DISCLAIMER: Under no circumstances will you read about deflated footballs in this post.
What you will read about is the deflated stature of the NFC South and how the impending free agents worth a damn in that division will—if they’re smart—leave Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa Bay, & New Orleans for (Midnight) greener pastures. Let’s get to it:
Gabe Carimi, Josh Wilson, Robert McClain, Dwight Lowery
For a roster that has so much talent in a few positions, on the whole, this is a roster devoid of depth: let alone a starting caliber free agent signing. The truth is, the best thing the Eagles can poach from Atlanta is a lesson in draft day restraint. This year’s draft will mark the four year anniversary of the Falcons acquisition of Julio Jones. Atlanta—starting with the 27th pick—moved up to the sixth pick by giving Cleveland two first round, a second, and two fourth round draft picks to draft Julio Jones in the 2011 draft. If you asked most Eagles fans right now, they would make that deal for the rights to Marcus Mariota. Is that smart? Just look at what those five picks Atlanta surrendered became: Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic, Brandon Weeden, & Trent Richardson. Okay, not my best argument. But we’re talking about the Browns draft strategy here. They are god awful in that regard. The premise is sound: that’s a lot of picks to sacrifice for one roster spot. As for the free agents, Gabe Carimi is worth a shot on the OL. He had first round talent coming out of Wisconsin but busted his way to Tampa Bay. He is OL depth that could be had. Wilson, McClain, and Lowery all need heels to meet Chip’s height requirement to ride the coaster that is the Eagles secondary.
Greg Hardy, Colin Cole, Ben Jacobs
Hardy has the most talent but doesn’t come close to resembling the kind of “character guy” that could make his way into Chip Kelly’s locker room. Seriously though: significant talent. In 2012, Hardy tallied 61 tackles & 11 sacks; in 2013, 59 tackles & 15 sacks. He is young at 26 years old. He will be insanely affordable as a free agent given his recent indiscretions. All that being said, can’t imaging Chip gets past that whole beating-of-the-fairer-sex thing: no chance. Colin Cole will be turning 35 soon and is entering his ninth season. He has one or two seasons left to contribute or show the younger DL the professional NFL. Truthfully, he could be a contributor for any defensive coordinator employing a base 4-3: which Billy Davis is not. This team needs to spend free agent dollars to get younger and more competitive. Pass. Ben Jacobs is an interesting name. He is Luke Keuchly’s backup so he never gets on the field. There is something interesting about a guy who signed in Cleveland as an undrafted free agent and eventually made his way Kuechly’s shadow. So he is 6’4”, 240 lbs of determination. Unlike Hardy, that is a guy that could play for Kelly.
New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram, Robert Meachem, Bryce Harris, Senio Kelemete, Pierre Warren
It’s no secret the Saints are in desperate need of salary cap relief. Go ahead and Google “New Orleans Saints salary cap.” Seriously, open a new tab and Google it. The levees did a better job with restraint than the Saints front office. Without serious contract restructuring, they will be unable sign free agents: theirs or otherwise. That said…Ingram is a hard-nosed running back who could upgrade the vast majority of backfields in the NFL. But he would likely help those backfields on a part-time basis as he is one of the more injury prone RBs in the NFL. He has played four seasons and has completed a full, 16 game slate just once. The production is there when he is available. In 13 games last season he tallied nearly 1,000 yards rushing & nine touchdowns. Even still, it’s a crowded backfield in Philly and there are other teams who will be looking for RB relief. Notably, assuming Dallas prioritizes Dez Bryant, that team could be the Cowboys. Robert Meachem is a 30 year old free agent WR whose best days are behind him. He is an all-time Saints WR, no doubt. But the Eagles need younger talent outside, not older men relying on guile to make up for steps lost to age. Bryce Harris started in two games last year and has been a more than serviceable backup in his three year NFL career. He is just 26 and could start someday but Kelly will likely draft an OT to eventually take over for Jason Peters. Kelemete was 5th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Washington. He was an honorable mention OL in 2010 despite that being his first year playing on the offensive side of the ball. He followed that with second team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011. He competed against Chip Kelly in each of those seasons. He can block the run and could at least provide OL depth on this squad. Pierre Warren could complete the set for Chip Kelly: having already plucked former Saint Malcolm Jenkins from free agency last year. The problem is that he is an exclusive rights free agent and, assuming he isn’t cut by the Saints, will be back in black & gold. It’s a shame as he had a nice season last year and is just 22 years old. He’s someone to keep on the radar going forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lansanah has serious talent. He was second on the team last year with 82 combined tackles while chipping in three interceptions & returning two for scores. Marcus Smith didn’t develop last year into the Trent Cole replacement the Eagles had hoped he would. Lansanah could come in and produce for Billy Davis immediately. He would immediately fill the void left if Trent Cole neglects to re-work his contract & is eventually cut. He will likely fetch a pretty penny but will be worth it for someone. The kid can play. That’s it…the worst roster in the worst division in professional football. If the Eagles sign anyone else from this roster, then it is a last resort to other failed forays into the market.
Next week: the AFC South…where the available talent is marginally better and the best option is (hopefully) not just a lesson in self-restraint.