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.

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

INDIANAPOLIS – The main reason Josh Huff has been such a frustrating player during his young NFL career was on full display Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
 
He flashed. Again.
 
The third-year wideout from Oregon was dynamic, elusive, productive. He didn’t look like a disappointment. He didn’t look like the player fans have grown to distrust. Instead, he looked like the guy they still hope he can become.
 
“Just get back to being me, get back to being myself,” Huff said. “I know every receiver, everybody’s gonna drop balls in this league. I just can’t beat myself up over that.
 
“I know that I belong in this league. I know that I’m able to make plays in this league, so I just have to play my game and be myself and let it sort itself out.”
 
Huff finished Saturday’s 33-23 win over the Colts with two catches for 60 yards and a nine-yard touchdown run. He again showed just how dangerous he can be when the ball’s in his hands.
 
His first catch of the day was a 38-yard catch-and-run, which clearly played to his strengths. His second was a 22-yard pickup on a critical 3rd-and-6 during a drive that ended with a touchdown.
 
And aside from the catches, he also ran into the end zone on a 9-yard jet sweep early in the second quarter.
 
“We had some plays designed to get him involved this week, to get him the ball,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I thought he did a great job. The play that really comes to my mind is the third down where it was man coverage. He beat the guy and made a nice catch, big conversion for us. He’s a guy, and I’ve said it all camp, that has big play potential for us. It’s just with his speed and his ability to run after the catch. To get him involved tonight and see those things from him, it was really nice.”
 
Huff said he tried to enter the game like it was any other. And he said he didn’t do anything differently. But it clearly seems like the 24-year-old is trying desperately to get out of his own way. Because when he does, he can be electric.
 
Saturday night was also about the coaching staff’s finding a way to use Huff — something that clearly eluded the last staff, despite Chip Kelly’s familiarity with the wideout.
 
With Jordan Matthews out against the Colts, Huff again played in the slot, a role that seems to fit his strengths, while the jet sweep for a touchdown was the culmination of plenty of similar plays run during practices.
 
“Coaches know what I can do with the ball in my hands,” Huff said. “So they’re trying to find ways to get the ball in my hands, whether it’s a pass or behind the line of scrimmage.“
 
The Eagles made sure to get the ball to Huff on Saturday night and he rewarded them with the kind of play he’s shown he’s capable of before.
 
He took a step forward Saturday night. Now, he just needs to make sure the step backward doesn’t follow this time.
 
“It’s just a mental game for me,” Huff said. “I know I can make all the plays that I made today. It’s just about doing it on a consistent basis and being the best I can be during that play or during that game.”

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

After arriving to the team Saturday, veteran backstop A.J. Ellis will see his first game action in a Phillies uniform, as expected, in Sunday's series finale against the Mets.

Ellis will catch right-handed starter Vince Velasquez and bat seventh. The catcher doesn't bring much to the plate with his bat, but he calls a good game and was Clayton Kershaw's personal catcher in Los Angeles. It'll be interesting to see how he handles Velasquez.

The 35-year-old is hitting just .194 this season with one home run and 13 RBIs.

In other lineup notes, Tommy Joseph gets the start at first base and will bat cleanup and Jimmy Paredes gets his second straight start in left field. Paredes will hit sixth.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Jimmy Paredes, LF
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Super sub Roland Alberg putting on potent show for Union

Super sub Roland Alberg putting on potent show for Union

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg has been a terror for opposing teams. 

The latest attack from the Dutch bomber happened Saturday, while the Union were gridlocked in a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City. Alberg entered the match in the 65th minute and ended it in the 67th, when he launched a volley that beat goalkeeper Alec Kann. 

“I have to be patient, but when I come on the field, I have to do my thing,” Alberg said. “It’s a great team performance. We did a great job, got three points and we are happy with it.”

He added an assist for the 2-0 win (see game story)

“He’s a wonderful player,” said Union left back Fabinho, who assisted on Alberg's goal. “He came on and changed the game. I saw him and I know what he likes. I give the ball to him and he scores. He has nine goals. It’s nice for him. I hope he scores more.” 

That type of impact hasn’t been irregular for Alberg. With nine goals on the season in just 925 minutes played, the 26-year-old leads MLS in goals-per-90 minutes with 0.88. Only New York City FC’s Frank Lampard is close with .85.

“He’s far and away the leader in our league,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, who originally cited Alberg’s goals-per-90 stat. “He has a special quality.”

Yet, despite that “special quality,” Alberg remains a super sub, buried behind Tranquillo Barnetta at the center attacking midfield spot. He has two goals in his last four games — all coming off the bench.

“I have to show it every training, and then it’s the coach’s decision,” he said. “If [Curtin] uses me as a sub, I’ll do 100 percent my best. And if it’s as a starter, it’s the same thing for me. Of course every player wants to play as a starter, and me too. But it’s a long season. Playoffs, they are coming. So I’m patient.”

Alberg’s potency isn’t lost on Curtin, even if the manager doesn’t switch his winning formula. Though Alberg is pushing for a starting spot, the Union might just be more dangerous with him off the bench.

“He’s a starter on most MLS teams,” Curtin said. “It’s just a matter of having depth at that spot. He’s a very valuable player to our team and shows we have a deep squad. I can’t say enough about how well he’s played in any role. As a starter for us, he’s won us a bunch of games, and his role off the bench, he’s won us some games now, too.”