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.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Big test for Jerad Eickhoff

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Big test for Jerad Eickhoff

Phillies (26-22) at Cubs (32-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

After Friday’s 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs, Jerad Eickhoff and the Phillies look to rebound against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs’ potent offense.

1. Slowing down the Cubs
How can the Phillies slow down one of the deepest offenses in the game?

Well, they may not be able to — not many teams have.

As the Phillies learned Friday, when the Cubs hit it out of the park, they are almost unbeatable. As a team, the Cubs have hit 52 home runs in 45 games this season and are 22-5 when they hit a home run. That’s only 16 games without a homer and the Cubs are 7-9 in those games.

For the Phillies to have a chance in this series, the pitching staff must limit the long balls. 

2. Big test for Eickhoff
And it is Eickhoff’s job to do just that Saturday afternoon — to contain the Cubs.

Eickhoff’s inconsistencies have been well documented and Saturday is his biggest test yet. In his last five starts, Eickhoff has gone at least six innings and has allowed three runs or fewer in four of those starts, including a seven shutout innings his last time out against the Atlanta Braves.

Eickhoff and the Phillies would be thrilled with a start like that Saturday. 

3. Something’s gotta give
Lefties have had the better of the right-handed Eickhoff this season, hitting .302 against him with an OPS of .844, .200 points higher than his numbers against righties.

Most of the Cubs’ power bats are right-handed, with the exception of Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward. Lucky for Eickhoff, right? Not so fast.

Of the Cubs’ 52 home runs this season, 41 have come against right-handed pitchers. Something’s got to give.

4. What 5th starter?
The Phillies draw the Cubs’ fifth starter, Kyle Hendricks, Saturday. However, Hendricks might just be the best back-end pitcher in baseball this year.

Boasting a 3.30 ERA, Hendricks holds opponents to just a .218 batting average and is equally effective against both righties and lefties. Hendricks doesn’t have blazing speed on his pitches — his fastball routinely tops out at 89 mph — but what he lacks in velocity, he makes up for in pinpoint precision. The Phillies will have their work cut out for them.

5. This and that
• Hendricks tossed 6⅔ innings in his only career start against the Phillies, giving up three runs on four hits — three of which were doubles. 

• Eickhoff has one career start against Chicago, a no-decision. Eickhoff went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits with eight strikeouts. 

• The Phillies have 144 RBIs on the season — the Cubs had 129 in April alone. 

• Chicago has two of the top three hitters in the league in on-base percentage in Ben Zobrist (.453) and Dexter Fowler (.436). The two sandwich Odubel Herrera, who has a .440 OBP.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

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MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

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NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It's the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it's his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

"We needed LeBron to set the tone for us early and I thought he did that," coach Tyronn Lue said.

James will be the eighth player in NBA history to appear in six consecutive finals and the first who didn't play for the Boston Celtics.

"He's just a great player," Lue said. "He's a proven winner. He's always won over the course of his career. To go to six straight finals is unbelievable."

James got there by taking down a Toronto team that set a franchise record with 56 wins and reached the conference finals for the first time in 21 seasons.

After a second-quarter dunk, James shared some verbal barbs with rapper Drake, the Raptors' global ambassador and the man who popularized the nickname `6ix' for Toronto.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith added 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday's Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

"This city has been craving a championship," Lue said. "We have the right team and we have the right talent."

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered "Let's go, Raptors! Let's go, Raptors!" throughout most of the final three minutes.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said reaching the conference finals was "a tremendous learning experience" for his young team, one that's "a step ahead" in its process of becoming a championship contender.

"We're learning," Casey said. "We're not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We're going to be."

A dejected Lowry said it was hard to see the positive side of Toronto's best season ever.

"Of course you're going to look back at some point but right now I'm disappointed," he said. "Simple as that, I'm disappointed."

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland's nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. ... Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.