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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles will soon be looking to add some talent to their roster via free agency.
While there is much more work to do on the defensive side of the ball, the Birds won’t simply.
Particularly given the news that they were in on Ridley, the Eagles will likely be looking to spend the most on acquiring a receiver of all the offensive positions and they are all but assured to add someone during free agency.
With fellow Penn State product Chris Godwin and DeVante Adams both franchise tagged, Amari Cooper traded and Mike Williams signing an extension, Allen Robinson would appear to be the top receiver on the market.
Being selected in the 2014 draft, Robinson will be 29 this summer and his age could cause him to receive a deal worth less than the other top guys on the market who would all enter the season at just 25 years old.
Despite that, Robinson has a track record of elite hands and making catches in traffic. He could be the ideal fit for the Eagles as an X receiver.
In seven seasons, (four complete, one with just one game played) Robinson has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark three times. Essentially, he’s managed to put up 1,000 yard seasons in half of the seasons where he didn’t miss significant time. He’s missed that mark just once when he’s appeared in all 16 games; during the 2016 season, he put up “only” 883 yards.
Another factor to keep in mind here is that Robinson has been stuck on flat-out awful teams for the entirety of his NFL career. From 2014-2017, he was with the pungent Jaguars offense led by Blake Bortles. Then, he went to the Bears and spent two and a half seasons watching Mitchell Trubisky flame out before he got half a season of Nick Foles, half a season of Andy Dalton and half a season of Justin Fields.
If the Eagles are looking to spend at the position and they believe Hurts can be an upgrade over any of those QBs, Robinson has to be at the top of their list.
Just like Allen Robinson at the start of his career, Chark has spent the past four years playing for a well below average Jaguars squad.
Like Allen Robinson, he made the Pro Bowl and eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time in his second season and he has been the victim of poor QB play. In fact, the best QB he had was current Eagles backup Gardner Minshew, who was the QB during his Pro Bowl season.
Chark can be an electric talent, particularly with a defense needing to focus on more than just him. This would make him a good fit in Philadelphia where Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith already draw attention in addition to Quez Watkins.
The concern with Chark is that he has never played in 16 games in a season, let alone 17 plus playoffs. In his second season he managed to appear in 15 games and he appeared in 13 in 2020, but he appeared in just 4 last season and 11 in his first season. The last thing that the Eagles will want to do is drop big money on a receiver who winds up missing all or most of the season. They’ve already done that with Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson (multiple times) and Alshon Jeffery (multiple times).
That injury concern may keep the Eagles out of the running if there winds up being a large market for Chark as the Eagles would probably seek to sign him to a shorter-term deal than others might be willing to offer.
Chark is billed as more of a speed receiver, which may not mesh well with the Eagles considering they already have Quez Watkins on the squad and he can get open deep already – they just need to get the ball to him when this happens. Still, he’d be a good veteran presence with the right terms on his contract.
Spending five seasons with the Steelers as their offense went downhill, JuJu Smith-Schuster looked like a top target in the league in 2018 when he racked up 1,426 yards.
Since then, however, he’s been more discussed for his dancing and TikToks than he has for being good at football. When Antoino Brown left and Smith-Schuster became the number one target the defenses put their best guy on him and he hasn’t had the same success since. James Washington, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson have all put up stronger numbers than him.
There is the fact that Ben Rothelisberger went down and he had a backup, but that’s hard to buy when these other three guys (all drafted since JuJu) are all putting up nearly 900 yards of their own and outperforming him.
It should be noted that he was injured in 2021, so those numbers should not be counted against him. It should also be noted that Smith-Shuster wasn’t bad in the new role, he just wasn’t nearly as effective.
Smith-Schuster has already been connected to the Bears and the Eagles among others. He appears to be the most discussed free agent option and that does not bode well for the Eagles.
Now, the Eagles have DeVonta Smith and they don’t need him to be the top guy, but they also shouldn’t be paying him top-receiver money to play as the second option. The talk surrounding him and his dancing antics have built him a name, so the Eagles will need to monitor this market closely and ensure they aren’t committing too much money in a deal that would bring him in.
Scheme-wise, Shuster has the ability to get behind defenses, but it generally a large guy who can go up and make receptions in traffic, so his style of play should be a better match for what the Eagles are looking for than someone like Chark.
