The Eagles made their first move of the offseason yesterday, cutting veteran CB Leodis McKelvin and saving some cap space in the process. After taking a week off to cover Super Bowl LI, we're back to finish up our offseason preview, starting with the defensive line.
The defensive line entered 2016 with a lot of hype, but struggled down the stretch as the entire team faltered. Now, as we enter 2017, it is a unit with some talent, a few question marks and a lot of huge contracts.
Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are all in the early stages of long-term contracts. Also under contract are Beau Allen, Connor Barwin, Bryan Braman, Steven Means, Alex McCalister, Marcus Smith and Taylor Hart. Bennie Logan is currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent, while Aziz Shittu and Justin Hamilton are signed to future contracts.
Cox, Graham and Curry are locked in with their high-priced deals, as is Braman who just signed an extension of his own. Allen is a young, cheap rotational piece. Smith, Means and McCalister will be fighting for reserve roles, and it seems like two of the three could remain when the roster is cut down to 53.
The big decision comes with Logan. With such little depth or talent at defensive tackle, the Eagles need to find a way to keep Logan paired up with Cox in order to maximize the potential of both players. With such little financial flexibility, the Eagles will have to free up some space if they want to make a competitive offer.
It's starting to seem like the writing is on the wall for Barwin, who is owed $8.35 million in 2017. Although the veteran has said he's willing to take a pay-cut in order to remain an Eagle, the Birds would be left with only $600,000 in dead money, if he's released. That money could go a long way toward retaining Logan and adding other free-agent pieces.
Another interesting name is Hart, who the Eagles picked up off the 49ers' practice squad after spending the summer in Philadelphia. Hart was unable to contribute due to injury, so it'll be interesting to see if he's improved enough since last season's training camp to make the roster. The bet here is he won't.
The Eagles won't be looking for defensive linemen early in the draft, especially with so many other glaring needs. In a draft that's heavy on wide receiver and secondary talent, the Eagles are expected hit those positions hard.
The market is relatively thin in free agency as well, but the Eagles could find another guy to add into their pass-rushing rotation. Someone like William Gholston is worth keeping an eye on. The 25-year-old is a former fourth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he has notched 10.5 career sacks in 36 career starts. Those aren't numbers that jump off the page, but they're solid for a rotational guy.
Spotrac estimates his market to be arund $5-6 million, which may be a bit rich for the Eagles blood. But if Barwin is let go and the Eagles see some potential for Gholston to grow in Jim Schwartz's scheme, he could be a solid addition.
A guy with a big Schwartz connection is Devin Taylor, formerly of the Detroit Lions. Taylor is 27 and has a bit more of a reputation around the league, especially after finishing with 7.0 sacks in 2015. Taylor was a draft pick of Schwartz in 2013 and could be looking to rebound on a short-term deal in order to maximize his earning value.