Eagles FA rumor tracker: Alshon Jeffery leaning toward Eagles

Eagles FA rumor tracker: Alshon Jeffery leaning toward Eagles

The NFL's legal tampering period began at noon on Tuesday, so we're in the thick of it now. (Even though plenty of illegal tampering has been going on for months.)

Free agency starts on Thursday at 4 p.m. and the Eagles have just around $6.19 million in cap space to work with (as of Thursday morning).

3:59 p.m. Thursday -- Top CB staying put

One of the top cornerbacks set to hit the market won't. Along with A.J. Bouye, Dre Kirkpatrick was the top guy on the free agent corner list. 

3:35 p.m. Thursday -- Vikings in on Jeffery 

The Eagles have some more competition to land Alshon Jeffery, who will become a free agent in less than a half hour. 

2:14 p.m. Thursday -- Leaning this way 

The Eagles have Torrey Smith, but a big receiver on the other side would be ideal. And Alshon Jeffery is a big receiver. 

This would take some fancy cap manuevering from Howie Roseman, but that's what he's good at. And Jeffery is the top target on the free agent market. The 27-year-old caught 52 passes for 821 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. He's two years removed from his last 1,000-yard season. 

1:46 p.m. Thursday -- Help on O-line

Stefen Wisniewski was with the Eagles on a one-year deal in 2016. He ended up playing in all 16 games and starting six. But he made it clear throughout the season that he wanted a full-time starting gig. 

So perhaps if Wisniewski can't find that starting job elsewhere, he could be back as a backup or possible replacement for Jason Kelce. 

11:44 a.m. Thursday -- Not done yet 

The Eagles already locked up Torrey Smith, but it looks like they're still looking for more help at receiver. Based on last season, they can use all the help they get. 

Wheaton is a former third-round pick who played just three games in 2016 before his season ended with a shoulder injury. Wheaton's best season came in 2015, when he caught 44 passes for 749 yards and five touchdowns. 

11:15 a.m. Thursday -- Eagles, Colts after Alshon Jeffery

Moments after the Eagles agreed to a three-year deal with speedy WR Torrey Smith, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the Eagles and Colts are making a "strong push" for Alshon Jeffery.

Jeffery is the top wide receiver on the free-agent market and a much different player than Smith. They could complement each other nicely, with Jeffery offering size and red-zone effectiveness and Smith giving Wentz a much-needed deep threat.

10:13 a.m. Thursday -- Let's get weird 

It looks like things are really getting going now. The Eagles have reportedly been talking about a trade for Cooks, but a new suitor has emerged. The Patriots are bringing in Stephon Gilmore, so maybe Butler has become disposable. Either way, another team in the mix for Cooks can't help the Eagles. 

9:32 a.m. Thursday -- Britt to Browns

Remember when Kenny Britt was going to sign with the Eagles? Good times. 

The Browns came into Thursday with $98 million in cap space, so money isn't the problem with them. As of Wednesday, there were reports that Britt was going to be an Eagle. Heck, people even saw him in Atlantic City!

It looks like the Browns didn't have any trouble tossing some money around. 

8:57 a.m. Thursday -- Gilmore to Patriots

The New England Patriots are poised to add one of the top free-agent cornerbacks, Stephon Gilmore. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the former Buffalo Bill is headed to New England, "barring any final snags."

Gilmore's connection to the Eagles would have been defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Gilmore was in Buffalo for Schwartz's only year as the Bills' DC. We've seen that connection bring in players like Nigel Bradham and Ron Brooks. Looks like it wasn't enough to bring in Gilmore. 

8:57 a.m. Thursday -- Bouye leaving Texans

A few years ago, A.J. Bouye was an undrafted free agent from UCF. Now, he's about to break the bank. Although it might not be with the Eagles. 

Staying in the AFC South makes sense for one reason: money. The Jaguars started the day with $73 million cap room. The Titans had $61M and the Colts had $54M. 

8:46 a.m. Thursday -- DeSean to Tampa

So much for the DeSean Jackson reunion. Looks like DeSean is forgoing the trip back to Philly and taking a big pay day in Tampa. 

Now Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and ESPN's Adam Schefter are both reporting that Jackson will sign with the Bucs. Tampa had $58 million in cap space. 

9:15 p.m. -- Britt expected to sign with Eagles; DeSean to Tampa Bay

After losing out on Kenny Stills, the Eagles may have found a different receiver for Carson Wentz. According to Mile High Sports Radio's Benjamin Allbright, Kenny Britt, 28, is expected to sign with the Eagles when free agency begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday. 

