Seven Free Agents Who Could Provide Depth for the Eagles

Seven Free Agents Who Could Provide Depth for the Eagles

With the exception of a potentially major addition at linebacker, the Eagles aren't expected to make a huge splash in free agency. The front office already invested a sizable portion of their available cap space during last year's spending spree, and must put funds aside to re-sign some of their own players (DeSean Jackson, Evan Mathis), while possibly extending others (LeSean McCoy).

Besides, the Birds don't have as many front-line needs as a year ago. On offense, their core is only one season removed from setting the franchise scoring record. On defense, the front four features multiple Pro Bowl-caliber players, and the secondary has more starters at cornerback than the coaches know how to use, with a group of improving, young safeties pushing each other behind them.

But free agency always presents a prepared organization the chance to improve its team in one or multiple areas, and 2012 is no different. With the right additions, the Eagles can settle issues on the back end of their depth chart, and with any luck, put themselves one step closer to piecing together a complete roster.

QB Jason Campbell
Michael Vick's penchant for injury is no secret, and it's difficult to get comfortable with the current crop of relievers. Entering his third season, Mike Kafka has attempted 16 career passes in the NFL, so we have little to no idea where his ceiling is. He's joined by Trent Edwards, a never-was who spent 2011 out of the league.

To be fair to those guys, you never want to rule out success for a player who was never given a chance. Kafka obviously hasn't had much opportunity, and Edwards's development may have been stunted by his environment.

However, if Andy Reid shares our concern for the unknown, Campbell offers a clear upgrade at this point. The former first round pick of the Washington Redskins has started 70 games over the last six years, and hasn't posted a passer rating below 84 in a season in the past four. He hasn't gone above 86 either, so he's no star -- but he is a professional. Campbell is a consistent performer who played in a west coast offense, has some mobility, and limits his turnovers.

RB Mike Tolbert
The issue with back-up running backs and the Eagles is they are seldom used. Last summer, they added Ronnie Brown -- somebody good enough to be drafted second overall and be voted to a Pro Bowl -- and proceeded to hand him the ball a whopping 42 times. Some of that was McCoy's doing, but this has been a recurring theme for years, going back to Correll Buckhalter. Plus, the team has talented second-year back Dion Lewis, who may be in line for more touches.

Tolbert would make for an excellent complement to Shady though. At 5-9, 243, he's strong in short yardage, and has a nose for the goal line, rushing for 19 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He's also a viable receiver out of the backfield, catching 54 passes for 433 yards and two TD's in '11. Finally, he's solid in pass protection, so he can be used on all downs in practically any situation.

WR Plaxico Burress
We know Plax wants the Eagles, but do the Eagles want Plax? There's been no indication management has any interest in the eighth overall pick in the 2000 Draft, even though he might be worth considering.

The offense is still experiencing its share of struggles in the red zone. The Eagles committed eight red zone turnovers last year, and DeSean Jackson was ineffective when the field shrank. At 6-5, Burress still excels inside the 20, catching seven out of his eight touchdowns in 2011 once the Jets were deep. If Burress is willing to accept a reduced role, it might not hurt to provide Vick a big, proven target.

C Mike Pollak
Jason Kelce solidified himself as the club's center for years to come in his rookie season, rendering Jamaal Jackson and nearly $2 million in salary an unnecessary luxury, one the team could choose to part with. A former second round pick by Indianapolis, Pollak failed to carve out a permanent spot in their starting lineup. He's played in Howard Mudd's scheme, and should be available on discount.

DT Jason Jones
The Eagles surely would like to bring Derek Landri back after his strong season, and there seems to be some belief they could choose a tackle early on draft day, but Jones makes a ton of sense as a low risk/high reward signing. When Jim Washburn was in Tennessee, Jones was a player on the rise, notching four sacks in seven games in '09, and becoming a starter the following year. With Wash out of the picture, the Titans tried moving Jones to defensive end last season, where he didn't make much of an impact.

Jones should be interested in reuniting with Washburn in an attempt to get his career back on track, and the Birds might create the space. Even if they re-sign Landri, Jones might be a better fit in the wide nine than restricted free agent Antonio Dixon, whose strength is lining up at nose. The Eagles could make Dixon a reduced qualifying offer, perhaps tempting another team to trade a low draft pick as compensation for signing him away.

S Brodney Pool
While there is some disappointment over the state of the Birds' safeties, the fact is there are not a lot of moving parts there. Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are second round picks -- Allen played well in spurts last season while recovering from a torn patellar tendon, and with a shortened offseason to bring rookies up to speed, Jarrett deserves the benefit of the doubt. Kurt Coleman is serviceable as well.

That said, it's admittedly an inexperienced group that has struggled with consistency, so bringing a veteran into the mix to stabilize the unit would be wise. Pool isn't fantastic, but he's not a liability in any phase of the game either. He started 18 games in relief of the Jets' Jim Leonhard over the past two seasons, and 77 total in a seven-year career. He won't be playing baseball in 2013.

KR Ted Ginn
Ginn never amounted to much as an NFL receiver, but he is an explosive kick returner, something the Birds have lacked for far too long. Ginn returned both a kick and a punt for touchdowns for the 49ers last season, and five of his six career returns for score were in the last three seasons. This would get DJacc off the punt team without sacrificing his explosiveness, and give them an actual threat on kickoffs for the first time since Brian Mitchell.

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, Sixers insider Jessica Camerato and producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?


The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by 10.2 points per game, also last in the NBA. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, the Sixers were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense.

Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?


The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown.

The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric.

The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick, Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. The Sixers are going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.