Grading The NFC East Free Agent Moves

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Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) defends against Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) during the second half of the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The New Orleans Saints won the game 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles

Key additions: Nolan Carroll, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Maragos, Mark Sanchez, Darren Sproles (via trade)

Key departures: Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick

The Eagles offseason has definitely involved the biggest names. The most impactful move looked like it was going to be the addition of versatile running back Darren Sproles, acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles backfield already featured the guy that I (begrudgingly) consider to be the second best running back in the NFL in Shady McCoy. Even though Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has shown a propensity to be able to contain McCoy, the addition of Sproles gives offensive guru Chip Kelly another toy to play with, and makes an already dangerous Eagles offense that much scarier (at least on paper). Additionally, expect Sproles to provide a lift in the return game.

Ah, but when first the Eagles giveth, the Eagles then taketh away. Quarterback Nick Foles might have another speedy target out of the backfield, but he no longer has the services of his speedy deep threat, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was released on Friday amid speculation about his ties to gangs.  Fair or not, the perception is that Jackson is more trouble in the locker room and off the field than he’s worth for what he does on it. Jackson is coming off the best season of his career, hauling in 82 passes for 1,332 yards and 9 touchdowns. His departure is a significant blow to the Eagles offense, but truth be told, Jackson wasn’t much of a “Cowboy killer.” Since the beginning of the 2011 season, he hasn’t recorded a single 100-yard game against Dallas, nor has he scored a touchdown, averaging fewer than four catches and 50 yards per contest. Still, Orlando Scandrick and the boys likely won’t be sorry to see him go.

Of their other wide receivers who were actually set to be free agents, the Eagles did re-sign both Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, but parted ways with Jason Avant, a popular player amongst fans and teammates. Despite his strong locker room presence, a $4 million cap charge was too much for a 30-year-old receiver coming off a 38-catch season.

On defense, the Eagles upgraded their secondary, which was a major concern last season. Although they probably overpaid a bit for safety Malcolm Jenkins, he’s certainly a welcome replacement for last offseason’s free agent bust Patrick Chung. Former Dolphin cornerback Nolan Carroll is far from a superstar, but he’s another solid player and a good tackler, and should help solidify a shaky cornerback situation a little bit.

At (backup) quarterback, Philadelphia essentially traded Michael Vick to the New York Jets for Mark Sanchez, an upgrade in my humble opinion. I know that SOUNDS crazy, but Mark Sanchez is a better BACKUP quarterback to me than Michael Vick is. Despite an obvious decline in his skills, and continued regression as a passer, fascination continues to follow Vick wherever he goes. Most of Philadelphia seems to be on board with Foles (as they should be), but at the first sign of trouble, the whispers for Vick will come back, and probably not just from the fans (Vick is notoriously popular amongst players). In Sanchez, you have a young, but experienced, guy who is looking for a change of scenery and certainly isn’t going to cause any controversy amongst the fans or in the locker room. He is also quietly the owner of a career 4-2 record and 94.3 passer rating in the postseason. For all the Buttfumble jokes (“Buttfumble” is a proper noun, right?) the guy has been around the block and has won. You could do worse at the backup position.

An under the radar signing who could have a fairly large impact is former Seattle Seahawk safety Chris Maragos, who probably won’t see much time on defense, but the standout special teamer is expected to help shore up a leaky kick coverage unit.

Grade: B

This was an A- before Jackson’s release. It’s hard to imagine how much of a problem the Eagles thought he could become for them to decide to completely cut ties, so maybe they did the “right thing,” but without knowing the whole story, and just looking at it from purely a football standpoint, he’s going to be missed on the field. Otherwise, it’s hard to argue that the best team in last year’s NFC East didn’t separate themselves even further from the pack. The Eagles remain the team to beat in the division.

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