Eagles want safety help, but at reasonable cost

Eagles want safety help, but at reasonable cost
February 4, 2014, 5:00 pm
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The Eagles have started 11 different safeties -- including David Sims, Macho Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett -- since Brian Dawkins left following the 2008 season. (USA Today Images)

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman spoke Sunday about free agency, the draft and other issues facing the Eagles this offseason in an interview with CSNPhilly.com Eagles columnist Reuben Frank on 94 WIP. The quotes in this story are from that interview.

We all agree the Eagles need to upgrade the safety position.

Significantly.

“We talk about every position and wanting to get better,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “But certainly you look at that position and the free agents we have, and naturally there's going to be some change over there.”

The only question is how.

Roseman indicated that the Eagles plan to address their safety issue in free agency and not rely solely on the draft to upgrade their position of greatest need.

Free agency is scheduled to start on March 11, although teams are allowed to talk with agents on March 8. The draft is scheduled for May 8-10.

“I think, ideally, you don't want to go into the draft with a huge hole, because that puts you more susceptible to forcing things or kind of pushing guys up,” Roseman said.

“Even if you're not doing it naturally, it just happens because you look at the depth chart and you go, ‘I don't have someone at that position. Who's in the draft?’

“I don't think that's what we'd like to do, ideally. I think we'd like to go into the draft like we have the last two years, with a clean slate [and an] open mind. Whoever's going to be there, we're gonna stick to our board, and even if it's a position where it looks like we have a lot of depth, in a year or two it may not be the same way.”

Last time the Eagles were desperate for safety help was 2011, when they reached for Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round.

Jarrett started just two games before the Eagles released him in 2012. He spent last year with the Jets.

“We want to be careful of going into the draft and just having a big hole there,” Roseman said. “And I think there are things you can do at any position that are short-term stopgaps to get you through the moment if you had to, if you didn't find someone in the draft.”

The Eagles go into the offseason with only one safety who’s a lock to even be with the team next year, and that's Earl Wolff, who started six games before a knee injury derailed his season in mid-November.

Patrick Chung, who started 10 games, had a poor season and is not expected back. Nate Allen, who started all 16 games, had his most consistent season as an Eagle but is an unrestricted free agent and is more steady than spectacular. Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman are also unrestricted.

Keelan Johnson, who played in a couple games late in the season, is also on the roster.

Roseman didn’t rule out pursuing a big-ticket free agent such as T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd, who are both 27 and proven Pro Bowl-caliber safeties. The Eagles will have the cap room to go after a big-money guy this offseason, although it could limit their other moves.

More likely is that the Eagles will shop for mid-level free agent safeties, such as Miami’s Chris Clemons, Carolina's Mike Mitchell or Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea.

The Eagles haven’t been settled at safety since they let Brian Dawkins sign with the Broncos after the 2008 season.

Since then, they’ve used 11 different starting safeties, from Macho Harris to Sean Jones, Jarrad Page to David Sims.

Not entirely coincidentally, the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since Dawkins’ departure.

“I think we've all been spoiled ... with the play of Brian Dawkins and just what kind of player he was and being around him and watching him play in big games,” Roseman said.

“You're trying to find that next guy, and those are big shoes to fill. And so for us ... we're spending a lot of time at that spot, among other spots, and just wanting to do the right thing.

“Not wanting to go out and reach and make a decision that puts us in a hole a couple years from now. Or maybe we don't have a good player because we pushed someone up the draft board or we spend too much money on a safety that our evaluation of him is a pretty good player but not great, and then not able to sign other guys or really draft other guys.

“We've got to get better but we also want to be smart about it.”