Free agency begins Tuesday, and all of a sudden, the Eagles’ needs are what we thought they were and then some.
Without Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy, Todd Herremans, Cary Williams, and potentially Jeremy Maclin and Brandon Graham, the spots available to be filled by free agent signings are quite numerous. Here’s a look at some of the leading candidates at positions of need:
It’s common knowledge around the NFL that running backs suffer a sharp decline around the age of 30. But nobody told Frank Gore. The 31-year-old has four straight seasons of at least 1,100 yards rushing with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Eagles might squeeze even more longevity out of Gore by using him in a committee, rather than asking him to carry the load. It would be a change. Gore has had at least 200 carries every year since his rookie season.
According to multiple sources, Gore is expected to sign a three-year deal in which $7.5 million in the first two years is guaranteed. Unless talks somehow break down, he will likely be the Eagles No. 1 running back in 2015.
Gore is a five-time Pro Bowler and spent all 10 seasons in San Francisco.
He will be 32 when the season begins, and is expected to make less than half of what the departed LeSean McCoy would have made.
The Eagles have been trying to replace Brian Dawkins at safety for seven years now, and they may finally have a chance.
It came when the Patriots used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead of safety Devin McCourty. If McCourty is allowed to escape New England, he should be the prime target of the Eagles.
A first round selection of the Patriots in 2010, McCourty has played both cornerback and safety for the Super Bowl champions — and been selected to the All-Pro team at both positions.
McCourty is the crown jewel of the free agent safety class and should command a serious bidding war. The Eagles would do well to win it.
The Eagles need two starters here but seem to have already inked their top choice, with Mike Garafolo of FoxSports1 confirming the Birds have agreed to a five-year, $54 million deal with Byron Maxwell.
Maxwell’s deal comes with $25 million guaranteed, the fifth-most ever for a cornerback in the NFL. The deal won’t become official until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Maxwell made his name in the Seahawks’ star-studded secondary opposite Richard Sherman. He has the size (6-foot-1, 207) coveted at cornerback and plays in a scheme that requires similar qualities as Philly’s.
Other players in the secondary who fit what the Eagles might be looking for include Packers’ cornerback Davon House, a 25-year-old occasional starter looking for more playing time, and Chris Cook, a 49ers’ cornerback with great size (6-foot-2, 212.)
Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been on the Eagles’ radar for a while. He was reportedly a target of the team last offseason before being transition tagged, and now is finally free for the Eagles to sign.
Worilds has 15.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and has grown into a starter in Pittsburgh’s historically lauded linebacker unit. He isn’t necessarily a large upgrade over Graham or Cole, but is a more natural fit in a 3-4 defense.
His signing could herald the beginning of changeover on the defense for personnel that better fit the 3-4.
Another pass rusher hitting the market is divisional rival Brian Orakpo. With Washington, Orakpo has seen success, making three pro bowls, and hardship, playing only half of the Redskins’ last 48 games due to injuries.
The Eagles could gamble on Chip Kelly’s sports science regimen keeping Orakpo healthy and sign him at a value.
With Jeremy Maclin’s return in doubt, suddenly wide receiver is also a position of great need. Enter Torrey Smith, from the Baltimore Ravens.
Smith is of similar size to Maclin (6-foot-0, 205) and a great deep threat. In four NFL seasons, he has played every game for Baltimore and has 63 receptions of 20 or more yards. His best season was in 2013, with 65 catches for 1,128 yards.
Andre Johnson is not technically a free agent, but he has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade.
At 33 years old, Johnson isn’t what he was, but he still had 936 yards receiving last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Case Keenum at quarterback in Houston.
His cap number is $16 million, so a restructure would obviously be required. But if the Eagles could make it work, the veteran’s imposing size (6-foot-3, 230) and skills are enticing.
Replacing Herremans can be done in the draft, but if the Eagles look to free agency one player to keep an eye on is Orlando Franklin.
The Bronco’s left guard has massive size (6-foot-7, 320) and versatility. He switched to guard from right tackle last offseason. He has started on teams that led the league in rushing (in 2011) and passing (2013.)
Another big name is San Francisco’s Mike Iupati. Iupati is dominant in the run game, but there are some questions about his pass protection.