Grading 2011's Free Agent Class

Grading 2011's Free Agent Class

As we prepare to ring in another action-packed NFL offseason, we remember the excitement -- and the lessons -- last August brought.

When the lockout lifted, the Eagles signed wave after wave of player during a free agency period that truly was like none other before. Many were busts, but a handful of moves paid off, and are a big reason why the front office will not be as active in 2012. After a full season to take in the hectic events last summer brought, here are our grades for the ten most significant additions of last season.

Jarrad Page
Billed as a quality, under-the-radar addition to an inexperienced safety corps, Page brought whatever the opposite of veteran stability is to the unit. He wasn't anything special in coverage, took poor angles to ball carriers, and was an awful tackler on the off-chance he arrived there. How bad was he? Jarrad Page is a baseball player now.

Grade: F

Steve Smith
Smith often seemed like a double agent who was sent by the Giants to sabotage the Eagles' season, except he seldom played. The team shut him down in December with a bone bruise on the same knee that was recently repaired by microfracture surgery. He finished the season with 11 catches and one touchdown.

And it still wouldn't have been a completely horrible signing, only Smith is already a free agent again. The front office acquired a player they knew would not be 100% last season, and did so without at least leaving open the option to keep him for another year once he got healthy. What was the point of this again?

Grade: F

Ronnie Brown

I think that about sums it up.

Grade: D

Kyle DeVan
Not a conventional free agent signing, the Eagles scooped up DeVan after he was waived by the Colts on cutdown day. First-round pick Danny Watkins wasn't ready for the NFL when the season began, and DeVan knew Howard Mudd's system.

It accomplished a goal. DeVan started the first four games of the season. He wasn't very good, but was competent. The offense struggled mightily in short yardage as a result though, so Watkins was re-installed as starter, and DeVan was released a short time later.

Grade: C-

Vince Young
Undoubtedly the winner for most disliked free agent signing, Young had his ups and downs on the field, but those were completely overshadowed by his "Dream Team" remarks. Fans got a sick feeling in their stomach, and the Eagles were suddenly playing with bullseyes on their jerseys.

VY was more of a mixed bag under center. He went 1-2 in three starts, leading an incredible 18-play drive to defeat the Giants, only to have a four-interception meltdown in Seattle two weeks later.

Grade: C-

Nnamdi Asomugha
Asomugha finds himself this high on our list by default. By no measure did he have a great season, the first of five years for a whopping $60 million. Sure, Juan Castillo didn't use Nnamdi purely as a right-man corner like he played in Oakland, but it's not like they asked him to play while blindfolded, either.

Which isn't to say we're giving up on Asomugha. He is still an amazing athlete, a three-time Pro Bowl corner. With another year in the system, and a better comprehension of his role, there should be improvement in 2012.

Grade: C

Derek Landri
Talk about finding a diamond in the rough. Landri was brought in for training camp depth following Mike Patterson's scary seizure. He had a strong preseason, but the coaching staff didn't think enough of Landri to keep him on the 53-man roster. Somehow he remained unsigned, so when Antonio Dixon was lost for the season in September, the Eagles gave Landri a call.

He became a force. According to Pro Football Focus, Landri charted as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the league, and he was the fifth-most productive interior pass rusher with 18 hurries in 178 snaps. A six-year veteran journeyman, it seems this is a case where Landri is a fit in their system. Hopefully he agrees, and returns to Philadelphia for another season.

Grade: B+

Cullen Jenkins

Any questions?

Grade: A

Jason Babin
What do 18 sacks get you these days? A career year. A Pro Bowl. Maybe a double team.

How 'bout second place on the Eagles' best free agents list?

Don't get me wrong, Babin had a tremendous season rushing quarterbacks, and you can easily make a case for him as the most valuable FA, but two aspects knocked him out of the running for an A+. First, Babin was invisible against the run. When you're getting 18 sacks out of a guy, you'll take the good with the bad, but being a one-dimensional player hurt him overall.

Second, how much of the credit for his outrageous sack total goes to Jim Washburn's scheme? Before he hooked up with Washburn in Tennessee last year, Babin was a first-round bust who spent seven years floundering between four teams until the wide nine rescued him. Maybe we're just trying to be contentious, but it would seem the day Washburn goes, Babin suddenly becomes less effective.

Grade: A

Evan Mathis
Mathis was supposed to be another one of those under-the-radar additions. Instead, he wound up developing into a Pro-Bowl caliber player.

In 2010, Mathis was toiling away on Cincinnati's bench, his third stop in a seven-year NFL career during which he had started all of 22 games. He came to Philly, where he was awarded the starting job at left guard after Todd Herremans moved to right tackle. Year eight turned out to be the charm for Mathis, as he elevated his game to a new level working under Howard Mudd.

Mathis is a huge reason why the offensive line began to gel last season. While Watkins and Jason Kelce were going through normal growing pains in their rookie seasons, Mathis was able to solidify his spot along the interior. As long as the Eagles are able to re-sign him, this line could finally reach its full potential in 2012.

Grade: A+

Overall
There were plenty of notable misses in free agency. Young, Brown, and Steve Smith accounted for nearly $10 million in cap space alone last season, not to mention Page and DeVan. However, they were all on one-year deals. The Eagles suffered the negative consequences with those players, but they never have to again.

The front office connected on long-term contracts with Jenkins and Babin, and got incredible value out of Mathis and Landri, and their impacts far outweighed the negative ones.

Only Asomugha is still on the see-saw. At times he looked like he might be effective, so we're holding out some hope he will rebound -- and he is still a starting cornerback in the NFL -- but his contract is lengthy and expensive. That and some remarkably awful one-year stopgaps prevent the Eagles from receiving an exceptional mark, but they still found four starters and a decent role player. Not too shabby.

Grade: B

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P