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

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

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

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).