PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- After posting a 4-11-1 season, the Eagles clearly have a number of holes to fill this offseason. With the NFL's free agency period beginning with the "legal tampering period" on Monday, March 15 and officially starting on Wednesday, March 17 at 4 p.m. ET, there would normally be hope that some of those holes in the roster might be filled.
However, the Eagles are in a precarious spot entering the free agency period. They have had to restructure numerous contracts among the players currently on the roster just to get underneath the new salary cap for the league year of $182.5 million. Those restructures have opened up some cap space but it isn't enough to make the team a huge player in this year's free agent market.
The good news is that they don't have many of their own free agents who are clear guys that they must re-sign. Their biggest name who could walk in free agency is safety Jalen Mills but otherwise, the rest of the list is filled with guys who the team should be able to find replacements for.
So, with all of that said, who are some of the potential targets for the team? Well, let's take a look at three positions of need and some potential players they could sign therein.
Eagles fans are well acquainted with the situation here. DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery won't be back in 2021. The rest of the receiving corps isn't overly impressive. While the team hopes that last year's first-round pick, Jalen Reagor, can take another step forward, it's clear that this is a position that needs to be addressed either through the draft or in free agency.
With the track record of drafting receivers being what it is, a buy-low free agent target could also be in the cards.
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals
The former ninth overall pick in the 2017 Draft never really got his career off the ground in Cincy. Injuries plagued him throughout his first season, and continued to be an issue in Year 3 before he was left out of the lineup much of last year. Still, at just 25-years-old and with speed to burn, Ross could be a candidate for a one-year "prove it" type deal. As Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation noted, the Eagles had interest in Ross in the lead up to the 2017 Draft.
Zach Pascal, Indianapolis Colts
Pascal has familiarity with the new coaching staff, playing under Sirianni in Indy for the last several seasons. The 27-year-old has 112 career catches for 1,504 yards and 12 touchdowns over his three seasons in the league. Pascal is a restricted free agent, however, so the Colts may not let him get out of the building. If they do, he could be a target for the Eagles considering the connection to Sirianni and his age which fits in with the "rebuild".
The Eagles' secondary was decimated by injuries (again) and ended up needing to play guys who likely would have remained on the practice squad in any other year. Darius Slay returns with a restructured contract and Avonte Maddox is back as well, though a move to the slot or back to safety could be in the cards for him. Outside of those two, the position group is thin and inexperienced. There are some buy low options here, similar to John Ross at receiver who could make sense.
Ahkello Witherspoon, San Francisco 49ers
A former third-round pick of the 49ers, Witherspoon never really took over the starting role in the way the Niners expected over his four years in the Bay. That said, he did appear in 47 games over his four years with the team and collected four interceptions and 24 pass breakups. Like every other player in this list, he's on the younger side (26) and would be a candidate that the team could buy low on in a free agency period in which there are plenty of corners on the market.
Gareon Conley, Houston Texans
Conley was selected by the Raiders with the 24th overall pick in the 2017 Draft but the then Oakland franchise gave up on him after just a season and a half, trading him to Houston in the middle of the 2019 season. He missed all of the 2020 season due to injuries, having surgery to have a screw removed from his ankle in December. Coming off an injury-filled campaign, Conley represents another player the Eagles could potentially get on the cheap.
With Mills hitting the free agent market and Rodney McLeod coming off of a torn ACL, the back end of the secondary could certainly use some help.
Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts
Hooker missed most of last season with an Achilles injury after seeing his 2019 season ended by a torn ACL. The 25-year-old was the Colts first-round pick in the 2017 Draft and they declined his fifth-year option due to the injuries he's suffered. He has plenty of familiarity with new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon having played under him in Indy. Hooker has seven career interceptions to his credit.
Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons
Kazee, like Hooker, is coming off of a torn Achilles, suffered last October. He's older than Hooker by about three years, but has a less worrying injury history having played all 16 games in his first three seasons prior to last year's injury. Due to the injury and the number of other safeties on the market, Kazee could be in the Eagles price range.
These three positions aren't the only area of need of course. At quarterback, Jalen Hurts is now the lone man on the depth chart. Based on the injuries to the offensive line the last few seasons, getting younger there wouldn't hurt. Adding a running back to pair with Miles Sanders should be an area the team addresses. And, linebacker, where the organization has not placed much value on players in recent years, is an area of need. It all starts this week as the rebuild begins.
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