Up against cap, Howie Roseman 'comfortable' with Eagles going young at corner

Up against cap, Howie Roseman 'comfortable' with Eagles going young at corner

The Eagles addressed their need at wide receiver by signing veterans Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

While the moves will make the offense better and aid Carson Wentz in his development, it still leaves holes on the roster -- the most obvious one at cornerback.

The Eagles saw the top of the free-agent corner crop dry up while no serious interest from them was reported. They were linked briefly to former Texans corner A.J. Bouye, who wound up getting a large payday from the Jaguars. Stephon Gilmore left Buffalo for New England, and Logan Ryan went from the Patriots to the Titans, without so much as a rumor that the Eagles were involved.

As de facto GM Howie Roseman alluded to, the team's cap situation is challenging.

"I think from our perspective, we're gonna have to look at things as they come through," Roseman said at his press conference Friday. "Obviously as the draft comes, a few things kind of change. We're going through all that now. 

"Again, I think that as we look past this moment, we're gonna be OK. But it is a unique situation we've had."

So what do the Eagles do? There are certainly other moves to be made. Mychal Kendricks is still here ... for now. Ryan Mathews' money should come off the books once he's able to pass a physical. Roseman claims starting center Jason Kelce is safe, but we'll see.

Even if Kendricks, Mathews and Kelce are all moved, the signings of Jeffery, Smith and guard Chance Warmack will take up a significant portion of the leftover cap space. 

There also needs to be space for the team's incoming draft class -- a draft class that will be under serious pressure immediately. Jalen Mills appears to be destined for the slot. That leaves the Eagles with no outside corners with NFL experience on the roster.

But that's OK. Roseman recalled the 2004 Super Bowl squad, which featured Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown at corner. Both were drafted in 2002. Roseman's thinking is that if you draft the right players, you should be able to rely on them early on. 

"I think we look back to 2004, certainly not comparing this team to that Super Bowl team, but we went into that year with Lito and Sheldon, [who] hadn't started," Roseman said. "There were some of those same questions. We would be comfortable if that's how it turned out. 

"Again, we've got a long period of time before we play a game, before we report to training camp. We're going to look at every option to try and improve this team, but certainly, we'd be comfortable if that's how it shook out."

When Sheppard and Brown were drafted, the Eagles had Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor in front of them. Sheppard and Brown were in their third year before they were asked to take over as full-time starters. That won't be the case for the corners the Eagles draft this year; they'll be thrown into the fire immediately.

"You don't want to go into a draft having to have something, but by the same token, what we said last week is true," Roseman said. "We're trying to minimize risk and make smart decisions, and if a contract gets out of hand and we set a number and price going forward, we're gonna walk away."

A big part of Roseman's comfort has to do with the depth at cornerback in the draft. There could be as many as seven corners taken in Round 1. With the Eagles holding pick No. 14, there's a strong chance a highly-regarded prospect could be there.

Still, when looking at the corner market and the corner draft class, Roseman was not interested in repeating the mistakes of the past.

"Obviously people have expectations when the market opens, but we have to be uncomfortable with some things here," Roseman said. "We're not going to address everything right now, and if there's a particular position that we don't address right now, that doesn't preclude us from doing something before the season starts and certainly not in the draft."

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He will also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas front-runners to face NFL's top receivers

Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas front-runners to face NFL's top receivers

Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Terrelle Pryor, Larry Fitzgerald. 

That's the murderers' row of receivers the Eagles will face during the 2017 season, cornerback deficiency and all. 

This week, we got our first look at who the Eagles are tasking with the unenviable challenge of trying to stop — or at the very least slow down — some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. 

At their first OTA practice of the spring, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson were the team's starters in the base package, while rookie Rasul Douglas was on the field as the third corner in the nickel package. 

"The way Coach Cory Undlin works and the way Coach (Jim) Schwartz works, this depth chart right now is not important," Mills said. 

"It's about going out there and proving to those guys each and every day that you deserve whatever spot they have you in or moving up the depth chart." 

While it's true the depth chart at the first practice in the spring might not mean much, and while it's also important to remember that veteran Ron Brooks is recovering from a quad tendon tear, if Mills, Robinson and Douglas perform well enough, they won't ever give up their jobs. 

Of course, that's a big if. 

Mills was a seventh-round pick last year, who had a decent season but also went through his ups and downs. Robinson is a 29-year-old former first-round pick but has never lived up to that draft status. And Douglas is a rookie third-round pick. 

"I really don't have any expectations, just to be the best player I can be," Robinson said. "If I'm the best player that I can be, then I'll be a starter."

It might seem like a stretch to think these three will be able to stop the marquee receivers they'll face this year. But it's not like the Eagles have much of a choice. Their two starting corners from a year ago are gone — Nolan Carroll signed with the Cowboys as a free agent and Leodis McKelvin was released and is still without a team. And it's not like either played well in 2016. 

The Eagles drafted Sidney Jones in the second round, but he's not close to returning from his Achilles tear and Brooks isn't yet ready to fully practice. The Eagles also have undrafted second-year corner C.J. Smith and former CFL all-star Aaron Grymes. 

But Mills, Robinson and Douglas are the best they have right now. 

On Tuesday, Mills and Robinson played outside in the team's base package, switching sides sporadically, but in the nickel package, Mills moved inside to slot corner while Douglas took over outside. So, basically, Mills is playing two positions, something Brooks did throughout training camp last season. 

Mills played both outside and slot corner last season, but not like he is now when it seems like he won't be leaving the field. With Mills' staying on the field to play in the slot, Malcolm Jenkins is able to stay back and be the defense's field general at safety instead of sliding down like he's done at times over the last two years. 

"I feel like it's going to be helpful," Mills said. "Not just for me, just for guys like Malcolm, a smart guy who can really play that back end and call out every single thing, whether it's run, pass or route concepts. With not really having him do the busy work and nickel and just have him be the smart, savvy vet on that back end, I think that kind of calms everybody down."

Douglas is the biggest of the bunch at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds. Mills thinks having that type of size can help the team, especially as bigger receivers become more prevalent in the league. 

"You need a big, tall, aggressive guy," Mills said. "[Douglas has] been showing flashes here and there." 

Robinson didn't know much about Mills or Douglas before joining the Eagles on a one-year deal this offseason, but the veteran of the trio has been impressed so far by his younger counterparts.  

Robinson has also been impressed by the level of competition he faced during the first day of spring practices. 

"That's definitely going to benefit me," Robinson said. "Torrey (Smith), with his speed, you get that type of speed every day in practice, it's definitely going to get you ready for the game. And then Alshon (Jeffery), with his big body and his great hands, his catching radius is definitely going to get me ready for games this season against the big guys."

The big and fast guys will be coming plenty during the 2017 season. Mills, Robinson and Douglas — for now — look like the guys who will try to stop them.