When the report came in on Tuesday that the Eagles would not sign any of their own free agents, there was a little surprise in The700Level ranks. On one hand, the front office not-so-stealthily replaced practically every one of them in the draft in April, but after all, they have 15 unrestricted players. None of them will be back?
We're still not completely sold it will wind up that way, but the next question was what exactly is the organization losing? Plenty of teams have real good players and even bona fide stars leaving town. That's probably not the case in Philly. After the jump, we broke the departing players into groups, and examined whether any of them will be missed, or if perhaps the Birds are making a big mistake in letting some of this talent go.
Antoine Harris, Bobby McCray, Reggie Wells
None of these guys made a measurable impact for the Birds, and most fans probably didn't even know who they were or that they were on the team to begin with. I would say they will soon fade into obscurity, but it seems they already have.
Won't Be Missed
Nick Cole, Omar Gaither, Dimitri Patterson, Ernie Sims
Where do we begin? Let's go with Patterson, who was exposed for what he is last season: a journeyman special teamer. Sims is what many suspected he was when he arrived, which is a replacement level player, and the once promising career of Gaither looks to have been derailed once and for all by a Lisfranc sprain in '09. Cole has had multiple opportunities, but never broke through, and became expendable after a decent season at center from Mike McGlynn.
David Akers, Quintin Mikell
As was previously mentioned, Akers and Mikell were both essentially gone after the NFL Draft. Say what you want about the decision to trust rookies with key jobs at strong safety and kicker, but Mikell wasn't worth the $7 million/year the Rams gave him, and Akers is aging and has come up small in some big games in recent years. The Eagles should get on fine without them.
No Longer Necessary
Jerome Harrison, Ellis Hobbs, Max Jean-Gilles
A lot of people were really interested in Harrison staying, but believed he would look for a starting job. I don't think that's the problem at all, seeing as he likely won't find that line of work anyway. Sure, Harrison would prefer to be more involved, but the real reason he won't be back is he lacks value to the Birds. They didn't utilize him more because he is soft in pass protection, so they would rather move on and try to develop somebody who can get help in that area.
Jean-Gilles is the prototypical mid-round lineman for the Eagles, who bides his time as a reserve then goes on to become a roughly average starter for some below-.500 club. He could be a serviceable backup, but obviously Danny Watkins is expected to hold down the right guard spot.
Hobbs can't be counted on after sustaining a serious neck injury, and once the Eagles acquire another corner, that player will join Asante Samuel, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley, and rookie Curtis Marsh in a suddenly crowded defensive backfield.
Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan, Sav Rocca
We're still not prepared to write off these guys, at least not two of them. Jordan makes the list because he was the team's top contributor on special teams last season, and he has defensive experience as well. While it would make sense to bring him back, the Eagles often let this type of player walk, like Tracy White a couple years ago.
We would not be as quick to let Bradley leave town though. As has been noted several times and from many different outlets, the linebacker corps is extremely green if Stew B departs. Granted he did not have a very good season coming off of an ACL tear in 2010, but there is still a chance he can be an effective linebacker in the NFL. Once Bradley has tested the market and finds there aren't many front offices willing to offer an oft-injured player long term contracts, maybe the Eagles will bring him back after all.
On the other hand, after first theorizing Rocca could be brought back, we wonder if the Eagles won't cut ties with their punter of three seasons. While last year was his best, showing he has improved and can be more consistent, he's also old (37) and likely wants to be paid fairly well for being merely a punter. Plenty of time for minds to change, but don't be surprised if they give the undrafted, Ray Guy Award winner Chas Henry a real shot to win the job.
In the end, do the Eagles truly require the services of any of these players? A case could be built for Bradley, but that's about it. It's not often they lose a quality, young player to free agency, so obviously we're not talking about anybody they weren't prepared to part with.