Eagles Offseason Preview: Defensive Line

Free agency is coming up fast and the Eagles have been scrambling to re-sign their players to keep them off the open market. With less than two weeks until unsigned players hit the open market, we will continue our offseason preview series by taking a look at the defensive line. 

We've already covered the quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line. The rest of the defense will be discussed between now and March 15.

Who's Here

Active Roster: Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Taylor Hart, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton

Practice Squad: Travis Raciti

Who Stays

Curry has already signed a new contract and should thrive once he is placed in Jim Schwartz's attacking 4-3 defensive scheme. 

Cox will play under his fifth-year option in 2016 and is scheduled to be a free agent next year. His talent is undeniable and he has a habit of taking over the line of scrimmage for entire series. It doesn't seem like the Eagles have enough money after signing Sam Bradford to meet Cox's demands so his new deal may have to wait until next summer. 

Graham is entering the second year of his contract and will be moved back to his natural position of defensive end. Playing opposite Curry and next to Cox should help the former first-round pick develop into more of a consistent pass-rushing threat.

Logan spent the first three years of his NFL career as a nose tackle, so a transition to a three-technique, defensive tackle is in order for the LSU product. He has enough quickness and penetration ability to stay productive in the new scheme.

Allen is also a nose tackle, but he is young, cheap and can add value as a run stuffer in short yardage situations. Expect him to stick around as a depth piece for the time being.

Who Goes

In his time with the Eagles, Thornton has developed from undrafted free agent to above-average 3-4 defensive end. However, with the scheme change and the re-signing of Curry, it seems like the team will allow Thornton to walk in free agency. If Bill Davis was still here, Curry's and Thornton's fates would probably be swapped.

Hart and Bair have always been 3-4 defensive ends, so they will need to show Schwartz that they are able to fit as defensive tackles in his scheme. Bair flashed some ability as a pass rusher early in 2015, but an injury hindered his ability to get back on to the field. 

Raciti is another prototypical 3-4 end who will be fighting for a job in training camp. The Eagles have a lot of talent along the d-line, but not a lot of depth. Some of the guys could catch on based on a limited number of other options.

Who's Available

Free Agency: The big name all fans want to know about is Mario Williams. The former number-one pick was recently released from the Bills after posting just five sacks in Rex Ryan's defense. Williams was an absolute beast under Schwartz in Buffalo and could be had a discount for the short-term after a down year. 

The 31-year-old is just one year removed from a 14.5-sack season under Schwartz and with the value placed on pass rushers in today's NFL, someone may be willing to pay top dollar for his services. Still, there is a slight chance Williams decides to take a discount to play for Schwartz again to make more money in the long run.

Draft: This year's draft is loaded with interior linemen. CBS Sports has 11 defensive tackles listed in their top-100. As noted above, the Eagles don't have much depth along their line and it could be smart for them to spend a mid-round pick on a lineman that is capable of spelling Cox or Logan on occasion. 

The Eagles won't be spending the 13th overall pick on a defensive lineman, but don't be surprised if they take a flier on a guy in the later rounds.

Did You Know?

When Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo, he oversaw a defensive line that featured two first-team All-Pros, a Pro Bowler and another defensive end who picked up 10 sacks. The unit of Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams was flat-out dominant under Schwartz and it isn't hard to envision the same kind of production for the Eagles defensive line in 2016.

Cox is on his way to being a perennial All-Pro, Curry and Graham could rack up huge sack numbers and Logan is an absolute beast against the run. It is impossible to predict the kind of accolades the Bills defensive line picked up, but a look at what Schwartz was able to accomplish with group should make fans' eager to see what he can do with the Eagles young linemen.

Tucker Bagley is a columnist for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @tbagley515.

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