The NFL’s new league year begins on March 17, not very far away at all.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has no doubt been very busy preparing for the start of it all, between looking for trade partners for Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz, getting ready for the draft, and, last but far from least, figuring out ways to get the Eagles in salary cap compliance.
Right now, the Eagles are expected to be about $50 million over the cap.
Roseman will likely try to restructure a few contracts while deciding who can be released.
The lack of much wiggle room once Roseman gets in compliance with the cap figures to keep the team’s splash to more of a ripple.
Still, there are some names that could help, who could be relatively inexpensive. Those same names could be young, too, which was something this roster figures to be in 2021.
On Monday, I looked at the offense.
On Tuesday, the defense.
Here are some potential free agents on that side of the ball that could help the Eagles this season:
MALIK HOOKER, Safety
Selected right after the Eagles picked Derek Barnett 14th overall in the 2017 draft, Hooker has struggled with injuries. He played seven as a rookie and just two last year after he tore an Achilles. He has never played in all 16.
Still, he is a scheme-fit for the Eagles and new DC Jonathan Gannon, who coached the Colts’ DBs the previous three seasons, so plenty of familiarity here.
It’s no secret the Eagles need help on the back end, especially with veteran Rodney McLeod, who turns 31 in June, suffering a torn ACL late in the season.
Hooker, who turns 25 in April, could come at a bargain price. Pro Football Focus projected Hooker to sign a one-year prove-it deal for about $2 million, which is right in the Eagles’ wheelhouse - if healthy.
Another safety possibility: Rayshawn Jenkins. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen coached quarterbacks and was the OC with the Rams and saw Jenkins up close in practice. Perhaps familiarity is a draw. PFF projects Jenkins, who just turned 27, to get a contract in the neighborhood of one year and $3M with another team.
B.J. GOODSON, Linebacker
Every year the Eagles sign a free agent at this position – Jatavis Brown, L.J. Fort, Corey Nelson, come to mind – so they will likely sign somebody. Maybe it’s Goodson who is a good run stuffer on early downs but has gotten better in coverage since entering the league as a fourth-round pick of the Giants before moving on to the Packers in 2019 and Browns last year.
Set to turn 28 in May, he could fill a role on special teams, an area the team needs to upgrade.
Another LB possibility: Josh Bynes, who turns 32 right before the season starts, could bring experience to a young room, which even includes position coach Nick Rallis, who is just 27. Bynes has played in several different defenses, so his learning curve shouldn’t take that long.
A.J. BOUYE, Cornerback
A true reclamation project who turns 30 in August, but maybe he can find the ingredients that made him one of the best CBs in 2016 and 2017 playing opposite the positive and upbeat Darius Slay. PFF predicts Bouye to sign a one-year deal worth $5M with a $3M total guarantee.
Another CB possibility: Nickell Robey-Coleman. One of the Eagles’ unrestricted free agents, there’s a good chance he returns on another one-year deal for maybe around the same amount he took last year, which was just over $1M.
HAASON REDDICK, Edge
Pass rushers aren’t cheap, so this is more a from scenario than reality. He’s from Camden, went to Temple, so maybe he wants to come home? He’ll have to give something of a discount because he picked a great year to have a great year since it was his contract year. He probably pushed his value close to $10M per year.
Another DE/EDGE possibility: Romeo Okwara. An undrafted free agent in 2016, Okwara hit his stride with the Lions and had 10 sacks last year and 7.5 two years. Until those two years, he didn’t do much at all. He’ll turn 26 in June so maybe he’s figuring it out. Again, he won’t come cheaply but sackers rarely do.
POONA FORD, Defensive tackle
Still just 25, the former undrafted free agent of the Seahawks isn’t very tall at 5-11, but he uses all of his 305 pounds in stopping the run and occasionally is able to generate some pass rush. He could be a good rotational piece at, say, $2M per year on a two-year deal.
Another DT possibility: Hassan Ridgeway and/or T.Y McGill. These are two Eagles free agents, and both could return or neither of them could. Ridgeway has been solid but hasn’t stayed healthy in his first two seasons with Philly.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.