Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Receiver solutions, linebackers, free agency

Eagles Mailbag: Receiver solutions, linebackers, free agency

Other teams are still playing and there are still months before free agency and the draft, but the NFL never sleeps. 

You have questions, we make up answers. 

Let's hop into this week's first mailbag: 

There are a few guys who would be good picks in the first round with that 14th or 15th pick. Mike Williams (Clemson), Corey Davis (Western Michigan) and John Ross (Washington) are considered the top three by most.

Ross is an interesting name because he's a lot like DeSean Jackson — a sub-6-foot burner who can deliver on deep balls. The other two are 6-3. 

There will be some options in the second round, too. If JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) falls or if Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) is still there, either would be a fine pick for good value. 

This kind of works with the first question, so we'll go back to back. I think they try to fix the receiver position through the draft and in free agency. That's how much help they need there. 

Remember, Howie Roseman put everything into getting a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz last offseason. So it would be crazy for the Eagles to not give him some help. Wentz's biggest weapons in 2016 were Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. He needs a big-time weapon on the outside. 

If you're looking at free agents, there are plenty of options, but the Eagles don't have a lot of cap room. Everyone's going to talk about Jackson, but aside from him, there's Kenny Britt and Kamar Aiken. They're a couple years younger than Jackson, which would allow Wentz to grow with them some. Britt is a big receiver and Aiken has the ability to play inside and outside. Either would help upgrade what they have. Among those two, Britt will cost more money. 

On the list of needs the Eagles have, linebacker isn't near the top of the list for me. There's receiver, cornerback, running back and edge rusher, so linebacker isn't up there. 

The Eagles were very fortunate this season to have Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham on the field for most of it. Bradham has just one year left on his contract, and it might make sense to figure out a new contract with him. He's had his issues off the field but formed a nice duo with Hicks. 

And Joe Walker was just a seventh-round pick last year and suffered an ACL tear, but the team really liked him last training camp. He'll have a chance to return from injury and be the team's backup MIKE linebacker in 2017. 

So maybe the Eagles use a mid- or late-round pick on a linebacker, but if I was running the show, I wouldn't make it the biggest priority. 

Free agency starts at 4 p.m. on March 9. The legal tampering window begins on March 7. That's when teams can talk to soon-to-be free agents but can't agree to deals yet. 

The Eagles will have nine free agents. Take a look at them here

I think the Eagles need to sign a receiver. Maybe not a top of the line one, but not a bottom of the barrel either. They need to get someone they're confident will make them better there, not take a chance on a draft pick. It would just be unfair and cruel to Wentz to not offer him some immediate help. 

NFL Notes: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

ap-jaguars-blake-bortles.jpg
AP Images

NFL Notes: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles may have started his last game in Jacksonville.

Coach Doug Marrone opened up the team's quarterback competition Thursday night after another inconsistent performance from Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Bortles completed 8 of 13 passes for 65 yards in a 12-8 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay. All four of his drives ended with punts. The first-team offense now has three points in Bortles' six preseason possessions.

He misfired to Allen Robinson twice Thursday, including a woefully underthrown pass down the seam that drew boos from the home crowd and caused some head-shaking on the sideline.

"It's hard to not hear people booing," Bortles said. "But if they're cheering or booing, it's kind of irrelevant, at least for me it is. I think you've got to treat adversity and prosperity the same way. They're not booing for no reason. They're booing because you didn't do your job" (see full story).

Steelers: LB Shazier returns to practice
LATROBE, Pa. -- On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to break camp and return home, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was just glad to be back on the field.

Shazier fully practiced during the Steelers last day in Latrobe after missing the previous two weeks with a slight hamstring pull.

"I was telling the guys on the sideline that I was so thankful to be back in the mix," Shazier said after Friday's practice. "It was great to be back out there, running around and seeing football from the inside of my helmet instead of from the sideline."

Shazier said he isn't playing in the team's second preseason game on Sunday when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons. Though he admitted to feeling behind, the fourth-year linebacker believes he can catch up.

Ravens: Zuttah returns after being traded
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have signed center Jeremy Zuttah, who returns to the team that traded him to San Francisco in March.

Zuttah started every game last year and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He was dealt to the 49ers so Baltimore could save salary-cap space and move up 12 spots in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

Zuttah was released by San Francisco last week, and the Ravens signed him Friday to join a depleted offensive line in dire need of a veteran presence in the middle.

The Ravens were counting on John Urschel to play center this season, but he abruptly retired in late July. Ryan Jensen has been playing center, but he could move to guard to replace Alex Lewis, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

The 31-year-old Zuttah started 41 games in Baltimore over the past three years.

NFL: Gun charge against linebacker Greene
ELIZABETH, N.J. -- A gun charge against an NFL linebacker has been dropped because the man who said he gave him a weapon admitted he lied, the player's attorney said.

