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

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks protesting anthem, Myke Tavarres doesn't

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks protesting anthem, Myke Tavarres doesn't

A day after flip-flopping on whether or not he planned to stand or sit during the national anthem, Myke Tavarres had nothing to say about this complex issue.

Tavarres, a rookie undrafted linebacker with the Eagles, told ESPN on Monday he planned to emulate 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and sit during the playing of the national anthem Thursday night prior to the Eagles’ preseason game against the Jets at The Linc.

Tavarres said he wanted to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice with the demonstration.

"We’ve got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up,” Tavares  told ESPN.

But within a couple hours, Tavarres had changed his mind.

“Myke plans on standing for the national anthem,” his agent said in a statement. “Myke does not want to be a distraction to the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Mike’s goal is and will always be to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster and help the team win a Super Bowl.”

Kaepernick, who four years ago led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, spoke for 18½ minutes about his decision to sit during the Star-Spangled Banner.

Tavarres said at his locker after practice Tuesday he had nothing more to say.

“I made a statement through my agent last night,” he said. “If you have any other questions, please talk to him.”

Head coach Doug Pederson said he did not talk individually to Tavarres, a fringe prospect who is unlikely to survive this weekend’s roster cuts.

But he did discuss the broader issue in a meeting with the full team and said he believes his players should stand during the anthem.

“Listen, I can appreciate everybody's opinions and I respect everybody's opinions,” Pederson said.

“But at the same time, I feel that [the national anthem] is important and it's obviously out of respect for the men and women of our country that sacrifice in order for us to coach and play this great game.

“So I get it. I understand it. But at the same time, I encourage everybody to stand.”

If not yet suspended, Lane Johnson would start at RT in opener

If not yet suspended, Lane Johnson would start at RT in opener

The Eagles are just 12 days away from the season opener against the Browns. 

And Lane Johnson still isn't suspended. 

The Eagles' starting right tackle is facing a 10-game PED suspension once the B sample returns and shows the same peptide from an amino acid that his A sample did. Johnson expects it to, but it hasn't happened yet. On Aug. 13, after news broke about the looming suspension, Johnson said he thought the results from the B sample would come back in two to three weeks, although there's no set timetable.  

... Nothing yet. 

So, at what point do the Eagles, who shifted the offensive line in anticipation of the suspension, have to plan for Johnson to be active for the opener? 

"[That’s] a great question, and this is something that we wrestle with every day," head coach Doug Pederson said. "The conversations are such that we've got to have — especially offensively — just have a plan ready to go. 

"I'll tell you this: If he's ready to go, then he's our guy." 

Since news of the impending suspension broke, Johnson has been working with the second team at right tackle. To replace him, the Eagles moved Allen Barbre from left guard to right tackle and inserted rookie Isaac Seumalo at left guard. Seumalo stayed there until an injury forced Stefen Wisniewski into the lineup. 

If there's no suspension and Johnson is able to play in the opener, things would then shift back. Johnson would take his job at right tackle, and Barbre would go back to left guard, sending Seumalo and/or Wisniewski to the bench. 

"I think he had a tremendous camp and tremendous offseason at left guard, and you kind of put the pieces back in place," Pederson said of Barbre. "We've seen enough from the Isaacs and Wisniewskis, and Allen over there at right tackle that we know we've got the combination of guys — and ‘Big V’ (tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai) got plenty of reps — to sustain this thing through the duration."

For now, though, the Eagles aren't treating Johnson like a starter. The veteran will be playing on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets. It might be his last game until Nov. 28 against the Packers. Or not. 

The waiting game continues.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Despite having awful career numbers against Max Scherzer, Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup against him Tuesday night.

Howard, 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against the Nationals' ace, bats fourth. 

Howard seems to be coming back to Earth. He hit .357 with seven home runs, four doubles and 16 RBIs in his first 20 games out of the All-Star break, but has gone 2 for 16 with two singles and eight strikeouts since.

Jimmy Paredes gets another start in left field. Peter Bourjos is out of the lineup for a fourth straight game.

The rest of the lineup is standard. Odubel Herrera, who bats second, is 6 for 19 with five walks in his career against Scherzer (see game notes).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Aaron Altherr, RF
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P