Eagles improve in the offseason, earn B+ grade
After moving on from Chip Kelly and bringing in former Chiefs OC Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ offseason headlines have been dominated by quarterbacks. First, the team spent a combined $34 million in guaranteed money on Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. They then made a big draft trade, sending multiple picks to Cleveland for the chance to take North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz with the second pick—a move that reportedly (and understandably) displeased Bradford. However, that shouldn’t overshadow the team’s other good moves in both free agency and the draft, as they heads into the summer looking improved over what was a 7-9 team a year ago.
Below is a compilation of Philadelphia Eagles’ 2016 offseason transactions, including free-agency moves and draft picks:
Overall grade: B+
Free agency and trades
New Arrivals: S Rodney McLeod, G Brandon Brooks, QB Chase Daniel, CB Leodis McKelvin, WR Chris Givens, C/G Stefen Wisniewski, WR T.J. Graham, WR Reuben Randle, P Ryan Quigley, DI Mike Martin, CB Ron Brooks, LB Nigel Bradham
Retentions: QB Sam Bradford, DE Vinny Curry, CB Nolan Carroll, G Matt Tobin, LB Najee Goode,
Departures: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, RB DeMarco Murray, S Walter Thurmond, DI Cedric Thornton, DI Brandon Bair, S Jerome Couplin, QB Thad Lewis, C David Molk, T Tanner Hawkinson, WR Seantavius Jones, WR Seyi Ajirotutu, WR Riley Cooper, CB E.J. Biggers, LB DeMeco Ryans
Apart from the quarterback spending, the Eagles spent much of free agency undoing recent moves made by Chip Kelly. The team shipped CB Byron Maxwell’s contract, along with LB Kiko Alonso, to the Dolphins as part of a draft pick exchange and sent RB DeMarco Murray to Nashville after a single disappointing season in Philadelphia – Murray finished 2015 with a -6.6 rushing grade, down from a second-ranked +18.8 mark in 2014.
Adding Brandon Brooks and Sefen Wisniewski should be a boon to the team’s interior offensive line, which was a significant weakness last season given Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre combined for a -33.8 pass blocking grade. Brooks brings four straight seasons of above average grades in pass protection – and he’s improved every year of his career – while Wisniewski carries a career +19.1 grade there.
The Eagles brought in several bodies at receiver, although Reuben Randle is the only one of the three with notable grades, despite having a down year last season – he peaked in 2014 with the 19th-ranked receiving grade. Philadelphia has spent some fairly high draft picks at the position over the last few years and will be banking on a massive improvement from their incumbents after a brutal 2015 season.
Safety Rodney McCleod headlines the team’s moves in the defensive backfield, all of which appear to be better scheme fits under new DC Jim Schwartz than the departed Maxwell and Walter Thurmond.
2015 season tackling statistics
|Player||Tackle attempts||Tackles missed||Miss %||NFL rank|
2016 NFL draft
1 (2) (from Cleveland) Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
3 (79) Isaac Seumalo, C, Oregon State
5 (153) Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia
5 (164) (from Pittsburgh) Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, TCU
6 (196) Blake Countess, CB, Auburn
7 (233) Jalen Mills, S, LSU
7 (240) Alex McCalister, DE, Florida
7 (251) (from Arizona) Joe Walker, ILB, Oregon
The Eagles went all-in on Wentz being their long-term answer at QB, surrendering multiple picks to move up to No. 2, including their first-rounder in 2017 and a second-round selection in 2018. He’s a potential ‘jackpot’ QB prospect with the requisite physical tools and matching production (+24.5 passing grade in 521 snaps last season). But how steep will the learning curve be coming from the FCS?
Seumalo in the third round further addressed the team’s need on the interior offensive line; he finished with the sixth-best overall grade among all FBS guards last season and surrendered just four pressures despite starting his last three games at left tackle. Wendell Smallwood stood out on zone runs at West Virginia and posted the 11th-best rushing grade among draft-eligible backs, while the Eagles finished their draft with several athletes — including Florida’s Alex McCalister, a pass-rush specialist that had one of the highest pressure rates on outside rushes in the edge class.
Training camp draws closer with the Eagles looking improved on both sides of the ball after a solid draft and free agency period with notable additions at offensive line and in the secondary. Of course, that’s usually the case for most teams at this time of year. How they fare in 2016 season will depend on making it through camp without major injuries and the play of their signal caller, whomever that ends up being. Bradford looks like the likely starter at this point, and despite not quite living up to his No. 1-draft status, he’s graded above average in the last four seasons he’s played, including a 10th-ranked passing grade in 2015. But there’s always the injury concern and he’ll be competing with Wentz and a quarterback in Daniels who has more familiarity with Pederson.
The team’s next step will be signing Fletcher Cox, who’s entering the final season of his rookie contract. Cox has taken a massive leap over the past two seasons, turning into one of the top interior defenders in the NFL – last season JJ Watt and Muhammad Wilerson were the only 3-4 DEs with more total pressures than Cox’s 77.
Philadelphia Eagles’ projected base defense in 2016:
Philadelphia Eagles’ projected base offense in 2016:
Philadelphia Eagles’ projected base offense in 2016: