Unlike 2015, the Eagles don’t have the ability or desire to be the team making the most headlines in free agency. They do have roughly 17 million in cap space left to allocate though, and some players out there are worth spending it on. Here’s a rundown on five of them.
Anquan Bolden, WR, San Francisco 49ers
The 2015 NFL Man-of-the-Year award winner would bring some much needed experience to the Eagles receiving core. He has seven career 1,000 yard seasons, which is seven more than the receivers currently on the Birds roster combined.
Bolden’s yards-per-reception have gone down each of the past four seasons since he posted a career high of 15.2 with Baltimore in 2011. But he still had 69 catches for 789 yards and four touchdowns in his 13th season in the league last year.
The Eagles don’t have the cap space to get involved in a bidding war for the 35-year-old, but if they desire to get a little veteran presence at wide receiver, Bolden provides much more production than previous attempts like Miles Austin, or the possible return of Jason Avant. The Franchise probably wouldn’t mind stealing a bit of talent from Chip Kelly, either.
Jeff Allen, G, Kansas City Chiefs
On the list of Chiefs players possibly following Doug Pederson to Philadelphia, Allen would be the most useful. While the Eagles’ biggest concerns are at guard, they could use help everywhere along the offensive line, and Allen has shown the ability to play both tackle spots in the past.
He started eight games and played in twelve for the Chiefs last season, and injuries have been a concern over the first four years of his career. He played in 31 of 32 games in his first two seasons, starting 27, but missed 15 games in 2014 after suffering an elbow injury in the season opener.
Doug Pederson doesn’t sound opposed to building the line through free agency: "It's important to have an offensive line. In Kansas City, we found five guys who wanted to play. You find five guys who are going to be touch, who are brothers in arms, who are nitty griddy. We found those guys in KC and we will find them here.... Yes, you can do it through the offseason." He doesn’t sound opposed to looking to Kansas City to do it, either.
The Chiefs have a lot of free agents to take care of, having already used their franchise tag on safety Eric Berry. Allen is one who could likely be pried away and serve as an instant upgrade over either guard spot in Philly. Bringing in at least one guard through free agency lets the Eagles be more flexible in the draft, particularly in the higher rounds, and might help keep them from reaching for a player.
George Iloka, S, Cincinnati Bengals
Iloka is one of two Bengals safeties hitting free-agency. The other, Reggie Nelson, captured a lot of attention in 2015, and a lot of passes, with eight interceptions. But Nelson is 33, and the Eagles will probably prefer to target is younger (26-year-old) playing partner. Iloka is an imposing figure over the middle of the field, at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He started 44 games over the past three seasons for Cincinnati, and has five interceptions and two forced fumbles over that time frame.
As the Eagles transition back to a more traditional use of at least one safety in the box, Iloka would make a good pairing with Malcolm Jenkins, freeing Jenkins to play overtop or latch onto the slot receiver in coverage. They will need a starter if Walter Thurmond leaves, as all indications seem to point to.
Iloka is a player who should be entering his prime, and there could be a lot of teams competing for a signature, teams that have a lot more cap room than Philadelphia. His youth would allow them to work out a long term deal though, and Howie Roseman may be able to craft one that is pretty cap-friendly in 2016.
Nick Fairley, DT, Los Angeles Rams
As the Eagles change back out of their 3-4 scheme towards a 4-3 defense, a lot of players in the front seven will be sliding into new roles, some familiar, some not. Fairley would provide depth on the inside, something the Eagles haven’t had very much of the past few years. He also recorded 11.5 sacks over a two-year period in 2012 and 2013, while Jim Schwartz was his head coach.
Fairley moved to St. Louis last season on a one-year deal, after missing eight games in 2014. He was stepping into a crowded line situation, and didn’t leave a particular mark, racking up 29 tackles and half of a sack. If he moves on, it could be on another short deal that doesn’t break the bank. That has to be the kind of deal the Eagles are looking for this off-season.
Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Detroit Lions
With Kiko Alonso, Jordan Hicks, and Mychal Kendricks all at least possibilities between inside and outside linebacker, there isn’t much need or room for the Eagles to go pursuing big free agent targets. But the release of DeMeco Ryans does create a veteran void on the defense.
Like Fairley, Tulloch’s best days in Detroit were under Jim Schwartz. In three seasons playing for the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, Tulloch had 358 tackles. In 2014, he missed 13 games with an ACL tear, but returned to make 107 tackles in 2015.
If Tulloch were to sign for the Eagles, it would be in a reduced role. At 31-years-old, he is a player, much like Bolden, that the Eagles cannot afford to get in a bidding war for. But if both parties are interested, Tulloch would provide a little experience on the defense, and a lot of experience running the schemes Schwartz wants to install in Philadelphia.