The700Level

State of Eagles rumblings after first free-agent period: Malcolm Jenkins, trades, 14th overall

State of Eagles rumblings after first free-agent period: Malcolm Jenkins, trades, 14th overall

With the first part of the NFL's free-agent period winding down, we take a closer look at some of the stories surrounding the Eagles coming out of one of the busiest times.

Was Malcolm Jenkins really offered to the Saints?
The Eagles' free agency honeymoon didn't last long, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported Saturday the Eagles offered safety Malcolm Jenkins along with third- and fourth-round picks to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Jenkins has emerged as a fan favorite, a locker-room leader and one of the best safeties in the NFL since signing with the Eagles in 2014, so needless to say, not everybody was enthusiastic about the idea.
 
We can only speculate as to the veracity of the report, but true or untrue, there is more than one way to interpret this story. Jenkins' name being raised in trade discussions doesn't indicate whether it was the Eagles' idea, nor does it mean they would have pulled the trigger even if the Saints agreed. In exploring a deal for a young talent like Cooks, any number of hypothetical offers could've been floated by either side and used as a template to continue the dialogue.
 
In other words, we don't know the nature of any conversations that took place or how serious they were. Plus, whether Jenkins was on the table is sort of irrelevant now. Cooks was traded to New England, and there aren't likely to be many more players on trade block that would merit Jenkins in return. This whole story is much ado about nothing.

Eagles holding on to Jason Kelce ... for now
While vice president of football operations Howie Roseman maintains he's not shopping center Jason Kelce, there's no reason why the Eagles wouldn't listen to offers.

Stefen Wiskniewski -- re-signed for three years over the weekend -- started five seasons at center for the Jaguars and Raiders, and 2016 third-round draft choice Isaac Seumalo is believed by some to be the future at the position.
 
Ironically, it may not be Wisniewski or Seumalo who make Kelce expendable at all. The addition of Chance Warmack in free agency could create a logjam at guard if he can make a strong push for a starting job, which isn't all that unlikely. Consider this: Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are the only offensive guards taken with a top-10 pick since 1997, and are two of three to be taken that high since 1988. How special does a prospect have to be at that position to go that early? Warmack has disappointed in the NFL with Tennessee, but now he's reunited with Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, his former position coach in college.
 
Brandon Brooks is entrenched at right guard, but the Eagles gave Allen Barbre on the left permission to seek a trade. Seumalo would presumably take Barbre's place, although if Warmack impresses, the job could be his, at which point, moving Seumalo to center makes sense. Should all of that come to pass, Kelce could be on the move in August or September, especially if there's an injury elsewhere.
 
Mychal Kendricks still on the block
While Kelce appears to be staying put for the time being, it also appears the Eagles are only re-doubling their efforts to trade linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Of Kendricks' $4.85 million base salary for 2017, $4.35 million became guaranteed on the second day of the new league year, which would seemingly take cutting him off the table. If the Eagles were going that route, it would be done already.
 
There's no real reason to hang on to Kendricks, though. In today's NFL, there are only two linebackers on the field roughly 75 percent of the time, and Kendricks was the odd man out behind Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks. Even when Kendricks was on the field, he was of virtually no consequence for the Eagles (at least not in a positive sense), finishing with 32 tackles, a pass breakup and zero sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles.
 
Kendricks doesn't want to be here, and the Eagles don't really need him but decided to pay him anyway. That would suggest they think there's a willing trade partner out there somewhere. There should be interest, too. He may be of no use to the Eagles at this point, but in three seasons from 2013 to 2015, Kendricks registered 11.0 sacks, 20 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles. He has value, even if it's a fifth-round pick or later.
 
Bennie Logan finds a home
While it's a shame the Eagles lost defensive tackle Bennie Logan to the Chiefs in free agency, the reality is he's no longer a fit here, specifically for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's brand of 4-3 defense. Logan finished 2016 with a career-high 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, but his tackles decreased from 55 and 57 the previous two seasons to 24. Tackles for loss declined as well, from 8, then 9, to 5.
 
In Kansas City, Logan returns to a 3-4 alignment, where he'll line up back at nose tackle, replacing Dontari Poe. It's only a one-year contract, but it's the right move for the 27-year-old, who was becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber force in the old scheme. Logan is great at reading the offense and filling a gap, but as a pure attacking pass rusher in Schwartz's system, he wasn't discernibly different from replacement Beau Allen.
 
An upgrade at quarterback, but at what cost?
No matter your thoughts on Nick Foles, at least we know for certain he can play quarterback in the NFL, which is more than can be said for Chase Daniel. Daniel served a purpose last season by mentoring rookie Carson Wentz, but in terms of a backup who can actually fill Wentz's shoes if need be, Foles is the superior option.
 
Yet, it's impossible to escape the feeling the entire backup quarterback situation was bungled from the very beginning. The official explanation as to why the Eagles will absorb up to $7 million in dead money against the salary cap for Daniel in 2017 and pay Foles a minimum of $7 million over the next two years is "circumstances have changed" since Daniel signed. Seeing as the only change was the selection of Wentz, one can infer Daniel was upset he wouldn't have the opportunity to start.
 