Britt, enduring subpar quarterback play with the Rams in 2016, had a career year with 68 catches for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns.

As for former Eagles receivers, DeSean Jackson is reportedly expected to sign with the Bucs Thursday. 

7:02 p.m. -- Stills staying in Miami 

One of the biggest free-agent targets for the Eagles never even became a free agent. So much for getting him as the Eagles' deep threat. It looks like Stills is indeed staying with the Dolphins. 

If you're keeping track at home, Stills, Pierre Garcon, Brandon LaFell and Brandon Marshall are all already reportedly off the market well before the start of free agency. 

3:26 p.m. -- Stills off the market? 

Stills would have been a really good fit with the Eagles. He's still just 24 and is a serious deep threat, something the Eagles need desperately. Of all the receivers set to hit the market, Stills made more sense than most. If this report pans out, it will be interesting to see what kind of deal Stills signs with the Dolphins. Earlier reports talked about him getting over $10 million per season. 

But hold the phone. Stills isn't definitely staying in Miami just yet. 

At least one receiver really is off the market: 

2:11 p.m. -- You don't say

Yeah, this isn't much of a surprise. The Eagles have been trying to trade these guys for a while. Cutting Conor Barwin if he doesn't get traded seems like a realistic possibility. They'd save $7.75 million by cutting him and would have just $600,000 in dead money. 

Last week, Howie Roseman said there wasn't a deadline to make these decisions and the Eagles wouldn't just cut players to cut them. Still, cutting Barwin makes sense. As for Mychal Kendricks, cutting him would save $1.8 million in cap space. If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, they would save $5 million, but would need to carry his full cap number until June 1. 

1:51 p.m. -- Romo on the move

Obviously, the Eagles aren't going to sign Tony Romo, but he is a huge domino to fall. He will change the free agent market. Suppose he goes to Houston, will they then have enough money to hold on to A.J. Bouye? 

11:17 a.m. -- Bennie's replacement?

Bennie Logan will become a free agent at 4 p.m. on Thursday and because of his price tag, it seems rather likely he won't return. So maybe the Eagles need a replacement. 

Domata Peko is already 32, but for a year or two, he would be a decent fill-in. The Eagles have also started to work on a new deal for Beau Allen, who has been Logan's backup. 

10:41 a.m. -- Eagles after Bouye

For all that talk about the Eagles not trying to sign Band-Aids to fix their cornerback position, it sure seems like they're going after pending Texans 25-year-old free agent Bouye. 

Bouye (pronounced boy-yay) would be just the latest Texans player to join the Eagles after Barwin, DeMeco Ryans, Brandon Brooks, Bryan Braman and others. Now, it looks like Bouye could join the group. 

But not so fast ... 

10:14 a.m. -- That's a lot of money

Like, really, a lot of money. But the 49ers do have $90 million in cap space. 

8:20 a.m. -- Washington in on Poe

This isn't necessarily an Eagles-related report, but it's worth noting. Washington clearly needs help on the D-line and it has seemed like a really strong landing place for Eagles pending free agent Logan. 

"We have some work to do there," Jay Gruden said at the combine about his defensive line. "Without a doubt."

If Washington grabs Dontari Poe, it means they're probably out for Logan. 

8:31 a.m. -- Giants get deeper

The Giants now have Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall. 

The Eagles' corners right now are Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks and C.J. Smith. They're going to need some more help to deal with this division. Luckily, there are options in free agency and even more in the draft. 

Update: Marshall has signed. 

7:16 a.m. -- Still talks about Cooks 

It sounds like the Cooks trade isn't dead yet, but it's possible some other teams will put together better offers for the young receiver. 

Apparently, the Saints want some pass rush help. How would they feel about an aging Barwin with a cap hit of over $8 million in 2017? 

While Kendricks isn't a lineman, he is a linebacker who can blitz. Perhaps he'd be of intrigue to the Saints. 

Maybe the Eagles don't have the firepower to get this deal done, but they're not out of it yet. 

6:14 a.m. -- How much for DeSean? 

Well, it seems like Jackson is going to get paid. 

According to this report, Jackson is expected to have a salary of over $11 million per year. 

It lists the Cowboys, Eagles, Patriots and Bucs in the mix. It appears like Washington is preparing to move on from DeSean. 

Derek Barnett's college position coach: He can flip switch to 'monster'

Derek Barnett's college position coach: He can flip switch to 'monster'

For family days at the University of Tennessee, former defensive line coach Steve Stripling's wife Gayle would make cookies for the crowd. And every time she did, it didn't go unnoticed by the Vols' best player. 

Every time, without fail, Derek Barnett would make a point to seek her out and say, "Hey Mrs. Strip, thank you for the cookies." 

It's a small thing, thanking someone for cookies. But it's something that seems to exemplify the type of players the Eagles are focused on bringing into the organization, especially with new VP of player personnel Joe Douglas leading the draft charge. And it was the one of the stories that stuck out most to Steve Stripling on Friday morning, 12 hours after the pick was made. 

"He's got that in him," Stripling said to CSNPhilly.com on Friday morning, just before boarding a flight from Philadelphia back to Tennessee, "and then on the football field, I've seen him just be a monster. 

"He has that ability to be quiet, unassuming, polite, respectful, all that, and then on the football field, he's a warrior. When he walks on the football field, he's different, totally different." 

Barnett, 20, is a pretty quiet and reserved guy. Some fans thought he didn't look pleased to be picked by the Eagles with the 14th pick on Thursday night, but that's not true. That's just his demeanor — off the field. 

On the field, Barnett is a relentless technician with an exceptional motor that powered him to 33 sacks at Tennessee, breaking Reggie White's long-standing record. 

"If you get to know him, he doesn't say much," Stripling said. "He's very quiet, but on the football field, when he says something, everyone pays attention. He just has that built into him, to play hard and he's a grinder and focused and all those things."

Stripling joined the Volunteers' coaching staff as an associate head coach and defensive line coach for the 2013 season. That was the year spent recruiting Barnett out of Brentwood Academy in Brentwood, Tennessee. After Barnett's 2016 season, Stripling, 63, took a job as the director of football program development, but he was Barnett's position coach for all three years of his college stay. 

And from the time Barnett arrived on the Tennessee campus in 2014, it didn't take long for the coaching staff to realize something was special about him. 

Stripling recalls a play that the coaching staff has shown "a thousand times" since it happened back in 2014. During the first or second day of Volunteers' two-a-day camp, Barnett, then a freshman, showed that relentless style for which he's now become known. Barnett lined up as the team's right end as the ball broke to the left and the carrier jetted down field. From out of nowhere, Barnett chased him 40 yards downfield and delivered a sideline hit. 

Before that play, Tennessee knew Barnett was good. After that play, it knew he was special. 

"Usually when a freshman gets to camp, they're just trying to fit in, learn their way," Stripling said. "But it was from Day 1." 

The Tennessee defensive line room tried to live by an acronym: EAT — effort, accountability and technique. Barnett represented all of those facets. 

But perhaps more than anything, the technique part of his game is what really stands out. The use of his hands and his ability to bend as a pass rusher are the traits that vaulted him into the top half of the first round. 

And Barnett credits "Coach Strip" for a lot of it. 

"I’ll you what, he was hard on me," Barnett wrote about Stripling in the Players' Tribune. "From the very first day I arrived on campus, he was on me to refine whatever physical talents I had so that I could become a well-rounded football player."

In addition to working with Tennessee coaches, Barnett has also spent time in the offseason working with former NFL defensive lineman and pass-rush guru Chuck Smith. 

Barnett (6-3, 259 pounds) didn't perform well at the 2017 combine in Indianapolis. Even though he was dealing with the flu, he wanted to show more. But on Thursday night, that lackluster performance didn't seem to bother Douglas, who raved about his technique and even dropped some scouty lingo with the phrase "ankle flexion." 

Stripling, meanwhile, compared Barnett's bend as a pass rusher to former Colts great Dwight Freeney. 

"I think that's athletic ability to me, even though it's not a 40-yard time," Stripling said. "It's the ability to get low, reduce the surface and turn the corner. And I think that's one of his strong suites."

And then there's something Barnett has that simply can't be coached: instincts. Barnett, according to Stripling, has the unique ability to leave his gap responsibility at exactly the right time, when necessary to make a play: 

"I would say, 'Derek, how did you know the ball was going there?' He'd say, 'I just knew it.'"

For Stripling, Thursday night at the Ben Franklin Parkway was quite a thrill. A college coach since 1977, this was the first NFL draft he had ever attended. Hours after the Eagles used their 14th pick to take Barnett and hours after the hoopla surrounding the event had faded, Stripling sat up late with Barnett, his mother Christine and the rest of the family, reminiscing and reflecting. 

A little earlier in the night, when Barnett's name was called, Stripling happened to be seated near a group of inquisitive Eagles fans. 

"They were saying, 'who is this guy?'" Stripling recalled. "And I said, 'you're going to love this guy. He's going to work hard, he's going to be tough, he's going to make plays, you're going to love him.' I'm excited for him, it's going to be a good fit."

Eagles should have top-10 defense with Derek Barnett, improved cornerback play

Eagles should have top-10 defense with Derek Barnett, improved cornerback play

The scene at the Art Museum was insane. The noise, the energy, the enthusiasm. Electrifying.

When the Cardinals picked Temple's Haason Reddick at No. 13, the reality hit everybody that the Eagles could snag an elite cornerback like Marlon Humphrey, Tre'Davious White or Gareon Conley. They could get a stud tight end like O.J. Howard. They could even grab a projected top-10 pick like linebacker Reuben Foster or defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who both plummeted through the first round.

They were going to get a stud.

The minutes wound down, and then commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium and announced the name "Derek Barnett," and ... it wasn't like people booed, but the reaction sure was muted.

It was just like ... "OK then."

I don't know why Eagles fans wouldn't be thrilled with this pick (see debate for/against Barnett at No. 14).

Barnett is not Jerome McDougle, Jon Harris or Marcus Smith. He's not another Eagles first-round defensive end bust.

He's a 20-year-old kid with boundless upside who played at a high level against the best competition in college football, and his speed and relentless effort fits perfectly into defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme.

And he just happens to fill a crucial need on a defense that desperately needs pass rush help.

He's exactly what the Eagles needed.

I think pass rush was just as big a need for this team as cornerback, and this draft is so deep at corner that going defensive end in the first round and corner in the second or third round made perfect sense.

So let's look at what Schwartz has to work with as he enters Year 2.

Up front, he has Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan and Beau Allen inside and Barnett with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long outside. The Eagles will miss Bennie Logan, but on paper, that's a very good defensive line.

At linebacker, budding star Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham will get the lion's share of the snaps. Mychal Kendricks is still a de facto starter, but I still don't think he'll be here by opening day. And even if he is, he'll play only 15 to 20 snaps per game.

You have two very good safeties in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, and that really leaves cornerback as the one big giant question mark on defense.

But whoever the Eagles run out there — I would guess Jalen Mills and whoever they draft on Friday, with Ron Brooks back in the slot if he's healthy — will be an upgrade over Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. Anything would be an upgrade over Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin.

When I look at this group, I see a top-10 defense.

And if you think that's crazy, consider this: The Eagles were only three yards per game away from being a top-10 defense last year, in their first year in Schwartz's scheme, with Connor Barwin playing out of position, a terrible set of cornerbacks and huge issues getting to the quarterback.

Consider this: The 2016 Eagles limited opposing QBs to the fifth-lowest completion percentage in the NFL, allowed the fifth-fewest first downs, allowed the eighth-fewest TDs and ranked third in the red zone.

This was a better defense a year ago than people realized.

What was its biggest issue? Allowing big pass plays.

The Eagles allowed a ridiculous 27 pass plays of 30 yards or more, second-worst in the NFL (one fewer than the Raiders).

Big plays killed this team a year ago, and that's a combination of a lack of pass pressure and terrible cornerback play.

Greatly reduce those big plays and this is a playoff defense.

The Eagles have already jettisoned their starting cornerbacks, and Mills and a rookie will be an upgrade. And now they've addressed their pass rush.

How much difference will Barnett make in Year 1? No way to tell yet. But I have to think a rotation of Graham, Barnett, Curry and Long will be more productive than Graham, Barwin, Curry and Marcus Smith.

The Eagles haven't had an elite defense since Jim Johnson's last season, when they ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed and third in yards allowed.

That team won a couple playoff games, reached the NFC Championship Game, and was one fourth-quarter, fourth-down stop on Tim Hightower away from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.

That was 2008. That was nine years ago.

It's no coincidence that the last time the Eagles had an elite defense was the last time they won a playoff game.

It's been a long, sad eight years since. Years filled with coaching changes, a lack of stability at quarterback and defensive play that Eagles fans had to be largely embarrassed by.

How do you go from Brian Dawkins, Trent Cole, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown celebrating playoff wins to Nnamdi Asomugha waving his arms at Kurt Coleman after allowing yet another touchdown bomb just a few short years later?

Sad. This is a city that loves offense but loves defense even more.

I'm not sure this is ready to be an elite defense yet, but drafting Barnett is going to help the Eagles continue becoming a pretty darn good one.