Kirk is an interesting case and is being reported as a guy who will get paid more than many fans are thinking.
He’s almost a lottery ticket of sorts having played in a sort of protected role with the Cardinals; Arizona has spread the ball out over targets and so Kirk has really split with Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, and to a lesser extent, guys like Pharoh Cooper and Andy Isabella. The difference would be that this lottery ticket should almost certainly pay off – the question is just how good could he be as a clear-cut top option instead of a spread option.
Despite that, Kirk had an impressive contract year, registering 982 yards in a year that the Cardinals had the most weapons around him (including Hopkins, Green and Zach Ertz).
He’ll certainly get a good deal, the question would be whether the Eagles are willing to pay that price with all the holes they need to fill elsewhere on the team.
If the Eagles choose to spend a small amount at receiver, Hamilton should be a target that could really grow into a larger role as the second or third option with the Birds.
The Penn State product is about a year older than the other options on this list (other than Robinson), but has not really had the opportunity to grow in Denver. Missing the 2021 season with an injury in training camp sure didn’t help that either.
Hamilton is a guy who put up nearly 300 yards in each of the seasons from 2018-2020 and what makes that impressive is his place on the depth chart. He’s never been above the fourth receiving option in a stacked Denver skill group. First, he was behind Emmanuel Sanders, Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton and Demaryius Thomas. Then Thomas was replaced with Noah Fant the next season. The following season Sanders left, but the team added Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Hamilton has had some additional opportunities due to mid-season injuries to some of these other targets in 2019, but he’s a guy who might be worth a look in a larger role given his effectiveness.
His quarterbacks during these times were also Case Keenum, half a season of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and then a host of many other quarterbacks that played a game or two here or there as the Broncos continued their search to find someone to take the reigns.
Hamilton isn’t the kind of guy you should bring in expecting a 1,000 yard season like you might with others on this list, but he’s a very budget friendly option that should be able to play a bigger role in an offense with more snaps, more consistency and better quarterback play. If the Eagles wind up not spending big at the position, this might be the guy they look at.
At tight end, the Eagles have starter Dallas Goedert cemented in place and Jack Stoll appears to be a lock for the roster, as well.
Behind them, old friend Richard Rodgers has been effective when used and is already signed for 2022 while the Eagles were highly impressed with former college quarterback turned tight end Tyree Jackson.
With those guys, tight end isn’t a priority for the Eagles and so they will likely only be looking for cheap vets they could bring in to compete.
It’s not often that you see a player head to the Jaguars offense and improve, but that’s exactly what O’Shaughnessy did. He left the Chiefs after two seasons of being an afterthought and actually took advantage of the fact the Jaguars offense was poor to get himself some playing time.
He’s no world beater, but he’s a solid blocker and he’s had over 200 yards in three of the last four seasons.
If Rodgers isn’t the guy and O’Shaughnessy, who’s coming off an ACL tear, isn’t offered a guaranteed deal, he’s worth a look to bring in some competition.
Another Penn State product (it’s not intentional), James could be just the kind of high-upside guy for the Eagles to take a swing on.
After being drafted by Pittsburgh, James registered three out of four seasons having around 400 receiving yards and three touchdowns. This led the Lions to hand him a four-year, $22 million deal that James simply could not live up to, particularly as one of the top receiving targets on that squad. He was released following the 2020 season and spent and uneventful season as one of the Bears many tight ends.
He’s unlikely to cost much and may not even get a guaranteed deal which should make him an attractive target to bring in.
Spending last season with Washington, a season each with Kansas City and Cleveland and two years with Arizona, Seals-Jones is no world beater.
He’s not a guy who should be heavily targeted, though he will get some calls.
Like O’Shaughnessy and James, he’s a guy who should be able to get you a few hundred yards if needed. The issue with his career that the other two do not have, however, is that he has suffered quite a few injuries including a neck injury/concussion to end his 2021 season in a game against the Eagles.
It’s no secret that the Eagles running game was dominant last season and much of those players figure to be back. Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell would all seem like sure-fire candidates to make the roster in 2022. Jason Huntley remains under team control, as well.
The only player they are losing at the position right now is Jordan Howard.
