out of the question that the Eagles could still go for a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. Given that Jeffrey is only on a one-year deal, if the team likes Corey Davis or Mike Williams enough, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them add even more talent to the position.
I would still say that corner is probably the priority going into April, with running back a close second.
Sticking with the wide receivers, I also now wonder if the team would consider trying to trade away Jordan Matthews. Given what the team has already done in free agency, I can’t see Matthews fitting into the club’s long-term plans anymore. It doesn’t make sense for them to pay significant money to a guy that wouldn’t be anything more than a glorified third receiver. Sure, you could argue that the team is better off keeping him around for a year as the slot receiver, but given his issues with drops, is Matthews really even all that good in his role? The slot receiver is a guy who you want to have the best hands on the team, and if not for the complete and constant failures of Nelson Agholor, Matthews would receive a great deal more criticism for his play.
The Chance Warmack signing could spell the end of the Jason Kelce era. Warmack could take over as the team’s starting left guard, allowing Isaac Seumalo to move to center.
Where Do The Eagles Stand In The NFC East?
Following the free agent signings, I would confidently put the Eagles above the Washington Redskins, who are in a state of complete dysfunction. Washington has already lost veteran receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, and potentially could lose starting quarterback Kirk Cousins as well. The Redskins just seem destined for a complete freefall back to the basement of the division after enjoying two competitive seasons.
Brandon Marshall makes the Giants a much more exciting team on paper, giving Eli Manning the closest thing he’ll ever get to replicating Plaxico Burress. If New York ever thinks about fixing their offensive line, they’d be able to do some serious damage in the NFC.
The Cowboys were rumored to be one of the teams in on DeSean Jackson, and I’m relieved we won’t see a combo of Jackson and Dez Bryant on the field at the same time with Ezekial Elliot in the backfield.
A great deal of the offseason still remains, but the Eagles have already improved themselves considerably from what they were a year ago.