The charge against free agent Khaseem Greene was dismissed by a judge on July 17 after a request from prosecutors, NJ.com reported this week.

His attorney, Joshua McMahon, provided an audio recording to NJ.com of the other man telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth last December.

Jason Sanders' admission came the same day he told detectives that Greene was involved, but it wasn't included in a criminal complaint that alleged that Greene was seen on camera handing him a gun, McMahon said. Sanders is accused of firing into a crowd and remains jailed on aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

McMahon said the audio recording proves prosecutors moved forward with charges even though Sanders admitted he lied.

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

After running four times for 21 yards and catching an 11-yard pass against his former team, LeSean McCoy contemplated his cameo performance in the Eagles-Bills preseason game.

"Felt good," he said. "If it was a real game? I probably would have gone for about 130."

He hasn't changed.

McCoy, the leading rusher in Eagles history, has been gone for three years now, and in the relative anonymity of Orchard Park, N.Y., is quietly putting up some staggering numbers, building on his six years with the Eagles.

Hard to believe McCoy is now starting his ninth NFL season, but he just turned 29 and at least based on last year is as good as ever.

If not better.

"When I was younger I could eat bad and hang out and then still be LeSean McCoy," he said Thursday night in the Bills' locker room. "Where now I'm older so I've got to watch what I eat, get some sleep. Small things that you didn't think would matter that really do matter."

It seems to be paying off. McCoy last year ran for nearly 1,300 yards with an NFL-leading 5.4 average, 14 touchdowns and 50 catches. He became the fourth-oldest back in NFL history to average at least 5.4 yards per carry and the first from that group in 70 years to also score 14 TDs.

McCoy's 5.4 average last year was fifth-highest in NFL history by a back 28 or older.

He said he feels like he's as good as ever.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I'm sure a lot of defenders from different teams and coordinators will tell you that. This year, I have to prove myself again. It's one of the things that I've been doing since I've been in the league when I was a rookie. And I look forward to the challenge.

"But the cool thing about it is is that it won't be as hard because of the guys I have around me. My linemen are really good. They give me opportunities in space to go 1-on-1 with defenders."

McCoy, whose 4.7 career average is tied for 10th in NFL history among non-quarterbacks, said one of the keys to his late-career success — which is rare for running backs — is the lessons he learned from former teammates like Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles.

"Just talking to different guys," he said. "A guy like Westbrook telling me different things. You actually see it. Sproles is always talking about it, 'Take care of your body,' telling me that the whole year, even the offseason, you want to stay at the same weight. So right now I'm probably 209, 210, and I started out at 209, 210, so that's great."

McCoy has the 10th-most yards ever by a running back before his 29th birthday, and seven of the eight ahead of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are already in.

With three more years at his career averages — 1,119 rushing yards, 48 receptions — he'll be over 12,000 rushing yards and 500 catches, and all four backs who've done that (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk) have been enshrined in Canton. And Shady has a far higher per-carry average than any of those four.

Because of his consistency and explosiveness, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has become a realistic goal for the Eagles' second-round pick out of Pitt.

He said he doesn't think about that stuff.

Well, sometimes.

"I think the biggest number that you want to get is a ring," he said. "This team, we haven't been in the playoffs in quite some time (since 1999). Hopefully, we get that established, accomplish that, and then if I get lucky and get a ring, man, then I start thinking about the numbers.

"But it's always in the back of my mind. I use that to kind of motivate me, whether it's a ring or chasing different yardage, it keeps me motivated."

McCoy is surrounded by familiar faces in Buffalo. New Bills head coach Sean McDermott was here with him in Philly, as was offensive line coach Juan Castillo and offensive assistant Chad Hall. Jordan Poyer and Jordan Matthews were with him in Philly. Even new Bills PR director Derek Boyko was with him all six years with the Eagles.

"All my old guys," he said. "I was excited when Sean got the job, I'm familiar with him, I know what type of attitude he'll bring here — which we need. All the coaches and guys here, we have our Philly stories. It's a special place, and a lot of people who come from here always show love and speak highly of playing with the Eagles and that's something I've shared here.

"No complaints. Some of the best times of my life were here. That's something me and Sean kind of share and have in common and that makes me more comfortable, having all those guys being in Buffalo."

McCoy would still be an Eagle if it weren't for Chip Kelly, and although he's finally moved on, he still has a home here and lots and lots of friends.

"It's always special getting back to Philly," he said. "This is my home and the fans and this organization were great to me since I got here at 20 years old, so it's always going to be special to me.

"I miss my house here, a lot of my family is from Harrisburg, which is an hour away, got a lot of Philly family, so it's always going to be like a second family for me, for sure.

"Started my career here, stay in contact with Duce (Staley), Sproles, we chat and text, (Brent) Celek all the time, a lot of friends here, a lot of good people that I know. This is a special place to me. Always."