Eagles free agency defensive edition

Eagles Free Agency: Defensive Bargain Shopping

  • 2021 nfl free agency
  • 2021 NFL Offseason
  • Defense
  • Defensive Free Agents
  • Eagles
  • Eagles Brawl
  • Free Agency
  • Free Agents
  • Johnathan Gannon
  • Philadelphia Eagles
By Max Derringer February 17, 2021 0 Comment
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The Eagles’ new defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon has a tough task ahead of him attempting to turn around an aging and underperforming defense. Could the Eagles attempt to plug some of the holes in free agency?

The Eagles will not be spending a ton of money in free agency this year due to their impending salary cap dilemma, but after shedding contracts and restructuring veterans, the Eagles will have enough cap space to look for bargain-priced free agents.

Eagles Brawl recently reviewed the potential bargain offensive free agents that could interest the Eagles and now it’s the defense’s turn.

Defensive Line

Currently Signed for 2021 Season
Fletcher Cox $23.88 million
Brandon Graham $17.93 million
Javon Hargrave $15.20 million
Derek Barnett $10.05 million
Malik Jackson $4.69 million
Josh Sweat $1.07 million
Treyvon Hester $920,000
Genard Avery $920,000
Raequan Williams $805,000
Joe Ostman $780,000
Matt Leo $660,000
Free Agents
Vinny Curry      Unrestricted FA
T.Y. McGill      Unrestricted FA
Hassan Ridgeway      Unrestricted FA

Currently, the defensive line is expected to remain mostly intact aside from the departure of defensive end Vinny Curry and the probable release of defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Even without the return of those veterans the Eagles currently boast one of the most expensive defensive lines in the NFL. The high price tag will limit the chances the Eagles allocate additional resources to the position.

The possibility remains that the Eagles could still opt to pursue further reinforcements due to their defensive philosophy being dependent on a strong defensive line. Some options for the Eagles in free agency that may be of interest are:

Low-Risk Options

Dawuane Smoot

Age during 2021 season             26
2020 Cap Hit       $1.20 million

Dawuane Smoot is a former third-round pick who has played well in a reserve role with 11.5 sacks in the past two seasons and could provide the team with a replacement for Vinny Curry.

Offer: 2 year deal for $5.50 million

Jihad Ward

Age during 2021 season             27
2020 Cap Hit        $887,500

The former second-round pick from the Raiders is already looking for his fourth team in what will be his sixth season. Even though Jihad Ward has yet to find a long-term home in the NFL, he has provided a positive impact as a role player and would be among the cheaper options available to the Eagles.

Offer: 1 year deal for $1.00 million

Boom or Bust Options

Takkarist McKinley

Age during 2021 season             25
2020 Cap Hit      $655,800

The former 2017 first-round pick has not had a great start to his NFL career after failing to make an impact on the Falcons and being placed on injured reserve by the Raiders in 2020. Takkarist McKinley is best suited for a situational pass-rushing role which is how the Eagles would utilize him behind starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.

Offer: 1 year deal for $3.50 million

Charles Harris

Age during 2021 season             26
2020 Cap Hit       $1.94 million

Also taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, Charles Harris has had a rougher first four years than McKinley and provided less impact on the field. The Eagles could look to sign Harris as a reclamation project in the hopes they can develop him into the pass rusher he was projected to be.

Offer: 1 year deal for $2.50 million

Linebackers

Currently Signed for 2021 Season
Davion Taylor $1.02 million
T.J. Edwards $854,000
Shaun Bradley $822,000
John Bachie $780,000
Free Agents
Nate Gerry Unrestricted FA
Duke Riley Unrestricted FA
Alex Singleton Restricted FA

In direct contrast to the defensive line, the Eagles have the cheapest linebacker group in the NFL. Consequently, the linebackers struggled mightily in 2020. The only Eagles linebacker to produce positive play was former CFL player Alex Singleton, whom the Eagles will surely look to re-sign after he unexpectedly led the team with 120 tackles.

