Bradford, Thurmond among key free agent questions for Eagles
After finishing 10-6 in both 2013 and 2014, a disappointing 7-9 record resulted in the Eagles replacing Chip Kelly with Doug Pederson. The team has a decent chunk of cap space to work with at the moment, and holes to fill on both sides of the ball—last season, they graded particularly poorly at receiver, on the interior offensive line, and at the second level on defense. But the most significant offseason job will be figuring out what to do at quarterback—will they re-sign Sam Bradford, or look elsewhere?
Looking through the lens of the Philadelphia front office, here are the free agency moves the Eagles should make:
Philadelphia has already been active in extending and re-signing their own players, locking in Brent Celek and handing out sizable deals to Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz, and Lane Johnson.
S Walter Thurmond
The player they should lock up next is Thurmond, who handled the transition from corner to safety well and finished with the 26th-best overall grade at the position. He’ll be 29 when the 2016 season starts, and provides the valuable ability to cover the slot when needed. The team will also have to consider his injury history, however, after Thurmond played more snaps last season (1,219) than in the previous three years combined—but when healthy, he’s been consistently above average.
QB Sam Bradford
This will depend heavily on price, and whether new head coach Doug Pederson thinks Bradford is the long-term answer at QB. Last season, Bradford was solid, finishing with the league’s 10th-highest passing grade, and leading all quarterbacks in accuracy percentage when pressured (74.6 percent). But there isn’t much evidence that he can stay healthy, given that he logged more than 1,000 snaps for just the third season of his six-year career (out all of 2014). And with a likely steep price, the team might instead opt to look at a QB with the 13th draft pick.
If that’s the case, QB Chase Daniel could be an interesting lower-cost option after spending the last three seasons with Pederson in Kansas City.
CB E.J. Biggers
Biggers signed a one-year deal in Philadelphia last offseason and graded similarly to what we’ve seen in previous seasons. His overall grade ranked 105th out of 118 qualifying corners, while opposing quarterbacks had a 100.3 passer rating on throws into his coverage. This was the fifth time in six seasons that he’s graded below average in coverage (the exception being 2012), so the Eagles can likely find better production elsewhere.
WR Marvin Jones
The Eagles saw poor production at receiver last season, and no one in the group finished with a positive cumulative receiving grade. Best case scenario would be adding Alshon Jeffery, but it seems unlikely that he’ll leave Chicago. Alternatively, they should consider the 25-year-old Jones, who’s coming off of career-highs in both receptions (69) and yards (848) with the Bengals. He also posted the eighth-highest receiving grade in 2013, and would add ability after the catch—Jones has forced 32 missed tackles in 149 career receptions, including 12 last season (ranked 16th).
G Brandon Brooks
This year’s group of free agent guards is a good one, and it coincides with a big need for the Eagles. Brooks would be an upgrade over Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre in pass protection, where he’s graded above average all four years of his career, improving in that facet each season. He fell off slightly against the run game in 2015, but ranked in the top-five at the position there in both 2013 and 2014. At 27 and having played at least 93 percent of Houston’s offensive snaps over three seasons, Brooks would be a good long-term option.
The team might also consider Chiefs free agent Jeff Allen, given his familiarity with Pederson, but he’s played just 633 snaps over the last two years, and 2015 was the only season he’s graded above average overall.
LB Danny Trevathan
Trevathan is just 26 years old and collected 65 stops last season, ranking fifth among ILBs in both run-stop percentage and tackling efficiency (eight missed tackles). He’s also graded among the 10 best linebackers in coverage, an area where the current Philadelphia LBs have particularly struggled.