Philadelphia Eagles: 2014 NFL free agency

CB Nolan Carroll could impact secondary

April, 4, 2014
The secondary became one of the most-improved units for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin jelled quite nicely by the end of the season.

With the addition of free agent cornerback Nolan Carroll, the group should be even better in 2014. Carroll’s signing was a little bit under the radar, but these are the types of quiet moves that can really benefit a team.

Carroll, 27, can play on special teams and will certainly compete for a starting job.

“I’m coming in and doing whatever role is needed from me,” Carroll told reporters soon after signing a two-year contract. “If I come in and compete and I don’t get the job, then I just have to find my role on the team to help us win. I’m not going to be frustrated or disappointed. As long as I go out and do the things that I need to do to help the team out, that’s all I’m worried about. It’s not about individual success right now, it’s about the team’s success, and that’s what I’m here to do, help the team win.”

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Carroll is a four-year veteran who has started 26 games, including a career-high 12 with the Miami Dolphins last season. He had three interceptions and two sacks last season. More than that, he’ll give the Eagles another option on special teams.

The Eagles allowed more passing yards than any team in the league, so the addition of a player like Carroll is a plus.

Several teams were reportedly interested in adding Carroll before the Eagles stepped in and completed the deal.

“I like the atmosphere that is here with (coach) Chip Kelly and what his philosophy is for this team, and I’m excited,” Carroll told reporters. “They’ve got me excited. Just being around here in this building, listening to everybody around here, meeting different people, I’m happy to be a part of this organization.”

In four career seasons with the Dolphins, Carroll compiled 135 total tackles, 22 deflected passes, five interceptions and one forced fumble.

If Carroll does provide a lift, this signing could wind up being huge.

For Malcolm Jenkins, versatility is key

April, 4, 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles could have gone a variety of ways at safety when free agency opened.

There was Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, and both players certainly would have helped immensely. The Eagles decided to sign Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year deal worth a reported $16.25 million.

The addition of Jenkins clearly strengthened the Eagles’ secondary. Jenkins was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2009, No. 14 overall. His new role will be helping to anchor a secondary, which needed an upgrade.

Safe to say that Jenkins is ready.

“I'm a football junkie,” Jenkins told reporters after being signed by the Eagles. “I can be the quarterback of the defense. When I have the freedom to move around and not be stagnant, that's when I have my best years. I'm not your typical safety. I'm more of that hybrid that the league is moving to with the bigger tight ends, the faster tight ends. You need guys who can be versatile.”

Jenkins’ versatility will be helpful since he has the ability to play deep, in the slot or even cover the tight end. This will allow defensive coordinator Bill Davis to disguise some coverages and blitz schemes.

More than just X’s and O’s, Jenkins was fascinated by coach Chip Kelly and how he turned around the Eagles in just one season. Jenkins wanted to be a part of the transformation.

“I think even before we played them, I think to everybody it was apparent by Week 4 or 5 that there was something different about this team with Chip Kelly, and it caught the attention of a lot of people,” Jenkins told reporters. “So that was my first impression was that he knows how to win, he knows what he’s going to win with and they’re trying to get players that will fit his scheme. Not necessarily the best players, but players that will buy in to what he’s selling. I’ve been a part of winning teams before and that’s where it starts. It starts with good leadership from the top down.”

Jenkins had 68 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions for the Saints last season.

Byrd and Ward may have been better options, but Jenkins is certainly a major improvement.
The NFL's fame and glory machine didn't spit out DeSean Jackson this time around. It just showed him the blueprint.

Jackson is too young and too good for his ugly release last week by the Philadelphia Eagles to end his career. Regardless of anything that came out publicly (or whatever the Eagles or other teams may know privately) about the off-field detriments that undermine Jackson's wondrous on-field benefits, someone was going to pick him up.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAt 27, DeSean Jackson must realize that his relatively young NFL career is at risk.
The Washington Redskins didn't waste time and they didn't scrimp.

But what Jackson got to see was the manner in which the machine will spit him out if he lets it. A team can cut you, it turns out, without explaining why, and can let everyone assume it's because of the way you act and the friends you hang out with away from the field. A team can do this and have the wide NFL world nod in agreement at phrases like "doesn't fit" and "what's best for the football team."

So while the week's debate has been about whether this turn of events is good/bad for the Eagles, good/bad for the Redskins, good/bad for the Jets or any other team that may have been involved or interested, why not take a moment to debate whether this is good for the player? Is getting cut by the Eagles and signed by the Redskins going to benefit DeSean Jackson? Or is the machine determined to spit him out long before his desire and skill level dictate that it must?

I've been talking to people about Jackson for three years now, and here are a few things I believe I know:

Jackson is not an evil person. The Aaron Hernandez comparisons you may have heard or read are shameful and irresponsible. One guy is in jail on first-degree murder charges. The guy we're talking about here appears to have some childhood friends with shady connections. That's a pretty wide gulf, and it deserves to be treated as such in our analysis. We could sit here and say that someone of Jackson's fame and wealth is risking a lot if he refuses to cut ties with people who have nothing to lose. And if he's allegedly flashing gang signs after touchdowns, on his Instagram page or in his videos, as the police officers in the story that hit last week minutes before his release say he has, then he's doing himself a disservice.

