Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend


Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend

At noon Saturday, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman can pick up his phone, speed dial to Jairus Byrd’s agent and start discussion about awarding the NFL’s top free-agent safety with a handsome contract to play for Chip Kelly.

All NFL teams can start negotiations with free agents at 12 p.m. Saturday. Not until 4 p.m. Tuesday can free agents officially sign on the dotted line.

Even though Roseman committed nearly $130 million in theoretical money over the past 10 days to secure several standouts from last year’s NFC East championship team, he left the cupboard full enough to dig deep for someone of Byrd’s caliber.

Are we sure of this?

“Yes,” Roseman said. Actually, he cautioned more than said. “It will affect other things going forward,” he added, “but yes.”

By “other things going forward,” Roseman dropped a big hint about the team’s free-agent strategy and revealed why the Eagles aren’t likely to land Byrd -- who’s seeking upwards of $9 million annually -- or any other free agent seeking to capitalize on Jeffrey Lurie’s prior habit of stretching the pocketbook.

Looking forward -- say, one year from now -- several pieces of the Eagles’ nucleus will be eligible for contract extensions. Among them are Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and potentially Jeremy Maclin.

Roseman has talked all offseason about the team’s newer model of building from within, of manicuring home-grown talent, of stockpiling draft picks and farming them through the system the way Green Bay and Pittsburgh do.

Given the windfall he just lavished on Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Riley Cooper, and the money he’ll need next season to keep the foundation intact, it becomes fairly clear why Roseman isn’t sending out strong signals that he’s about to authorize some big checks.

“It doesn’t take an expert researcher to go back and look at teams that are having success and how they’re having success,” he said. “Most of the time when guys are on the free-agent market, their teams have chosen not to sign them for one reason or another.

It may be cap room. It may be because they have a particular player at a position.

“But I don’t know that we can go back in the history of free agency and look at free agency and say, 'Well, there’s a team that built totally on free agency and it worked.' You have to draft well to the extent that you can. You have to keep your own players and you have to keep supplementing through the draft."

This doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t be active in free agency.

They have no depth at safety and they need help at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. They can’t address all these needs in the draft, especially with Roseman firm on picking the best overall prospect regardless of position.

But they’re likely to repeat last year’s blueprint that netted them several mid-level free agents who didn’t break the bank but played significant roles, guys like outside linebacker Connor Barwin and corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

So maybe the Eagles decide to mortgage the house on Byrd, or maybe they go the economical route with Malcolm Jenkins or Mike Mitchell.

Only the folks at One NovaCare Way know what will happen over the next three days, but Roseman’s warnings about the perils of big free-agent spending were fairly telltale.

“It’s almost like the draft, where you don’t want to force anything,” he said. “We look at it as just try to grade players as they are, not do it because we need a particular position. We’re going to go out and try to do things that make sense for our football team.”

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Derrick Gunn give his take on a few keys to the Eagles-Vikings game on Sunday.

• Losing Bennie Logan (groin injury) for this game is huge. He doesn't get a lot of notoriety for the dirty work he does in the trenches, but he helps Fletcher Cox get that push up the middle.

• Keep a close eye on the matchup between Jason Kelce and Vikings DT Linval Joseph. Kelce has been overmatched by bigger, athletic guys and Joseph at 6-4, 330 pounds is one of the best in the business.

• In his first three years as an Eagle, Connor Barwin had 26½ sacks as an outside linebacker, including a career-best 14½ in 2014. Through five games this season, Barwin, now a defensive end, has just one. Fatigue might be a factor. He has played more snaps than any other Eagles defensive lineman (79 percent). Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz says reducing Barwin's playing time might keep him fresher and stronger in fourth quarters.

• WR Dorial Green-Beckham was on the field for 81 percent of the Eagles' plays vs. Washington last week. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich feels DGB is ready for an expanded role.