Remember when Daniel first arrived and claimed he was competing for the job? Obviously, every player says that, but the contract the Eagles gave Daniel and the depth chart at the time suggests it wasn't totally untrue. And while the Eagles didn't know for sure at the time they would be able to land Wentz, they knew Sam Bradford was under contract, they were going to draft somebody, and Daniel had zero credentials as a starter.
 
There's no telling how valuable Daniel was to Wentz last season. Regardless, what a massive waste of money.
 
Everything is on the table at No. 14 (well, almost)
The Eagles probably aren't going to take a quarterback with the 14th overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. At any other position, you can make a case there is a need.
 
Jordan Matthews will be joined by Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to form one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, but all three could potentially be playing elsewhere next year.

Defensive end Brandon Graham was named second-team All-Pro, and Vinny Curry is set to make a ton of money for the next few years, yet the Eagles were tied with four teams for 16th in sacks last season.

Left tackle Jason Peters is 35 this year. Running back Darren Sproles is 34. Tight end Brent Celek is 32. Kelce is on the trade block, apparently.
 
There is almost no scenario the Eagles shouldn't consider at No. 14, even at positions where the roster might appear to be deep. Yes, cornerback is a disaster and almost certainly the top need because they have not one proven player there. At the same time, running back, receiver, tackle, defensive line and linebacker are all areas where holes exist now or will arise soon, and it wouldn't hurt to address tight end and safety, too.
 
The Eagles have work to do in the upcoming draft, and can't afford to put themselves in a box in the first round. The franchise is on the right track but still needs help everywhere.

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Right when the Eagles get finished plugging one potential hole, another springs up.

For months, cornerback was considered by far the greatest weakness on the Eagles' roster, but Howie Roseman appears to have taken care of that with the trade for Ronald Darby. Now, all of a sudden, the Eagles' secondary has the potential to be a strength in 2017.

Yet, just as the plan at corner is beginning to take shape, another concern is emerging halfway through the preseason, at a position many fans thought Roseman solidified in May. Running back looks like it could quickly become a serious problem for the Eagles, if it hasn’t reached that point already.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, you could’ve seen this mess coming from a mile away.

The Blount signing was met with tremendous enthusiasm, when it really should’ve been met with tremendous skepticism. Though he rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2016, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, sat by in free agency as the Patriots moved to replace him, and turns 31 in December. He’s never been a threat as a receiver, and even his gaudy numbers last season with the Super Bowl champions were an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

The reality is Blount is not a mortal lock to make the Eagles' roster. He likely will, because he still has value in short yardage and at the goal line, and most of all, because the competition hasn’t made enough of a push. However, releasing Blount would only cost the Eagles $400,000 against the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com, while his age and the limitations of his skill set are worth reiterating.

The question is what then?

While the Eagles have toyed with getting Pumphrey and Sproles on the field at the same time, projections as to how prevalent those designer packages would be always felt ambitious as well. Listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has not looked like an NFL-ready player through two games. Even if he is ready to contribute, that is not an offense designed with running the football in mind.

The Eagles’ ability to let Blount go would seem to hinge almost solely on Smallwood. Of course, it was an unwillingness to rely on a second-year player with 83 touches that caused the club to seek veteran help in the first place.

Smallwood is not an unimpressive prospect. A fifth-round draft pick from West Virginia a year ago, Smallwood has the size and athletic ability to handle the bulk of the work. He was running with authority in camp. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is his biggest shortcoming at this point, aside from inexperience. It’s impossible to tell whether Smallwood is in line to finish with the most touches in this backfield (regardless of Blount’s presence) or if he’s fighting for his job.

Clement is the bright spot in all of this, and arrives as a more polished pass protector than Smallwood was as a rookie. Seeing as inexperience was one of the primary reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to entrust Smallwood as the primary ball carrier, it’s difficult to imagine Clement could be the guy the in September.

Again, some of the culpability for Blount’s struggles falls on the offensive line. Some. Blount’s last season in New England was far from the norm, and for most of his eight-year career, he’s been purely a situational player. Even under optimal circumstances, expecting him to recreate last season’s numbers, or come close, never made much sense.

And while it would be easy to chalk up the pitiful ground attack as a symptom of the preseason, the fact is these games have exposed a problem that’s been lurking beneath the surface. Blount is old and not an ideal fit for the Eagles' offense. Pumphrey is an undersized rookie. Sproles is Sproles. Smallwood is a mystery.

Up until a week ago, everybody was worried about the cornerbacks. Before that, it was the wide receivers, until the Eagles made significant investments in talent over the offseason. All along, there’s been an underrated need at running back, or at the very least, an uncertainty.

Try as he might, Roseman can’t seem to find a solution for every hole on the roster — and it’s beginning to look like running back is the spot the Eagles might spring a leak.