If the Eagles want to turn around their defense they cannot continue to neglect the linebacker position. They have to start investing resources through the draft and free agency.

Denzel Perryman

Age during 2021 season             28
2020 Cap Hit       $7.51 million

Denzel Perryman has never played a full 16 game season in his six-year career which on the surface doesn’t sound like an appealing free-agent target. However, Perryman is adept at stopping the run and holds his own in pass coverage which the Eagles sorely need after watching Nate Gerry get picked on the past few seasons.

Offer: 2 year deal for $10.0 million

Raekwon McMillan

Age during 2021 season             25
2020 Cap Hit       $1.10 million

After a hot start to his career, Raekwon McMillian has progressively seen reduced playing time with both the Dolphins and Raiders. McMillan does possess traits that could intrigue the Eagles as he was touted for his physicality and instincts coming out of Ohio State.

Offer: 1 year deal for $3.5 million

Todd Davis

Age during 2021 season             29
2020 Cap Hit      $926,500

Todd Davis was a four-year starter in Denver who struggled to find his footing in Minnesota last season. The Eagles could look to turn Davis’ down season and sign him for below market value. Davis would provide the Eagles with experience and leadership in the linebacker room which they have not had since Jordan Hicks left the team.

Offer: 1 year deal for $3.5 million

Alex Anzalone

Age during 2021 season             27
2020 Cap Hit       $1.03 million

Like many of the other free agents on this list, Alex Anzalone has a long injury history, but when available does provide quality play. Of particular interest to the Eagles could be Anzalone’s coverage and blitzing ability which are both vital in Johnathan Gannon’s defensive scheme.

Offer: 2 year deal for $5.0 million

Cornerbacks

Currently Signed for 2021 Season
Darius Slay $15.75 million
Avonte Maddox $1.08 million
Craig James $920,000
Kevon Seymour $920,000
Grayland Arnold $780,000
Michael Jacquet $780,000
Jameson Houston $780,000
Free Agents
Cre’von LeBlanc     Unrestricted FA
Nickell Robey-Coleman    Unrestricted FA

Entering the 2020 off-season the Eagles had a goal to find a legitimate number one corner; a goal that was achieved after trading for long-time Detroit Lion corner Darius Slay. The Eagles failed, however, in finding competent cornerback play everywhere else on the field.

Third-year corner Avonte Maddox manned the other outside corner position and was a disaster in the role as he was routinely exposed by opposing teams. Maddox is better served as a slot corner or reserve safety and it’s possible the Eagles will place him at his more natural position in 2021. A shocking failure for the Eagles was their slot corner-back play. The Eagles signed Nickell Robey-Coleman to be their slot corner on a cheap one-year deal that was widely regarded as a steal, but Robey-Coleman provided subpar play all season.

To make the most out of the Darius Slay trade, the Eagles’ free agency strategy needs to focus on finding better cornerbacks.

Outside Corner Options

Xavier Rhodes

Age during 2021 season             31
2020 Cap Hit       $3.75 million

Xavier Rhodes looked to be on the downside of his career after leaving Minnesota but showed that he still has plenty in the tank with the Colts in 2020. If the Eagles are looking for help on the outside they need to be looking at Rhodes’ way as he would provide the team with physical play and the ability to match up with any team’s number two receiver. Rhodes also has familiarity with new coordinator Jonathan Gannon who helped him turn his career around which could provide the Eagles the inside track for his services.

Offer: 2 year deal for $10.00 million

Gareon Conley

Age during 2021 season             26
2020 Cap Hit       $1.89 million

Gareon Conley missed the entire 2020 season and has not had the best start to his career, but does possess the speed the Eagles need at the position. Conley is not anyone’s answer for a long-term answer as a starting corner but could provide the Eagles with decent enough play while they find a more permanent solution.

Offer: 1 year deal for $1.50 million

Akhello Witherspoon

Age during 2021 season             26
2020 Cap Hit       $2.38 million

While Akhello Witherspoon’s career has not taken off like anticipated, he should still be an option the Eagles consider this off-season. Witherspoon has good man press abilities and has the ball skills that the Eagles corners have been lacking for years.

