The Philadelphia Eagles’ biggest need heading into 2017 might best be described as finding “anyone with talent who can play outside,” whether as a deep threat for Carson Wentz or on the opposite side of the ball at cornerback.
The potential holes-to-be-filled stretch beyond wideout and corner, however. And the ways the Birds may or may not address such concerns are varied, especially if de facto general manager Howie Roseman holds true to his apparent draft-and-develop recipe for long-term roster building.
By the time the 2017 campaign rolls around, the Eagles’ new faces will assuredly have come from both April’s draft and the free agency period preceding it. With an eye strictly on the latter, though, here is one writer’s suggestion for potential acquisitions at each of the team’s top five positions of need – free-agent targets that are not necessarily the flashiest but make the most sense.
Wide receiver: Kenny Stills (Miami Dolphins)
ESPN’s Tim McManus pretty much had this first, labeling Stills a logical target of the Birds. And he’s right. Unless Roseman lures back ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson, Miami’s speedster is maybe the next best thing when it comes to unsigned deep-threat talent. In fact, because Stills is only 24, his addition would also be a much easier sell as a long-term starter. He lacks the imposing aura of a would-be No. 1 WR like Alshon Jeffery but is also sure to cost less.
Cornerback: A.J. Bouye (Houston Texans)
This one borders on unrealistic, if only because Bouye’s late emergence as a young lockdown could put him out of the Eagles’ price range. But if Philly is going to dip into free agency for help at CB and yet also forgo another “Band-Aid” acquisition, as Roseman would say, the 25-year-old Texan sticks out like a sore thumb. He doesn’t have the Jim Schwartz connection like Stephon Gilmore, but he makes sense as someone to pair with a new rookie for years to come.
Offensive guard/tackle: Ben Ijalana (New York Jets)
The Eagles’ tackle spot is set with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, but any slip-up by the former (age) or the latter (suspension) would leave the line vulnerable, even with Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the mix. Drafting another lineman or two would be smart, and the recent addition of Dallas Thomas adds a little depth, but Ijalana, a former second-rounder who drew looks from the Eagles prior to being drafted, would be a low-risk target with starting experience.
Defensive end: Mario Addison (Carolina Panthers)
Forget that Vinny Curry underwhelmed after signing a big-money deal. Or don’t, but just know his contract all but guarantees he’ll be back opposite Brandon Graham. But if Connor Barwin is either jettisoned or takes a pay cut, the Eagles need pass rushing help. With Addison, you get production (22 sacks since 2014) from a guy whose supposed best quality – speed off the edge – aligns with a Schwartz D-line. Even with a big raise, he’d be cheaper than Barwin.
Running back: Knile Davis (Kansas City Chiefs)
With the brittle Ryan Mathews likely on the way out and Darren Sproles proclaiming that 2017 will be his final season, here’s a little veteran depth for what promises to be a minimal cost. Davis has bounced around lately but played under Doug Pederson in K.C. and has kick return upside. At the least, he’d shape up as offseason competition for either Wendell Smallwood or another starter-in-training.