Eagles preseason stock report, Week 2: Mychal Kendricks up, LeGarrette Blount down

Eagles preseason stock report, Week 2: Mychal Kendricks up, LeGarrette Blount down

Carson Wentz was impressive in the Eagles’ second preseason contest against the Bills on Thursday. While he did not look sharp early in the game, the way he was able to bounce back and finish strong was very encouraging.

Wentz missed two of his first three passes, badly overthrowing the intended receiver on both plays. He scrambled for a short gain on another play where he easily could’ve unloaded the football for a bigger chunk. Not coincidentally, the Eagles failed to record a first down on their opening three drives.

That easily could’ve been it, but Wentz went back out for a fourth series and played better, completing five of his last six attempts for 45 yards. The drive ended with a fumble, but Wentz showed resilience.

Sometimes we forget Wentz is a second-year quarterback. There are still going to be ups and downs this season – stretches of series and perhaps even games where he doesn’t find his rhythm. However, he also showed an ability to let it go and stop pressing here when the game didn’t get off to the start everybody would hope.

While not his best evening from a numbers standpoint, Wentz’s stock is still very much on the rise. Unfortunately, not too many of his teammates on offense could say the same after this effort.

STOCK UP

Mychal Kendricks
Preseason or not, Kendricks was everywhere. The sixth-year linebacker saw extensive playing time, finishing with two tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one interception. The crazy part is the numbers don’t really do the performance justice. Kendricks was rushing the passer, providing sound coverage and just generally in position to make plays. One good outing may not translate into more snaps come the regular season, but Kendricks managed to rebuild some confidence in his ability. Who knows, it may have been enough to entice a team to make a trade offer the Eagles can’t refuse.

Ronald Darby
This should go without saying, but Darby was impressive in his Eagles debut. In fact, the most disappoint aspect of his night may have been when he dropped a likely pick-six. He of course made up for it later with a 48-yard interception return. Darby’s speed and instincts were on display for both plays. He was patient and in sound position, as opposed to some overly aggressive ballhawks that gamble, and had the athleticism to close on the football and finish the play. If this preview was any indication of what’s to come, Darby could feast behind the Eagles' front four.

Corey Graham
With Ron Brooks nursing a hamstring injury, the Eagles used Malcolm Jenkins at nickel cornerback and brought in Graham to play safety. That could also be a package the Eagles go with depending on the match-up, with the 32-year-old defensive back showing he still has something left. Graham finished with five tackles, at one point coming up from his spot at safety to make a nice stop in the backfield. He hit hard and demonstrated some value on special teams. Signed two weeks ago, it’s clear Graham has already overtaken Terrence Brooks and Jaylen Watkins on the depth chart.

Corey Clement
Clement has been the most productive running back on the team through two preseason games. The undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin rushed eight times for 34 yards and one touchdown versus the Bills, and his 24-yard carry is the Eagles’ longest of the summer. Yet, the area where Clement has been most impressive is in the passing game. He’s shown some ability as a receiver, but more important, he’s been willing and effective in pass protection. Given all the issues in the Eagles' backfield, Clement is going to have a legitimate shot to make the 53-man roster should this continue.

Alshon Jeffery
It was only two receptions for 24 yards, but with that, Jeffery was able to provide a glimpse into why the Eagles have kept him in bubble wrap this summer. His 14-yard slant was especially exciting. While the grab was as easy as it gets in the NFL, Jeffery showed a little explosiveness after the catch. Everybody talks about the highlight-reel catches, but Jeffery is an all-around weapon who can get it done on short and intermediate routes as well. This was a nice preview that should leave people wanting to see more.

STOCK DOWN

LeGarrette Blount
Through two games, Blount has 17 yards rushing. To put that in perspective, he also has 15 yards receiving. In Blount’s defense, the offensive line has not given him much room to run. At the same time, the 30-year-old back doesn’t look like a great fit for the offense. He’s slow to the corner, he’s not really a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, and he’s not great in pass protection, either. Add a drive-killing fumble to Blount’s preseason resume as well. With Clement’s emergence, Blount’s roster spot might be up for grabs, especially if Wendell Smallwood can show anything.

Lane Johnson
Johnson played poorly, with the caveat that he was starting at left tackle rather than the right. Of course, Johnson is the emergency option there, so it’s not as if he gets a pass. There were at least three plays where the fifth-year lineman was beaten badly, resulting in a run getting stuffed in the backfield, a quarterback sack and a holding penalty. He was only in for 18 snaps. It’s not as if this was the first time Johnson played the position, either. Granted, Johnson would no doubt improve if he were on the left full-time, but in a pinch, he’s still a little scary.

Matt McGloin
The Eagles won’t feel the need to carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Most of McGloin’s passes down the field are errant at best, with too many balls being forced into double coverage. One such attempt resulted in an easy interception on Thursday. McGloin simply doesn’t have the arm strength to get away with those mistakes. He doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket, either, a combination that tends to result in a lot of check downs. Fortunately for the Eagles, Nick Foles is healthy and expected to play next week.