Offer: 2 year deal for $7.0 million

Slot Corner Options

Brian Poole

Age during 2021 season             29
2020 Cap Hit       $4.94 million

Brian Poole has been one of the NFL’s better slot corner in recent seasons and would represent a massive upgrade over Nickell Robey-Coleman. Among the available slot corner in free-agency, Poole will most certainly come with the highest price tag. If his market does not develop as expected the Eagles should not hesitate to offer him a contract.

Offer: 2 year deal for $10.0 million

K’Waun Williams

Age during 2021 season             30
2020 Cap Hit       $3.18 million

Much like Poole, K’Waun Wiliams is one of the top slot corners as well but only played eight games in 2020. It is possible the Eagles could take another stab at signing a veteran slot corner and hope things work out better this time.

Outside Corner Options

Offer: 1 year deal for $2.50 million

Mackensie Alexander

Age during 2021 season             27
2020 Cap Hit       $3.95 million

Mackensie Alexander is another slot corner that could be of interest to the Eagles. After starting his career slow, Alexander picked up his play in his only year in Cincinnati and could finally be realizing his potential that saw him drafted in the second round.

Offer: 2 year deal for $8.00 million

Safeties

Currently Signed for 2021 Season
Rodney McLeod $5.06 million
K’Von Wallace $956,000
Blake Countess $920,000
Marcus Epps $850,000
Free Agents
Jalen Mills Unrestricted FA
Rudy Ford Unrestricted FA

The Eagles received quality play from their safeties in 2020, but enter 2021 with major question marks at both safety positions. Free safety Rodney McLeod suffered his second torn ACL in the past three seasons in 2020 and could possibly miss the start of the 2021 season.

The Eagles’ strong safety in 2020 was converted corner Jalen Mills who had an underrated season but is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. With uncertainty at safety, the Eagles could look to free agency to find a potential replacement for Mills or provide depth if McLeod does indeed miss the beginning portion of the season.

Strong Safety

Shawn Williams

Age during 2021 season             30
2020 Cap Hit       $4.88 million

The starting safety for the Bengals the previous four seasons, Shaun Williams found his role reduced significantly in 2020 and could be looking for a team where he has a bigger role with the potential to start a few games if need be.

Offer: 1 year deal for $3.50 million

Duron Harmon

Age during 2021 season             31
2020 Cap Hit       $4.5 million

Duron Harmon was not effective as a full-time player in Detroit this past season but he has long been an effective role player and core special teamer and would be an excellent option to provide a few starts while McLeod gets healthy.

Offer: 1 year deal for $2.50 million

Jaquiski Tartt

Age during 2021 season             29
2020 Cap Hit       $6.28 million

The sixth-year veteran would be an excellent option as a third safety for the Eagles. Jaquiski Tartt is not an ideal long-term starter but would be more than adequate if forced into a few starts.

Offer: 2 year deal for $7.00 million

Free Safety

Malik Hooker

Age during 2021 season             25
2020 Cap Hit       $4.01 million

Malik Hooker is another free agent that has ties to defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. The biggest issue thus far in Hooker’s career is his inability to stay healthy as he already has dealt with a torn ACL, MCL, and Achilles. When healthy Hooker has demonstrated playmaking ability and could be a worthwhile gamble for the Eagles.

Offer: 2 year deal for $5.50 million

Damontae Kazee

Age during 2021 season             28
2020 Cap Hit       $2.21 million

Normally Damontae Kazee would be out of the Eagles price range, but after suffering a torn Achilles in 2020 his market may be depressed in 2021. Kazee is a playmaker with 10 interceptions in his last two healthy seasons.

Offer: 1 year deal for $2.50 million

The Eagles have a lot of work to do to improve an aging roster that went 4-11-1 in 2020. No better place to start than free agency.

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I cover, report and write about the Philadelphia Eagles.

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