A whole lot is going to change between now and September when the Eagles take the field against the Browns in Week 1, but here’s my initial roster prediction based on what I think will happen:
Even though the order of these three guys will be debated until the very last play of the 2016 season, the guys who will actually make the roster at quarterback are pretty much a lock. The only guy who’s going to be left out is the rando who had the misfortune of being born without a first name but with three last names. His full name is McLeod John Baltazar Bethel-Thompson for anyone who cares. That’s quite a mouthful. If there was ever a guy to be a “camp arm,” it’s McLeod John Balt-…you get the point.
This is probably their weakest position group on offense. Mathews is solid when healthy but often hurt. Sproles needs to actually be utilized more to be as effective as possible, but he’s getting older. And Smallwood…I’m not sold on him yet, but I think he has a better shot of making it than the other guys. Both former Ducks will be left without a roster spot in memoriam of Chip Kelly’s departure.
The main guys are pretty much locks. I could see Huff still getting traded for a pick, which would make room for one of the rookie free agents to slip onto the roster. Until that happens, though, Huff is still the better player. Krause, who spent time on the roster last year, will probably make the practice squad again.
The Eagles cut their only fullback, and I think Burton could fill in at the position if they don’t decide to sign someone new. If that happens, they need to keep a fourth tight end. Pantale is the better option, as he’s spent a few years in the NFL and was on their practice squad last year.
In: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Stefen Wisniewski, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Andrew Gardner
Out: Bruce Johnson, Josh Andrews, Barrett Jones, Malcolm Bunche, Darrell Greene, Brett Boyko, Dennis Kelly
Offensive line is always one of the more challenging groups to pick. I think both draft picks on the line make it, and I’m hoping this is finally the year Kelly gets cut. Even though they just gave him an extension, they could cut him and save his entire salary, so it was a low-risk move (same with Tobin). The line will have a lot more versatility this year and should be much more talented with the additions of Brooks and Seumalo at guard.
Curry, Graham and Barwin are essentially locks, but the rest could go either way. I’d keep Braman strictly for special teams purposes, as he’s not really good enough to make it into the rotation on defense (not sure if he’s ever played defensive end either). Long would’ve made the roster the past couple years had he not kept getting hurt, so as long as he stays healthy I think they’ll give him a chance. Cases could be made for both McCallister and Martin, too. The biggest wildcard is Smith, who I don’t think Pederson will be afraid to cut if he doesn’t step up.
There’s a huge drop-off in talent after Allen, who’s going to be playing his first NFL season at defensive tackle instead of nose tackle. Still, I think he’s been solid enough to keep around. Hart has been sub-par, and I don’t think he translates well to the switch to DT. I think he could be traded for a late round pick if necessary, but if not I think he gets cut.
While running back is the thinnest position on offense, linebacker is clearly the thinnest on defense. I think they have to keep six linebackers at the least, but that would involve keeping some unknowns as their only depth guys. I think they’d be wise to try to trade for a veteran for depth purposes after they released DeMeco Ryans in February. If that happens, Skinner or Tavarres could be left out.
This is an OK group of corners, but it doesn’t feature anyone who’s really a shutdown guy. I think by the end of the year Rowe will be the top guy. Carroll will likely be the other starter with Shepherd in the slot, but I could see McKelvin making a run for the other starting position. Brooks and Watkins will provide solid depth, leaving guys like Rice and Evans for the practice squad.
Jenkins and McLeod will look to be one of the top safety duos in the league next year. I think Maragos makes the team again because of his special teams skills, but I’m hoping that the return of Shepherd will allow Jenkins to remain at safety and keep Maragos off the field on defense. Mills was a great value pick in the draft, and I think he’ll make the team. Reynolds might be able to make the practice squad if he’s eligible.
This is the first time in a few years there are two kickers, punters and long snappers on the 90-man roster. I think the incumbents all retain their slots on the team, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see it come down to the wire at both kicker and punter. It’s so hard to remain consistent nowadays at kicker, so if Parkey is rusty during camp and preseason, Sturgis might keep the starting spot.
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