10 observations from Day 1 of NFL free agency

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10 observations from Day 1 of NFL free agency

Ten observations from the first few hours of free agency, which saw 26 players change teams and 26 billion tweets sent out.

1. The Malcolm Jenkins backlash really surprised me. My Twitter feed hated the signing, and things got so crazy Tuesday evening that one follower actually posted that Jenkins is no better than Patrick Chung. Come on now. Jenkins is 26, durable, smart, versatile, started for a Super Bowl team, good locker room guy, good value. One of his strengths at 6-foot is his ability to line up and cover a tight end, something the Eagles have struggled with over the years. Is he a superstar? No. But you’re not going to have a superstar at every position, and for the Eagles, it was all about upgrading at safety. Jenkins is an upgrade. A significant one. This is like the Connor Barwin signing. Everybody talked about how his level of play dropped off in Houston in 2012, but once the Eagles got him in their system, and we actually saw him play, he turned out to be a heck of an addition. I expect the same from Jenkins this year. I think we’ll look back at this as a solid move.

2. As for Jairus Byrd, extraordinary talent, but I’d be skittish giving a guy with chronic plantar fasciitis $28 million guaranteed, which the Saints did. When you sign a player to a long-term, multi-million-dollar deal with a huge guaranteed bonus, you’re making a long-term commitment to that player, so it’s not just where will he be in 2014 or 2015 but where will he be in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Byrd is very good, but he’s not the fastest guy out there, and he’s not the healthiest. I think the Saints overpaid.

3. DeMarcus Ware is an intriguing name, but I’d tread carefully when adding a 31-year-old guy who’s been banged up and whose production has declined from 19½ sacks in 2011 to 11½ in 2012 to a career-low six in 2013. The Eagles are all about being young, healthy and fast, and I’m not sure Ware is any of those things right now. From 2006 through Week 8 of 2012, Ware had 100½ sacks in 104 games. In his last 21 games, he has 8½ sacks (or one more than Brandon Graham). It would be fun seeing Ware sack Tony Romo a few times a year, but I just don’t like the way he’s trending. If all the medicals came back totally fine? I’d make an exception to the 30-year-old rule. When he’s right, he’s an All-Pro. And we all know how desperately the Eagles need a pass rusher. But I’d have to be really convinced he’s healthy to make an offer.

4. What about Darrelle Revis? Tough call. He’s about the same age as Nnamdi Asomugha was when the Eagles signed him from the Raiders, and he’ll be joining his third team in three years. So there are a couple red flags. But Revis is still a tremendous player, and if the numbers aren’t too outlandish, I’d be intrigued. The Eagles already have Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher? So what. Adding Revis to their secondary would instantly make the them better. He’s 29 and has been hurt -- notably with the ACL in 2012 -- but he played at a high level last year in Tampa. What about the Eagles’ philosophy of only going after young, healthy, ascending free agents? Like with Ware, I’d make an exception for Revis, if the numbers are workable. With Revis, I doubt the numbers would be workable.

5. It’s going to fall under the radar, thanks to everything else going on Tuesday, but re-upping Donnie Jones was huge. He’s a human field-position flipper. Think about 33 punts inside the 20 but only eight touchbacks. That’s insane. Important move.

6. It will be interesting to see if anybody signs Chung. I just can’t imagine a team watching his 2013 film and saying, “Hey, I want this guy.” If Chung doesn’t join another team, the Eagles will have to pay him the $1 million guaranteed portion of his $3.25 million 2014 base salary. If he does go somewhere else, the Eagles are only responsible if he signs for less than his guarantee. They would be on the hook for the difference.

7. If you made a list of the five worst safeties in Eagles history, Chung wouldn’t be the worst. That honor would go to Erik McMillan, a one-time Pro Bowler with the Jets who Rich Kotite signed to a $1.3 million contract with a $500,000 signing bonus to replace the popular and productive Wes Hopkins in 1993. McMillan lasted six games before getting jettisoned. He flat couldn’t play. But Chung would be second. Then who? Matt Stevens? Jarrad Page? Sean Jones? Jaiquawn Jarrett? A lot of candidates. Too many recent ones.

8. Would be great to see Michael Vick sign with the Jets and be reunited with Marty Mornhinweg, Vick’s offensive coordinator during his resurgent 2010 Pro Bowl season. I know Vick has gotten hurt the last three years, but I still think he has one last good run in him. Maybe I’m dreaming. Vick turns 34 this summer, and he’s 12-19 in his last 31 starts. I’d just like to see him get one more chance to lead a team, and maybe things will turn out differently.

9. Interesting how few offensive skill guys have signed so far. Seems like there’s a real premium on defense this year, and that’s a direct result of the way the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and how that team was built. It’s also a reminder of just how strong the draft is with receivers. Why sign a free-agent receiver when you can get an equivalent guy a lot cheaper in the draft?

10. Most overpaid guy on Day 1? The Raiders signed offensive lineman Rodger Saffold to a five-year deal worth $8.5 million per year. Saffold has never made a Pro Bowl team and hasn’t started more than 10 games since 2010. Just wow.

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.