Watch CBS News

6 free agent targets for Philadelphia Eagles with ties to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio

The story of how Jason Kelce signed a Philadelphia Eagles fan's shoe at the Sea Isle Wawa
The story of how Jason Kelce signed a Philadelphia Eagles fan's shoe at the Sea Isle Wawa 01:33

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Vic Fangio will be running the defense for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2024. 

After the team spiraled at the end of 2023canned Sean Desai and let Matt Patricia go, the franchise tapped the longtime defensive coach to bring some competency to the team's defense. 

With Fangio as the team's defensive coordinator, the Eagles could target some players in free agency who previously played in his scheme. 

RELATED: Who is Vic Fangio? Meet the Philadelphia Eagles' new defensive coordinator

Here are six players to watch before NFL free agency begins on March 13. 

S Justin Simmons

Veteran safety Justin Simmons was released by the Denver Broncos on Thursday in a move to save cap space, joining a loaded safety class in free agency. 

Simmons was set to account for $18.25 million against the cap until he was released. He played under Fangio when he was the head coach of the Broncos from 2019-21. 

Simmons had his first of four Second-Team All-Pro seasons under Fangio in 2019. He was a Pro Bowler in 2020 and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors again in 2021. 

Simmons is 30 years old, and the Eagles are looking to get younger on defense, but he's still been productive over the past few seasons. 

Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 16: Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a play during an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 16, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. Ryan Kang / Getty Images

In 2023, he was named Second-Team All Pro, earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and had 70 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass deflections, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. 

Simmons is also a versatile piece for Fangio's defense and can play multiple positions. He's played over 1,000 career snaps in the slot, more than 2,000 in the box and over 3,800 as a deep free safety, according to Pro Football Focus. 

With his release, Simmons becomes one of the top safeties and most sought after players on the market. Spotrac projects him to earn a two-year, $22 million contract in free agency. 

LB Andrew Van Ginkel 

Andrew Van Ginkel only played under Fangio for one season with the Miami Dolphins in 2023, but he had one of the better years of his career. 

Van Ginkel recorded 69 total tackles, a career-high six sacks, one fumble recovery and returned one interception for a touchdown against the Washington Commanders. 

Dallas Cowboys v Miami Dolphins
Andrew Van Ginkel #43 of the Miami Dolphins takes the field prior to a game against the Dallas Cowboys at Hard Rock Stadium on December 24, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. / Getty Images

Van Ginkel, who played on the edge and at linebacker for the Dolphins, was drafted in the fifth round by Miami in the 2019 NFL draft out of the University of Wisconsin. 

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles 2024 offseason: pending free agents, NFL draft, more

The Eagles will be losing Zach Cunningham, Shaq Leonard and Nicholas Morrow to free agency, so Van Ginkel could be a target for the Birds given his experience playing under Fangio. 

Before last season, Fangio even called Van Ginkel and encouraged him to re-sign with the Dolphins because he was a good fit for the defense. 

S Eddie Jackson

The Eagles' safety play left a lot to be desired in 2023. Outside of veteran Kevin Byard, the team's safeties were young and ravaged by injuries. 

But that could change if they try to pair Reed Blankenship alongside veteran Eddie Jackson. 

Jackson, who became a cap casualty for the Chicago Bears last week, played under Fangio when he was the team's defensive coordinator for the first two years of his career. 

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
 Eddie Jackson #4 of the Chicago Bears lines up during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field on Nov. 9, 2023 in Chicago. Getty Images

In 2018 under Fangio, Jackson was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. His other Pro Bowl selection came the following season in 2019. 

RELATED: The story of how Jason Kelce signed a Philadelphia Eagles fan's shoe at the Sea Isle Wawa

But since 2019, Jackson hasn't been back to the Pro Bowl. 

Jackson, 30, dealt with a foot injury throughout the 2023 season and only played in 12 games, which led to his numbers being down. He had 37 total tackles, one interception and five pass deflections. 

S DeShon Elliott

Like Van Ginkel, safety DeShon Elliott played under Fangio with the Dolphins last season. 

Elliott, 26, played and started 15 games for the Dolphins and recorded 82 tackles, one interception and seven pass deflections. 

Before the 2023 season with the Dolphins, Elliott played with the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens. He was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the NFL draft in 2018. 

Elliott does come with some injury concerns. He was placed on injured reserve three times throughout his career for season-ending injuries. 

Tennessee Titans v Miami Dolphins
DeShon Elliott #21 of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the field during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 11, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Getty Images

During his rookie year in 2018 with the Ravens, he fractured his forearm and missed the entire season. In 2019, a knee injury ended his season and in 2021, he suffered a season-ending biceps and pectoral injury. 

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles to open 2024 NFL regular season in Brazil

Elliott played on a one-year, $1.7 million contract with the Dolphins last season and could be signed on a similar deal for an Eagles team that needs help at safety. 

DL Christian Wilkins

If there's one thing we know about the Eagles, they build through the trenches. 

If defensive lineman Christian Wilkins isn't franchise-tagged by the Dolphins, the Eagles could have interest, especially if Fletcher Cox decides to leave in free agency or retire, but it would be costly. 

Wilkins, a former first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, posted a career-high in sacks last season under Fangio in Miami. 

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
Christian Wilkins #94 of the Miami Dolphins runs on the field during a game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 17, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Getty Images

Wilkins had 65 total tackles, nine sacks and a career-high 23 quarterback hits playing in Fangio's defense. He also had two fumble recoveries and started all 17 games. 

Wilkins, 28, is projected to earn a four-year, $80.9 million contract in the offseason, according to

LB Josey Jewell

Josey Jewell was mostly a special teams player for the Denver Broncos through the first three years of his career, but he emerged over the past two years as a linebacker on their defense. 

RELATED: Haason Reddick: "Never asked for a trade" from Philadelphia Eagles

Jewell, who played with the Broncos while Fangio was the head coach from 2019-21, has recorded at least 108 tackles each for the past two seasons with Denver. He started 15 of the 16 games last season for Denver's defense. 

NFL: JAN 01 Broncos at Chiefs
Denver Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell (47) in the third quarter of an AFC West game between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs on January 1, 2023 at GEHA Field at.Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jewell had 113 tackles, five quarterback hits, two sacks and four deflections under Fangio in 2020. is projecting Jewell to earn a two year, $15.3 million contract in free agency. 

Matt Russell, who was the director of player personnel when the Broncos drafted Jewell in 2019, is currently a senior personnel executive with the Eagles. He's held the position since 2022. 

Last season, the Eagles took a flier on one of Russell's former Broncos players and acquired tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in a trade. 

ESPN reported the Birds signed Okwuegbunam to a one-year deal in February, so maybe the Eagles make Jewell an offer given his connection to Russell.

Editor's note: This story was updated after Justin Simmons was released by the Broncos. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.