• Darren Sproles usually wins matchups against LBs, but that might not be the case against the Vikings. Mychal Kendricks' younger brother, Eric, has been a solid, playmaking LB for Minnesota and he has the speed to keep up with Sproles.

• I've said it once and I'll say it again: Get Kenjon Barner more touches in the run game. Barner has the fewest carries among the Eagles' four running backs but the best yards-per-carry average at 5.8.

Eagles' defense knows it must quickly correct tackling issues

Eagles' defense knows it must quickly correct tackling issues

As Washington running back Matt Jones made a quick cut to head upfield for a 57-yard gain late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, linebacker Jordan Hicks, after he over-pursued and couldn’t make a diving play to recover, ended up face down, grasping for where Jones used to be.

That play on third down wrapped up the win for Washington.

A fitting end for an Eagles defense that had trouble tackling throughout the long afternoon at FedEx Field.

“When you shoot your gun, you've got to hit,” Hicks said on Thursday. “You can't miss.”

The Eagles missed plenty during their 27-20 loss to Washington. Missed tackles, seemingly out of nowhere, became a huge issue last week.

In all, according to ProFootballFocus, the Eagles missed 10 tackles on Sunday. And Washington picked up 156 yards after contact.

Coming into the week, the Eagles had missed just eight tackles and had given up just 149 yards after contact all year.

“We're at this point in the season where you're going up against these guys and your body might feel a certain way or whatever, but there are no excuses at this point,” Hicks said. “We understand that. We've worked a lot on tackling. We have really this whole time. So it's obviously a point of emphasis from the past two games. It's definitely something we have to correct.”

So the simple question is this: How do you fix missed tackles?

The answer isn’t so simple. Safety Malcolm Jenkins explained that once teams get into their seasons, they really don’t practice tackling anymore, especially with defensive backs. They’re more concerned with installing that week’s game plan and learning coverages.

Jenkins said linebackers practice tackling during the week some, but if defensive backs want to practice tackling, they have to do it on their own after the team practice is over.

While the tackling itself was bad on Sunday, there was a problem that led to the problem: bad angles.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said his players took too many bad angles to the ball, which makes it much more difficult to tackle. Hicks agreed, saying the effort was there, but the bad angles made things tough.

Perhaps the effort went a little too far.

“I think the other part of it in this [last] game, and again, one of our failures in this [last] game, is we let one play affect the next,” Schwartz said. “I think in the first three games, even parts of the Detroit game, we didn't let a bad play affect our next play. I referenced one of the toss sweeps, we were short on the block and then on the next play, we came up and everybody overran it and the ball cut all the way back on us.

“In other words, we over-corrected and guys were trying — rather than just doing their job, the old adage in the NFL is, ‘Do your job,’ and we got guilty of trying to cover up and do a little too much. They need to just concentrate on theirs and [make] good tackles.”

When asked on Thursday, Schwartz was critical of his defense and himself (see story). The Eagles gave up 230 yards on the ground and 493 yards total — by far their highest totals of the season.

And a lot of it was just not getting Washington players down when they had the chance.

“I think that needs to be fixed and we will fix it,” Fletcher Cox said. “We've just got to calm down and just play ball. You've got guys coming full speed at a ball carrier and of course sometimes they're going to whiff, but the second guy has to be there to get the guy on the ground.”

The good news for the Eagles is that the Vikings have been the worst rushing offense in the NFL through their first five games, averaging 2.5 yards per attempt. But Schwartz joked that after watching the Eagles’ film against Washington, the Vikings will try to run 65 times on Sunday.

They likely won't do that, but Minnesota will probably be happy to test the Eagles’ run defense on Sunday.

If the Eagles want to win, they’ll have to cut down on those pesky missed tackles.

“You just get back to work, man,” WILL linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “I just think it was one of those games where he was just slipping off. We have some of the best tacklers on this team and we were missing tackles. It's as simple as that. I think we just get back to work, get back to the fundamentals and basics and handle our business.”