It’s been the talk for the past couple months that the Eagles need a starting-caliber safety, and this free agency could be the perfect time to fill that need. Whether they’re going to go after a top guy at the position such as Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward remains to be 100% confirmed, but they have said that they don’t want to spend a ton at the position, which theoretically rules out those two guys. They may also be looking to pick up an OLB or a CB depending on who’s in their price range. With free agency set to start at 4 p.m. tomorrow, it should be interesting.
If the Eagles don’t sign Byrd or Ward, who do they want at safety? Well, Panthers S Mike Mitchell seems to be the top name on the rumor wire. Mitchell had just a $1 million cap hit, and while he’s expected to get a pay raise, it probably wouldn’t be enough to deter the Eagles from signing a guy like him. Mitchell is just 5 years into his NFL career and has missed just four games in that span. He had career-highs in both tackles (67) and INTs (4) last year, meaning he can cover both the run and the pass. The Eagles are desperately in need of a safety that can play at least decent pass coverage, and Mitchell seems like a nice fit. A four-year deal for Mitchell would be a perfect situation because it’d give them long-term help, assuming he works out.
Another safety option is Colts S Antoine Bethea. While it’s still possible that the Colts could re-sign him, he’s likely to enter free agency and at least test his options. He’s already 9 years into his career though, so it would only be a short-term option, but anything is better at this point than the guys the Eagles have right now. Bethea had an impressive 110 tackles and 2 INTs last season, which was his fourth season in a row with 100+ tackles. As I mentioned before though, the Eagles are probably looking for a guy that’s better at the pass rush, so Bethea is just an option.
Staying in the secondary, they might want to sign a CB to add depth to their slim group of guys at the position. Yes, they already have three solid guys, but with Roc Carmichael as the 4th CB, they could sign anyone that’s a better 4th guy. Dolphins CB Nolan Carroll is one guy that they seem to have shown interest in, who had 47 tackles and 3 INTs last season in Miami. It was just his 4th year in the league, and he has been a bargain his whole career, but he’ll likely want a pay raise that resembles starting CB numbers. Cutting either Bradley Fletcher or Cary Williams would save at least $3 million in cap space, but since Carroll will likely be signed for at least that much per year, it would be a waste unless one of these guys is willing to be the 4th CB on the roster. Still, it’s an option.
OLB Mike Neal is another guy the Eagles would be going after. While it doesn’t seem like he would start on the team, it’s worth mentioning that they have seemed to show interest in him too. Of course, it hasn’t been ruled out that the Eagles would trade Trent Cole and thus need a new starting OLB, but I’m not sure if Neal is that kind of guy. Regardless, with them ruled out of the Michael Johnson camp, they might focus more on Neal, who wouldn’t be that expensive.
I guess I have to mention Champ Bailey, but I have a feeling that is 100% rumor-based. Signing him as even a safety would be a last-ditch effort to get someone if they managed to miss out on Mitchell and Bethea. He’s old and would probably be overpaid, and there’s no room for a guy like that on a team that’s trying to build for the future at that position.
I’m sure there are other guys they’re interested in sending an offer to, but at this point it’s hard to separate the facts from the rumors. 4 p.m. tomorrow will bring the beginning of the answers.