While Earl Wolff looks to improve upon a strong rookie season, safety will be a position of need in both the draft and free agency for the Eagles (Image Courtesy of Philly.com)
Over the next couple of weeks, Eagledelphia will be addressing the Eagles free agents needs while evaluating producing a position-by-position analysis.
The today’s area to be addressed: Safety.
February 28, 2009 will be a day that will always live in infamy for Philadelphia Eagles fans. On that day, Brian Dawkins was allowed to fly the coup, as he signed a contract with the Denver Broncos. Since that day, the Eagles have searched and failed to find a replacement for “Weapon X.”
Five years later, the Eagles rolled out Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson. Not exactly the most imposing group of safeties. Allen, the second-round draft pick from South Florida was supposed to be the latest Dawkins replacement. The 2010 draft pick had perhaps his best season as an Eagle in 2013, as he played in all 16 games for the first time in his career, while posting 82 tackles, one interception and one sack. Allen’s future with the Eagles could be in doubt as he finds himself as an unrestricted free agent following a career year.
Fellow safeties Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson, like Allen, find themselves as unrestricted free agents as well. Both reserve safeties were key special teamers that did not provide much to the defense. Coleman did have extensive experience starting for the Eagles prior to the signing of Patrick Chung last offseason.
Chung, the Oregon alumni, signed a three year deal with the Eagles, but could find himself back in free agency after an injury-plagued and mistake-prone 2013 season with the Birds. The safety joined the Eagles secondary amid high hopes of solidifying the back end of the defense. Instead, Chung missed four games and lost his starting job to rookie Earl Wolff.
Wolff, the fifth-round pick from North Carolina State could be the only returning member of the 2013 Eagles safeties. Wolff suffered a knee injury week 10 versus the Green Bay Packers that limited his season to just 11 games. Although he struggled with picking up the defense early on, Wolff would find his place and finished the season with 45 tackles and one interception in limited action.
With Wolff in tow, the Eagles will see drastic changes at the safety position. It is expected that the Birds will address the position both in the draft and free agency. The upcoming NFL draft is lacking in “high-ceiling” talent at the safety position, but there are two noteworthy players in HaHa Clinton-Dix from Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville. Both players are expected to be drafted around where the Eagles pick at 22.
The more likely scenario would involve the Eagles drafting a safety to grow with the team as well as sign one in free agency. Safety appears to be a position of strength in the 2014 free agent class, led by Pro Bowlers T.J. Ward of Cleveland and Jarius Byrd or Buffalo. It should be noted that while Ward and Byrd are both former Oregon Ducks, there has also been talk of both players being slapped with the franchise tag by their respective teams.
Below is a list of safeties that Eagles could be interested in to help improve a position that has been void of a playmaker since Brian Dawkins.
1. T.J. Ward. Either Ward or the aforementioned Byrd would be stellar additions to the Eagles secondary, but Ward would be the better fit. The Eagles need a player who can “lay the hammer” and force other teams to think twice about throwing across the middle. At 5’10” and 200 pounds Ward is that player. The former second round selection finished last season with 75 tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks.
2. Louis Delmas. The Detroit Lions released the oft-injured safety earlier in the offseason. Delmas played all 16 games for the first time in his career last season and finished with 64 tackles, three interceptions, and two sacks. The Western Michigan product is known as a complete safety and for his ability to deliver a punishing hit.
3. Stevie Brown. The unrestricted free agent missed all last season with a torn ACL. The year prior, Brown stepped in for the New York Giants when former safety Kenny Phillips was injured. In spot starts, the former seventh round pick finished with 76 tackles, eight interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Keep an eye on: Bernard Pollard. The hard hitting and often fined safety has been around the league. Pollard will be looking for his fifth team in five years. Whatever team lands the Purdue product will get a player who registered 99 tackles and three interceptions in his eighth year in the league. Pollard could be a nice stopgap for the Eagles as they draft his eventual replacement in the 2014 draft.
Hal Greenblatt covers the Eagles for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter: @HMGreenblatt