Unfortunately, Howard was perhaps the most effective of the group when healthy. His running style of waiting behind blocks and then powering downfield and falling forward meshed incredibly well with the line and provided something that the other Eagles back, who are all smaller guys, did not. As such, the Eagles may want to look to add a player with those capabilities, but will also not want to spend big money on a guy to serve as the fourth running back on their roster.
Why wouldn’t you just bring the man back?
In both the 2019 and 2021 seasons, Howard provided serious production in a time-share at the running back position, totaling 525 and 406 yards respectively.
Unfortunately, both seasons ended with a stinger right before playoffs that essentially ended his season even though the team did not place him on IR.
The guess here would be Howard wants to reach free agency and see what’s out there and that’s why he hasn’t been signed yet. Why not: the Dolphins handed him a two-year, $9.75 million deal following the 2019 seasons.
While the team should look to bring him back, he was awful in 2020 following that stinger, so they shouldn’t be looking to commit big money to him after another of the same injury. For that $9.75 million dollar deal that Miami gave him, he mustered just 33 yards on 28 rushing attempts and was cut midway through that first season.
The Eagles don’t want to be like the Dolphins and pay out $4,757,283 just to have a guy take up a roster space, so they will almost certainly wait it out and look to bring back Howard on a try-out basis to make sure he’ll be effective in 2022 should a larger market not develop.
The youngest back on this list at 26 and, although he was released in 2021, there were multiple teams vying for his services, so he may wind up with a guaranteed deal of some kind. This offseason will see him sign his first contract since his rookie deal.
Freeman played for the Broncos for three seasons but lost snaps as Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon and other backs made marks of their own. Despite this, Freeman totaled 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns on an average of four yards per carry.
He split the 2021 season between the Panthers and Texans and while he was effective in limited snaps for the Panthers, his limited snaps for the Texans were not so great, averaging just 2.6 yards per attempt. One would expect that to be far better behind a real offensive line, however.
Also of note is that he has a catch rate near 80% and nearly 500 receiving yards in his career, so he add a bit to the passing game in a way that many power backs often do not.
The biggest name on this list, Freeman got a mega deal from the Falcons after surpassing 1,000 yards rushing in his second and third seasons in the league. Just like all the other backs that got mega deals at that time (Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffery and Ezekiel Elliott), Freeman wound up with a major injury and failed to live up to that contract.
He was released and had an unimpressive stint with the Giants in limited minutes, but took the opportunity to play with the Ravens following all their injuries at the position last season.
In Baltimore he was effective, garnering 576 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. He wasn’t as effective as he was before his injury and took fewer snaps, but he was a solid back and he could provide a boost to the Eagles power run game behind their offensive line.
The oldest of the bunch (32) and a teammate of Devonta Freeman last season, Murray has played eight seasons for four different NFL teams.
He has a strong career average yards per attempt of 4.2 and has yet to show signs of slowing down, making him a solid candidate to fill the role.
Perhaps even more important is that he is a true committee back, doing his best work when he can split snaps with another back or two. That would fit him into the role nicely.
Murray has been a very effective back that really doesn’t get talked about by fans, perhaps due to his limited scoring in fantasy leagues as a committee back, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be attractive to NFL teams this offseason. He’s received three-year, $15 million and four-year, $14.4 million deals in the past and it’s possible he could approach that number again this offseason if a team is needy enough, but he played on a contract worth just $1 million in 2021 and if that’s all it takes in 2022, the Eagles should be all over getting him to Philadelphia.
The Eagles aren’t likely to pay much attention to the offensive line free agent market this offseason. They’ve got enough talent at the position that they’d more likely trade away some of their own players than they would be to make a major signing. It’s also likely they’ll acquire at least one big man in the draft or even in undrafted free agency to add to the existing group.
This is all dependent on the market, but the Eagles are set at one and two for now, meaning they could sign anyone to be the third option.
The real question is Gardner Minshew. If Minshew gets traded, they’ll be in on guys like Winston, Mariota, Bridgewater, Taylor or even Trubisky. Who they wind up with depends on what other teams are willing to spend and who of those guys a team looks at as a starter or bridge guy.
For now, Minshew is QB2 and the Eagles are just looking for a high upside, little known option as the third-string, developmental option.