Free Agency Primer: NFC East
• Key free agents: S Nate Allen, S Kurt Coleman, WR Riley Cooper, P Donnie Jones, WR Jeremy Maclin, DE Cedric Thornton, QB Michael Vick; DE Cedric Thornton (ERFA)
• Players Philadelphia needs back: Allen, Jones, Maclin, Thornton.
Essentially, the call here is for Allen over Coleman and for Maclin over Cooper. That’s oversimplifying, so the Eagles might have more wiggle room at the safety and WR spots, but if push comes to shove don’t be surprised if they choose to use their dough in this manner.
Allen finally stepped up in 2013 after several ho-hum seasons. Even if the safety position was far from a strong spot for the Eagles regardless, it may be hard to throw in the towel on Allen now after he showed some ability while starting all 16 games.
Maclin has a chance to be a dynamic presence in Chip Kelly’s offense — we never saw that in 2013 due to a season-ending injury during camp. His setback forced Cooper into the lineup, and the controversial receiver found a groove with Nick Foles as the season progressed, so Philadelphia may try to retain him at the right price. Maclin provides much more of an upside, though.
Jones was brilliant, averaging 44.9 yards per punt, and is a no-brainer keep if he wants to stay. Thornton is an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning there’s little chance he departs.
• Players Philadelphia should let walk: Coleman, Cooper, Vick.
The flip side of the Allen and Maclin arguments are here: Coleman has value because of his versatility as a special-teamer and even fill-in corner; Cooper caught 47 passes and scored eight times. Philadelphia would not be too upset to hang onto either guy.
Vick’s one of the real mysteries of this offseason. Does he want to stay with the Eagles as the likely backup for Foles? Would he be able to compete for a starting job elsewhere? The latter probably will be the case, and there’s no reason for Philadelphia to enter any sort of bidding war.
• Outlook: The Eagles are projected to have about $21 million in cap space, giving them the ability to focus on the players they would like to retain and also save some money to upgrade the secondary. Finding one or two more pieces to help round out Chip Kelly’s offense certainly would make Foles’ life easier in 2014.
• Key free agents: TE Fred Davis, CB DeAngelo Hall, S Brandon Meriweather, WR Santana Moss, WR Josh Morgan, LB Brian Orakpo, LB Perry Riley, CB Josh Wilson
• Players Washington needs back: Meriweather, Orakpo, Riley.
As the Redskins plan to continue on with their 3-4 defense, letting Orakpo walk would be a confounding move. He recorded another 10 sacks last season and remains a force off the edge. Pretty much everything — including the franchise tag — could be in play here.
Meriweather may have played himself into another contract with a decent 2013. Washington has to come up with some answers at safety whether he is back or not, but the task would be easier if Meriweather returns to provide a little depth.
Riley made less than $1.5 million last season yet led Washington in tackles. He could cash in as an unrestricted free agent, so the price tag here could wind up being the deciding factor. All things being equal, the Redskins would be smart to hold onto him, especially after he was such a breakthrough performer last season.
• Players Washington should let walk: Davis, Hall, Moss.
Yes, DeAngelo Hall. Washington apparently has decided against bidding him farewell, as contract talks reportedly are underway. Working in his favor: He led the secondary-challenged team with four interceptions and might be able to shift back to safety at some point in the near future.
On the flip side, there’s a decent chance Washington winds up handing him more than he would be worth on the open market. This team may not be in a position to hand away talent — a similar argument to the pro-Meriweather camp. At some point, however, there must be a sustained push to get younger and faster in a division that’s increasingly more wide open offensively. A multi-year deal for Hall might leave Washington looking for a way out before long.
Davis and Moss have outlived their usefulness here.
• Outlook: Washington has its full cap space back after two years of NFL-mandated reductions there — the franchise is projected to have $26 million or so available under the cap, as of early February. The lack of a first-round pick (again) will hurt and could force the team to invest a healthy dose of that cash into free agency. The Redskins certainly have never been shy about spending.
They need to do something, because the depth chart is a bit of a mess. More talent is needed around Robert Griffin III on offense and at least a handful of defensive starters could be replaced without anyone batting an eyelid. London Fletcher’s retirement deprives this team of a noted leader, too, even if his game had slipped in recent seasons.
Also lingering: Kirk Cousins’ trade status. Washington may still try to move him this offseason in an attempt to improve elsewhere.