Just a few months after the Eagles ‘won’ the free agent signing period, we’re now more-or-less half way through the season and we’ve got seven games in the bank to judge how successful that series of moves was. We get to dissect whether or not the Eagles really did win free agency now that we’ve seen those players on the field.
In essence, the Eagles have gained five starters from their spending spree along with a nickel corner back, two more situational players, and three back-ups. That isn’t a bad haul from a free agent pool and probably goes some way towards explaining their slow start to the season. That is a lot of talent that needed time to gel and form a cohesive unit. They look like they are getting that together now and could be a force in the second half of the season.
We’ve taken a look at each of the players brought in by the eagles, taken into account the money they were given and the level of play they have attained so far, and divided them into the following categories. Take a look with us and decide for yourself.
Contract: 5 years, $28m
Jason Babin was something of a gamble in free agency. Babin, a former first-round pick, has only really got one big season of production at the NFL level and was looking for a significant contract. The Eagles had brought over Jim Washburn from Tennessee (under whom Babin had enjoyed his season of success), and obviously felt comfortable enough in the risk to make him an offer he was happy to accept. Babin has been a starter for the Eagles opposite Trent Cole and has paid them back to the tune of nine sacks and a +10.8 PFF pass-rushing grade. He was a significant investment but he has been worth the money, giving the Eagles bookend threats when Cole is healthy.
Contract: 5 years, $30m
Cullen Jenkins was the marquee free agent defensive tackle available and the Eagles managed to get him for what was perceived as quite a bargain in an unexpectedly slow and cool market for his services. After a fast start with a pair of excellent performances, Jenkins’ showings have started to sag, especially against the run. He has played 299 snaps now for the Eagles and has a +5.3 pass-rushing grade, notching himself five sacks, three more knockdowns, and nine further pressures. Jenkins is at his best in a situational role when he can disrupt the pass game but the Eagles are expecting him to play more because of the loss of Antonio Dixon to I.R.
Contract: 1 year, $750k
Comfortably the best value of all of the Eagles offseason moves. Mathis was an under-the-radar free agent after never really being given the left guard spot in Cincinnati no matter how long he outplayed Nate Livings. Signed initially as a backup, injuries forced the Eagles to shake up their O-line, move Todd Herremans out to right tackle, and insert Mathis into the lineup. Since then Mathis has been one of the best guards in the league, playing all bar seven snaps this season and earning a PFF grade of +13.8, which trails only Andy Levitre of the Bills at left guard. Given that Mathis is playing for the veteran minimum, the Eagles are doing incredibly well out of the deal, and have to be thinking about extending Mathis long-term to a richer contract.
Contract: 1 year, $524k
Landri was initially signed as something of an afterthought in the free agency spree, and was shortly thereafter cut, but injuries forced the Eagles to re-sign the defensive tackle and since then he has eked out something of a bit-part role in the rotation. He has played just 55 snaps so far but his +3.3 PFF grade in that time is enough to suggest the Eagles should be looking to get him involved more. It might have the added benefit of reducing the strain on Cullen Jenkins who would likely play better with more rest time in game.
Jury Still Out:
Contract: 5 years, $60m
Asomugha was the jewel in the crown of the Eagles’ offseason moves, and the marquee name in all of free agency. He came in talking about playing for the Eagles in a role similar to Charles Woodson in Green Bay, the do-it-all defensive back who would make the defense go. The trouble is that he hasn’t really looked capable of that so far, though it is worth noting that his past three games have been three of his best. He doesn’t seem nearly as at home in zone schemes as he did in the Raiders’ man-coverage system, and he has a tendency to miss tackles, something far less excusable for a player of his physical ability. The Eagles really need for Asomugha to show a faster learning curve than he did when he first arrived in Oakland for this move to be a success.
Status: Nickel Corner
Contract: 2 years remaining, $2.03m still due
Not, strictly speaking, a free agent move, the Eagles brought in Rodgers-Cromartie as part of the highway robbery that was the Kevin Kolb trade with the Cardinals. Since arriving, DRC has been the odd-man-out in the Eagles’ cornerback stable (despite constant rumors surrounding the trading of Asante Samuel) and has been relegated to a role as the nickel corner. That has still netted him 249 snaps this season but his -3.2 PFF grade speaks as to how he is performing in that role. Another player that looks uncomfortable both in zone schemes and in an unfamiliar slot-corner role, the Eagles need him to improve if they are serious about moving Samuel, who is currently their best-performing corner.
Contract: 3 years, $1.55m
Hunt was brought in from the CFL where he had been a pass-rushing force. Since the success of Cameron Wake – and a couple of other former CFL players – the NFL has seemed more willing than ever to kick the tires on CFL prospects. Hunt played his way onto the roster with a solid preseason and he has seen 86 snaps so far as part of the D-line rotation. He has yet to notch a sack, but has pressured the quarterback five times and knocked him down once, so he is a player to keep an eye on the rest of the season. The Eagles have him locked up long enough to develop him long-term.
Contract: 1 year, $4m
Vince Young, the player to make the infamous ‘Dream Team’ comments, was signed for a year to be the backup to Vick. He hasn’t really been able to wrest the backup job away from incumbent Eagle Mike Kafka and, as such, has only played two snaps on offense – one of them being a shocking interception against the Redskins. What keeps this move in this category is the success that Andy Reid had improving Michael Vick the quarterback (rather than Vick the person or athlete), and the potential work he could do with Vince Young over the season. Next year might be the interesting one to watch, and whether the Eagles try to retain him.
Harris was slotted to start for the Eagles at right tackle at one point before injury forced a re-shuffle in the line. A nagging back injury kept him sidelined for the majority of training camp and he was among the Eagles’ final roster cuts. He has yet to be re-signed elsewhere.
Hargrove didn’t last long with the Eagles, released exactly a month after signing. He is now a situational player for the Seahawks.
Lee lasted marginally longer than Hargrove, signing a month and four days before his release. He is now with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Johnnie Lee Higgins
Another of the month-long club. Higgins was signed the same day as Lee, and cut with him also. He is currently a free agent.
Contract: 1 year, $735k
The Eagles signed page and made him a starter, and while that alone would suggest the move has been a success, his performance would suggest something different entirely. Page’s -6.7 PFF grade comes largely from his run defense, where he has been little short of awful. He has already missed eight tackles in his 310 snaps.
Contract: 1 year, $1m
Brown was set to become the Eagles’ primary backup to LeSean McCoy until a completely inexplicable fumble on a ball Brown tried to throw away got him lodged firmly in the doghouse. The Eagles actually tried to trade him to the Lions for Jerome Harrison, a back they had on the roster last season, but Harrison’s medical discovered a brain tumor so the trade was voided, leaving Brown still an Eagle and still very firmly on the outs. He has played six snaps in the past three games.
Contract: 1 year, $2.28m
Steve Smith is a player the Eagles knew well from his Giants days, but he was coming off a major injury and has played just 60 snaps so far. He has been thrown at nine times this season and caught five balls for 63 yards.