Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

NFL teams have been allowed to contact impending
unrestricted free agents since midnight on Saturday, but it’s been relatively
quiet as far as any news is concerned. The Eagles were linked to a few players
over the weekend however, perhaps none who have more name recognition than
Danny Amendola.

Geoff Mosher reports the Eagles are expected to pursue the
St. Louis Rams wide receiver
according to a person with direct knowledge of the
team’s plans. You may recall Amendola spent the summer of ’09 with the Birds at
Lehigh. Mosher has more:

Amendola, 27, spent his past four
seasons with the Rams but won’t be re-signed, according to a Sunday report from
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The former
Texas Tech wide receiver spent about a week on the Eagles’ practice squad in
2009 before the Rams, then coached by Pat Shurmur, signed him.

Shurmur is back with the Eagles as
offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, who has never
coached in the NFL at any level. Amendola’s skill set fits with the up-tempo,
spread offense that Kelly intends to implement.

Amendola has carved out a role as a high-intake slot
receiver, hauling in 196 passes in four seasons, including a personal-best 85
in 2010. He’s not very explosive however, averaging a meager 8.8 yards per
reception to go with seven career touchdowns. Last season was the 27-year-old’s
best overall, catching 63 balls for 666 yards (10.6 YPC) and three scores. He’s
also a capable return specialist, though not flashy.

If the price is right, Amendola could be a good fit, but how
much better than he is than Jason Avant – already under contract for two more
seasons – is debatable. The Rams have basically nobody else to throw the ball
to, so they would often dink and dunk the rock to Amendola, which at 5-11, 183
seems like it would be his ceiling. Plus, he’s had a ton of injuries, so
durability is a concern as well.

For what it’s worth, PhiladelphiaEagles.com mouthpiece Dave
Spadaro said he doesn’t believe the story. Elsewhere…

T Eric Winston

Otherwise the legal tampering window has lacked buzz. The
only report we have of the Eagles actually reaching out to a free agent was last Thursday
after the Kansas City Chiefs released tackle Eric Winston. Les Bowen of the
Daily News wrote on his blog that the Birds were among the first teams to
contact the 29 year old
– but then that’s not tampering since he was no longer part
of the team.

Winston, a third-round pick in ’06, spent the previous six
seasons with the Houston Texans, where had some solid seasons blocking in front of running back Arian Foster. The 29-year-old’s release from the Chiefs appeared to be
financially motivated, so he probably has some tread left on the tires. Were the
Eagles to sign Winston, he could play right tackle while Todd Herremans slides
over to guard. Bowen’s take:

How much sense would he make for
the Eagles? Some. He isn't an all-pro. Given his age, a huge longterm deal
would be excessive. But he could sure take some pressure off the early rounds
of the upcoming draft.

DL Ricky Jean-Francois

The lack of actual information available hasn’t prevented
speculation. Several members of the media suspect defensive lineman Ricky
Jean-Francois’s agent is fielding a lot of calls, with two suitors already tied
to the 49er. The Eagles are thought to be among the teams that could jump into
the RJF fray, especially since VP of player personnel Tom Gamble would have intimate knowledge about the kid.

Jean-Francois, 26, spent four years with San Francisco as a
backup, but teams might like his upside. Bleeding Green Nation did a round-up of what people are saying about RJF, and Zach Berman for the Inquirer also had this to say about
the former seventh-round pick out of LSU.

Among the free agents, pay attention
to San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, who is 26 and has
only five career starts in four years. Jean-Francois, 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds,
is versatile enough to play different spots on the defensive line and excels as
a pass rusher.

OLB James Harrison

Finally, sometimes it’s not teams who court players, but the
other way around. The Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with All-Pro linebacker
James Harrison over the weekend, and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise tells Philly
Mag’s Tim McManus that the fearsome hitter/sack artist would be a good fit
in Philadelphia – although the organization has not contacted him.

Harrison, 35 this May, is clearly a player on the decline as injuries and age have started to catch up with him. He still racked up 15
sacks over the past two seasons despite missing eight games, so there was
a little something left in the tank. While the Birds are clearly in rebuilding
mode, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would overlook Harrison.

Chip Kelly and defensive
coordinator Bill Davis intend on running some version of the 3-4, and certainly
Harrison could assist with that transition. 
But would the Eagles go for a 34-year-old in what many consider a rebuilding
year? Howie Roseman told Birds 24/7 last week that age would not necessarily be
a deterrent if the player helped the greater good.

“There are certain players that no
matter what the age is, they set the right example, they do the right thing. As
you’re building a culture, they help carry that culture forward. That’s
important stuff,” said Roseman.

It seems at this stage of his career, Harrison's antics are probably more trouble than he's worth, especially in this situation. Then again, infusing a bit of attitude into the Eagles' defense probably couldn't be a bad thing.

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Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.