Eagles Mailbag: Defensive line, Nelson Agholor, top CBs in draft

Eagles Mailbag: Defensive line, Nelson Agholor, top CBs in draft

Remember that month where no one wanted to talk about the Eagles

Yeah, that's long gone. The evidence is in the abundance of questions we received for the mailbag this week. We got so many we split them up into three different installments. 

Part 1 looked at Dalvin Cook, corners in the draft and backup quarterbacks.

Part 2 looked at possible surprises at 14, John Ross and the team's starting corners.

Today, there are plenty more great topics. Let's hop in: 

It's funny. That was the talk all last offseason, about how the defensive line was going to be the strength. Fletcher Cox told me that unit really needed to lead the way. But was it really a strength? At times, sure. Cox had a good season and so did Brandon Graham. At other times, though, the defensive line was a disappointment. 

Now, the team has lost two of its four starters on the defensive line. That's definitely a concern. Beau Allen is a decent player, but he just isn't as good as Bennie Logan. And while Connor Barwin didn't have an extremely productive season, Vinny Curry didn't do anything to instill confidence as a starter. 

So to answer the question, fans shouldn't feel very comfortable right now. While everyone has been looking at this draft as a chance to get receivers and corners, the Eagles really need help on the edge and at interior defensive line. 

(Although, I'm higher than most on the two undrafted DTs the Eagles got last year -- Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu.) 

I'm honestly not sure what the Eagles are thinking when it comes to Mixon. We all know he's talented, but we also know why some teams are going to have him completely off their draft boards. 

Some teams have hard stances on this type of thing. Basically, hit a woman and you're not going to be a member of this team. It doesn't seem like the Eagles have any kind of set-in-stone rules. They choose to go case-by-case with players. 

And last offseason, they proved that they'll overlook some off-the-field concerns to find value in a player. In fact, last year they drafted Jalen Mills, who had allegedly struck a woman. But there was no video or evidence in that case. There is with Mixon. 

This question will likely come up if reporters get to speak to Jeff Lurie at the owners meetings later this month. 

I have a feeling Samuel is going to be gone by this point. I'm not sure if this Eagles staff would be able to get the most out of him. He could be a truly dynamic weapon if he goes to the right offense. 

Sidney Jones would have been first on this list but his Achilles injury was huge. For that reason, I'm taking him completely off this list. These are my rankings:

1. Marshon Lattimore
2. Tre'Davious White
3. Marlon Humphrey
4. Quincy Wilson
5. Fabian Moreau 

Nope. Thanks to the structure of Agholor's standard rookie deal, it would actually hurt his cap number to cut him. That means he'll be back in 2017. The good news is he won't have the same prominent role because of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Maybe he can at least become a role player. The problem is that he doesn't contribute on special teams. 

I think the Eagles would be foolish to completely rule him out because they don't need a tight end. I know they have Zach Ertz and Brent Celek and Trey Burton, but only Ertz is in Philly long-term as of now. And are Celek and Burton real reasons to ignore a huge impact player. 

There's actually a chance the Eagles won't have a decision to make, that Howard will be gone by the time they're on the board at 14. But if he isn't, it's not crazy to think about it. 

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr and general manager Reggie McKenzie never doubted the two sides could reach a long-term contract agreement to keep the quarterback with the Raiders before Carr's self-imposed training camp deadline.

Carr was open about how much he wanted to spend his entire career with the organization and after a decade searching for a franchise quarterback the Raiders weren't about to let a player they drafted and developed leave just as he was becoming a star.

So the two sides were able to agree on a five-year, $125 million extension that makes Carr the NFL's richest player, at least temporarily, and won't hinder the team's ability to give its other young stars like AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and guard Gabe Jackson new contracts before they hit free agency.

"I think that both sides wanted it to get done," Carr said Friday. "It was two family members just figuring out how to get along, and we did. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not just to take every single dime that we could."

Carr will still get plenty. The $25 million per year in new money is the richest contract ever in the NFL, beating out the $24.8 million a year Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis. That could be surpassed with Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Kirk Cousins in line for new deals soon.

But Carr is not worried about that and the Raiders are pleased to have the face of their franchise under contract through 2022 as they prepare to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

"From the outset, both sides wanted the deal done, and I felt our guys did a great job getting together and hammering it out," McKenzie said. "We both wanted the same thing. That part was easy. We could tell that Derek wanted to be here. And we let him know, without a doubt, that we wanted him here" (see full story).

NFL: Prosecutors appeal Hernandez's voided murder conviction
BOSTON -- Massachusetts prosecutors on Friday appealed a court ruling that erased former NFL star Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction in the 2013 killing of a semi-professional football player.

Hernandez's conviction in the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd was voided after the former New England Patriots player killed himself in prison. Under a long-held Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III filed an appeal with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday. He called the rule "archaic" and said it "does not serve the public interest."

"A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life," Quinn said.

Hernandez's appellate attorneys, John Thompson and Linda Thompson, could not immediately be reached for comment. A message was left at their office in Springfield.

Hernandez took his own life in April days after he was acquitted in a separate, 2012 double slaying in Boston.

The legal principle known as abatement ab initio, or "from the beginning," holds that a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal in the criminal case can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

In their appeal Friday, prosecutors argue that some states have moved away from automatically erasing convictions when defendants die before appeals can be heard. More than a dozen states allow appeals to continue even after death and only dismiss convictions when the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted.

Prosecutors said courts should strike a balance between the rights of defendants and the rights of victims. Lloyd's mother fought back tears after a judge voided Hernandez's conviction in her son's killing.