A glance at Eagles' soon-to-be free agents this spring

A glance at Eagles' soon-to-be free agents this spring

As the Eagles move past their 7-9 season in 2016, nine of their players are set to become free agents in March. 

Free agency starts at 4 p.m. on March 9, but the legal tampering window begins on March 7. The Eagles will have no competition until then. 

Here's a look at all the to-be free agents from the 2016 roster: 

Bennie Logan
Unrestricted
Age: 27

Logan is obviously the biggest name on this list. The Eagles used a third-round pick to take Logan from LSU in 2013 and he has started 50 games in the last four years. No, he's not an elite defensive tackle. But he has been very good. And the Eagles clearly missed him during the middle of the 2016 season when Beau Allen had to fill in. Recently, Logan said about Philly: "This is where I see myself at." But he's also in line to get a nice-sized contract and the Eagles might not want to break the bank for another defensive lineman. Logan can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3, which means there won't be a shortage of teams looking at him. Eagles executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman has continually said the Eagles want Logan back, but it'll come down to money, as it often does. 

Nolan Carroll
Unrestricted
Age: 29

Carroll played more than any other Eagles cornerback in 2016, but it was a really up and down season for the veteran. He admitted as much on locker cleanout day (see story).

Aside from Logan, he's the only other starter who will become a free agent.

This is the second time in two years that Carroll will be an unrestricted free agent in March. After visiting with the Cowboys a year ago, he came back to the Eagles on a one-year deal that paid him over $2 million. If the Eagles choose to re-sign him, it'll probably cost about the same. The question with this one is, do the Eagles even want him back? 

Stefen Wisniewski
Unrestricted
Age: 27

Bringing in Wisniewski a year ago was clearly one of the most underrated moves the Eagles made during free agency. It wasn't a big splash, but the veteran offensive lineman made the Eagles' depth on the line much, much better. And he ended up playing a lot because of injuries. He played in 15 games and started 6.

But it was a "weird year" in Philly for Wisniewski (see story), who has never been shy about his desire to be a starter. In fact, he said he wanted to be a starter at his introductory press conference a year ago and never said otherwise when given the chance during the year. Maybe Wisniewski has shown enough to another team to get a longer deal to be a starter — what he wants. But if he's available for another one-year stint, the Eagles might be interested. 

Stephen Tulloch
Unrestricted
Age: 32

From the moment Tulloch arrived in August on a one-year deal, it was pretty clear how much respect defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has for him. But it’s important to remember that if seventh-rounder Joe Walker didn’t get hurt, the Eagles wouldn’t have signed Tulloch before the start of last season. He came in on a one-year deal with a $2.5 million cap hit and was Jordan Hicks’ backup. But Hicks and Nigel Bradham stayed very healthy all season, so Tulloch rarely saw the field. 

Bryan Braman
Unrestricted 
Age: 29

Braman is probably one of the most interesting cases among these names. He’s listed as a defensive end on the roster, but Schwartz clearly doesn’t see him as a defensive end. Braman is a special teams specialist, but a really good one. And the Eagles over the last few years have placed real importance on special teams. Before the 2015 season, Braman signed an extension through 2016 that worked for both sides. But now, he’s nearing 30 and it’s time for a new contract. The Eagles already extended Chris Maragos, who is primarily a special teamer, so will they opt to re-sign another special-teams-only veteran? 

Najee Goode
Unrestricted
Age: 27

In each of the last two seasons, Goode didn’t make the initial 53-man roster but was brought back later. He didn’t really see the field on defense at all in 2016, but was a key special teams player yet again. It’s sort of the same question as with Braman: How many veteran special teamers do the Eagles want to bring back? It’s possible they could draft someone to fill his role next year. 

Trey Burton
Restricted 
Age: 25

Burton has been a key special teams player since his arrival in Philadelphia, and he played a big role on offense this season. He came into the year with just three career catches, but had 37 for 327 yards and a touchdown in his third NFL season. Expect to see him back, whether the Eagles place a tender on him or sign him to a long-term deal. He might be a candidate to get a new deal. 

(The way the tenders work: Basically, there are three levels of tenders or qualifying offers: first round, second round or original round. Each comes with its own predetermined one-year contract value. Other teams can sign restricted free agents, but the original team can match. If a different team signs the player, the original team gets the compensation from the attached round value from the other team.)

Kenjon Barner
Restricted
Age: 27

Barner played just 99 offensive snaps in 2016 and for whatever reason, this coaching staff seemed determined to not give him a shot. Barner might get a tender from the Eagles, but even if he does, it won't guarantee his spot next season. In fact, it seems likely the team will eventually move on. 

Jaylen Watkins
Exclusive rights
Age: 25

Watkins played extensively after Ron Brooks was lost for the season. He was the safety who took Malcolm Jenkins' spot when Jenkins would move into the slot. Watkins is still learning how to play safety after his time at corner and it wasn't a great 2016. But expect him back next season— at least in training camp. As an exclusive rights free agent, he's not able to test the market. 

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'll 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.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."

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.