A whole lot can change from now until the beginning of the regular season, but it’s no doubt that the group of safeties that the Eagles have on the current roster is not a great one. According to the Eagles official roster, they have six safeties right now: Malcolm Jenkins, Earl Wolff, Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski, Jerome Couplin and Ed Reynolds. They also have guys like Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins who, hypothetically, could be moved to safety if need be. But it seems like they’re trying to avoid that. It seems like the Eagles have a lot of guys they could fill in, but it’s a pretty mediocre group. Here’s a run-through of what each guy brings to the table and his status on the team.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that Jenkins is going to be one of the starting safeties for the Eagles next year. While he didn’t have a spectacular year in his first year in Philly, he was above average and proved to be a solid leader when DeMeco Ryans went down with an injury. Some people tend to overrate his performance last year, but he still is a very good player and should do better next year after getting used to the system. He’s a keeper.
It seemed like there was a lot of optimism around Wolff going into last year’s regular season, but nothing really came of it. He played in just seven games last year and recorded seven tackles and zero interceptions. Wolff has been beaten out multiple times for the starting job, but he might have the most skill/experience of their current group other than Jenkins. Unless he improves a lot though, he’s not a great option as a starting safety.
Prosinski was signed in the middle of the season last year and was primarily a special teams player. In eight games with the Eagles last year, he recorded seven tackles. He had another three tackles with the Jaguars in their opener against the Eagles. There’s nothing really wrong with his special teams play, but there’s no way he’s a candidate for a starter and might find himself an odd man out depending on what they do with the position during the draft.
Maragos is another safety who plays primarily on special teams, he’s just a whole lot better at it. He was their special teams ace last year and was ranked one of the best specialists at the position in the league. He finished his first season in Philly with 13 tackles and two forced fumbles and should be back on the team as a backup next year. In terms of the other starting safety spot though, he doesn’t really have a chance. His role is already defined.
Officially listed as a defensive back on the roster, Couplin is more likely to play safety. He played very little last year, recording just two tackles, both of which were in his first game of the season. It seems like people are intrigued by him, and he seems to have the size, so maybe he’ll surprise some people. More likely than not though, he’ll probably just make the team as a backup or end up elsewhere.
It’s never a good sign when a team’s fifth round draft pick doesn’t even make the team. He was later added to the practice squad, but still, if he wasn’t even good enough to make it over some of the people that made the team, he must have been a disappointment.
Other notes at safety
The Eagles chose not to re-sign Nate Allen, who had been with their team a while and was the other starting safety last year. There has been lots of talk today about whether it was worth it to let him go. Allen went on to get paid a lot by the Raiders, who tend to be incompetent as a franchise. The move itself wasn’t bad because he’s really not that bad, but they gave him a four year, $23 million deal with more than half of that guaranteed. That is definitely too much for what he’s worth. I’m not saying it was a bad move to let him go, but they probably could’ve gotten him for a lot cheaper if they chose to re-sign him earlier, and he’s been in the system a while and knows (sort of) what he’s doing.
The likelihood that the Eagles draft a safety is also pretty high. Whether it’s Landon Collins in the first round, which everyone has been talking about, or someone in a later round, is up for debate. Other than Collins though, and maybe Shaq Thompson, there really aren’t many safeties in the draft who even have the chance of starting immediately in the NFL. And the Eagles need a starting safety in this draft, or they’re stuck starting one of the guys they currently have. Getting Collins would be a solid pick, but not even he would be a superstar.
As I mentioned before, there has been a little talk of moving either Watkins or Carroll to safety, but until training camp and the preseason come, there’s no way of knowing if that’ll happen. Carroll may not be a terrible option there, especially if the Eagles decide to use their first round pick on a cornerback. He hasn’t really proven much though after last year, so it’s hard to say if he’d do well.
The bottom line is that they’re in a tough situation at safety. Wolff or Couplin or a combination of some random guys might be serviceable for a couple games, but they need to find a long-term solution at the position, or at least a season-long solution. Trading for someone has been something Chip Kelly hasn’t been afraid to do, so that’s always a possibility too. Either way, this is likely still the team’s weakest position.