Stay or Leave: Early look at Eagles’ 2014 free agents

Stay or Leave: Early look at Eagles’ 2014 free agents
January 6, 2014, 12:45 pm

While it came too early this year—as it does too often around these parts—the offseason is one of the best things about the NFL. Organizations construct their rosters through free agency and the draft, and we get to play along as fantasy general managers, dissecting each decision along the way.

As always, we'll be examining each position and several players on their own in-depth as we dig in for a long winter. First thing's first though, and that is the Philadelphia Eagles will have decisions to make on some of their own free agents before they start signing players away from other teams.

For this preliminary look ahead, we simply asked which Birds free agents will be back next season

Nate Allen

Went from looking like a surefire bust to the Eagles’ most-improved player. Took his lumps early in the season, but wound up being a rock at safety in the end. Still wasn’t much of a playmaker, recording one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in 16 games.

At 26, the question is whether what we saw was Allen’s ceiling. If it is, you could do worse back there, but it’s a deep free-agent class at safety if the front office is willing to invest. Somebody will probably make him a starter again, it just shouldn’t necessarily be the Birds. Leave

Colt Anderson

The Eagles only have two safeties under contract heading into 2014 (and one of them is Patrick Chung), so they should probably re-sign somebody for some continuity. Colt has the least ability of the impending free agents. He does have a reputation as a strong special teams player, but he’s a liability on defense. Leave

Kurt Coleman

A two-year starter at safety, I’d be more comfortable with Coleman back there than Anderson in a pinch. Plus, according to metrics site Pro Football Focus, Coleman actually had a better season on special teams. As reserves go, the Eagles could do worse. Stay

Clifton Geathers

Was part of the rotation along the defensive line this year, but he had minimal impact. At 6’8”, 340 pounds, his build is almost too awkward for the NFL. It’s too easy for offensive linemen to get under Geathers’ pads. Can’t see him ever improving. Leave

Phillip Hunt (restricted)

One of the defensive ends attempting to make the transition to outside linebacker in the Eagles 3-4, Hunt missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL suffered at training camp. I would expect the team to tender him, but he’s a long shot to make the roster, so maybe they give him a shot to catch on somewhere else. Whether he’s back in camp this summer or not, his days are likely numbered. Leave

Donnie Jones

Has anybody ever used the franchise tag on a punter before? I’m not joking. Jones won the Eagles some games with that fine left leg of his, putting 33 punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line in 2013—a franchise record. Arguably the club’s most important free agent. Stay

Jeremy Maclin

Imagine how much better the Eagles’ offense would’ve been with a healthy Jeremy Maclin to take pressure off of DeSean Jackson. Riley Cooper picked up some of the slack in the wake of Maclin’s torn ACL, but let’s not forget we’re talking about a wide receiver who was widely considered a top-10 talent back in the ‘09 draft.

Maclin has never quite reached the proverbial next level, posting career highs of 70 receptions, 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. Then again, we just saw Jackson and LeSean McCoy reach new highs under Chip Kelly, and at 26 years old, Maclin could do the same. Philadelphia can possibly retain him on a two-year “prove it” deal. Stay

Riley Cooper

Was useless for the first five weeks of the season, catching all of eight passes. Over the next five games, he posted all three of his 100-yard performance and hauled in six of his eight touchdowns. Down the stretch, he was ordinary at best.

The 2010 fifth-round pick exceeded most people’s expectations by becoming a competent No. 2 receiver in Maclin’s absence. You could see Cooper has a rapport with Nick Foles, and is a willing blocker which is vital in Chip Kelly’s scheme. Somebody is going to throw a lot of money and years at a 26-year-old wide receiver that stands 6’3” and just posted an 800-yard/eight-touchdown season, but he’s too feast or famine for my taste. Leave

Cedric Thornton (exclusive rights)

Exclusive rights basically equates to a restricted free agent, only better. As long as the Eagles tender him, they own his rights in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, Thornton was one of the top run defenders in the league this season. He’s completely one-dimensional, but very good at that dimension. Stay

Michael Vick

Vick’s future is really out of his hands. He’d like to start, but there might be just a few organizations left that will consider a 34-year-old signal-caller with two career playoff wins.

If the Eagles are serious about winning a Super Bowl in the next year or two though, having a veteran backup around would be wise, and Vick is clearly the best option. He knows the offense and is great in the locker room. Plus, No. 7 might be at his most dangerous when he’s coming off the bench against a team that wasn’t preparing for him. Would love to see him back for another year. Stay

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