Key Additions: Malcolm Jenkins ($5.2M per year), Darren Sproles ($3.5M), Nolan Carroll ($2.6M), Mark Sanchez($2.3M), Chris Maragos ($1.4M)
Key Re-Signings: Nate Allen ($2M per year), Donnie Jones ($1.8M)
Key Losses: Michael Vick (Jets), Clifton Geathers (Redskins)
Major Cuts: DeSean Jackson ($6.5M cap savings), Patrick Chung ($2.3M)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The most controversial decision of the offseason, not just for the Eagles but probably the entire NFL, was the decision to release WR DeSean Jackson. Jackson was very productive last season, his first in Chip Kelly’s offense, but the Eagles seemed to sour on him internally. Jackson was always going to have an uphill battle to earn this year of his contract but the fact that Philadelphia made no push to rework the deal makes it clear they did not want him. If Jeremy Maclin is healthy this move will leave the Eagles cap looking even healthier in the future.
The biggest money acquisition the team made was Malcolm Jenkins who is expected to improve the safety position in 2014. Jenkins is talented and a former first round pick which probably helped augment his contract. At $5.2M a year I would consider him overpaid, but it is a short term deal and hi $10 million two year payout is in line with the players earning in the high $4 million category.
The trade for Darren Sproles was interesting. It jumped their backfield spending to second in the NFL behind the Vikings and may have been made with an eye on 2015 as much as 2014. In 2015 LeSean McCoy will earn $10.25 million, essentially a designed walk year, not unlike the Jackson contract discussed above. By reducing his workload in 2014 it should bring his absolute production down and turn him into a two down player, giving the Eagles more leverage in extending him on more favorable terms in 2015 rather than cutting him. Sproles also gives the Eagles a boost on special teams.
I would not expect the Eagles to miss backup QB Mike Vick too much. Vick would have provided too many distractions to a team that hopes they found their star of the future in Nick Foles. Expecting Foles to duplicate his performance is not realistic and the last thing they want is for crowds to be calling for the backup. Mark Sanchez is a reclamation project and incredibly cheap by any standard.
For a low cost, Nolan Carroll is a capable depth player while Chris Maragos will fill some voids on special teams. The re-signing of Nate Allen was also a limited risk signing.
Overall Grade: B+
Most of what the Eagles needed to happen occurred well before free agency when they locked up Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, which allowed them to jettison Jackson from the team. They also signed Jason Peters to an extension. In general I think the Eagles had the right approach to free agency for their club. They augmented the talent they had on the team, but did so without getting too star-centric or stuck for multiple years on bad deals, which was a lesson they had learned a few years back. Both the Jackson and Sproles moves should lead to much more cap flexibility in the future. The Eagles are a shrewd organization and one of those teams that should be considered a model franchise to follow.