Jackson is a 27-year-old who's been famous for almost half his life, but he knows the right thing to do with his platform. He goes into schools to speak actively against bullying, talking to bullies, victims, teachers ... anyone who can help with the problem. He doesn't just throw money at his causes; he works actively to help.

But he also conveys an untethered element. He was incredibly close with his father, who died quickly and cruelly from pancreatic cancer in 2009, and people who have spent time around Jackson will tell you the past five years have been rough. I once asked a player in the Eagles' locker room about Jackson and was told, "Not a bad guy, but sometimes you shake your head." I have heard stories about him pouting in the locker room. He himself admitted to dealing poorly with his last contract year; he let it affect him on the field, and he was suspended for missed meetings. Eagles personnel have for years expressed concern about the extent to which Jackson liked to focus on making rap music, sometimes to the detriment of his football business, in their opinion.

And the story got into his off-field associations in pretty strong detail. While the national takeaway was the uber-simplistic bit about alleged gang ties, the reasonable takeaway is that Jackson doesn't always make the best-looking choices. What I know about gang culture couldn't fill a shot glass, but I don't think DeSean Jackson is in a street gang.

The problem Jackson has now is that, right or wrong, some people who've been following this story for the past week do think he's in a gang. So the next time the NFL's fame and glory machine finds him caught in the works and tries to spit him out, there's going to be a chorus that thinks it's the right thing to do.

I wonder if he's in the right environment to succeed. The Redskins have a new, inexperienced head coach in Jay Gruden. They have a 28-year-old first-time offensive coordinator in Sean McVay. They have an attention-magnet quarterback in Robert Griffin III who's coming off a year that handed him a slate of his own problems to work out. The Redskins have lost locker-room leadership in recent years, most significantly with the retirement of London Fletcher. One of the top leaders on their offense is wide receiver Santana Moss, whose roster spot one would think is in jeopardy as a result of the Jackson signing. If Jackson is looking for another tether now that the Eagles' tether has been severed, it may be tough for him to find it in Washington.

Which makes it even more important for Jackson to realize what's happened here and work to make sure he's prepared the next time it happens. It's important for a lesson to be learned. Jackson doesn't have to change who he is or what he does away from the field if he doesn't want to. But his is now an at-risk career at the age of 27, and he needs to understand that. The next time the machine tries to spit him out, it's going to have a lot more impetus than it did this time around. Jackson's mission going forward is to fight that off -- to realize he's under a new and frightening kind of scrutiny, and to work to make sure he doesn't give anyone a reason to think he's something he's not.

Which team signs DeSean Jackson?

March, 28, 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles decided to cut ties with receiver DeSean Jackson on Friday after the team uncovered information about Jackson's off-field connections and activities, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Jackson issued a statement saying his release had nothing to do with his off-field activities. "I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang," the wide receiver said. "I am not a gang member, and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible."

Jackson was to make $10.5 million in 2014 and was owed $30.5 million over the remainder of his contract, but none of that money was guaranteed.

SanchezAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAs a quarterback who played in two AFC title games, Mark Sanchez brings experience as a backup.
Mark Sanchez is one of those players whose negatives have come to define him. We forget that he was a first-round pick, that he went to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. We associate him with the butt-fumble, with bad interceptions, with the futility that is the New York Jets. When his name is suggested in connection with your favorite team, your first reaction is something along the lines of, "Jeez. Really? Why?"

But the fact is, at this point in his career, Sanchez is everything you look for in a backup quarterback. And that's what the Philadelphia Eagles see in him -- a backup quarterback. The Eagles signed Sanchez to an undisclosed contract on Thursday. He's not being brought in to compete with Nick Foles, whose monster second half of the 2013 season solidified him as the team's starter going into 2014. It's possible that Sanchez is being brought in to compete with second-year man Matt Barkley for the backup role, but since Barkley was and likely still is a project, it's also possible that Sanchez is being brought in to serve as Foles' backup until (or if ever) Barkley is ready to do that.

Would Chip Kelly's offense function as smoothly with Sanchez at quarterback as it did last year with Foles? Unlikely, if Sanchez were to be as inaccurate a thrower as he has been so far in his career. But that's not the point. Very few teams have ever had a backup who could step in and replicate a starter's performance, because quarterbacks who can do that tend to get jobs as starters elsewhere. The job of a backup quarterback is basically to not mess things up. And Sanchez has enough NFL experience to allow Kelly to believe he can meet that standard.

What you're looking for in a backup is a guy for whom the moment won't be too big -- a player who won't fall apart emotionally just because he suddenly finds himself thrown into an NFL game. Sanchez fits that description. There are only seven active NFL quarterbacks (and only 36 in league history, for that matter) who have won more playoff games than the four Sanchez won in his first two seasons. Of the backup options on this offseason's market, the only one with more experience as a starter was Michael Vick, who coincidentally just left the Eagles to sign with the Jets.

If something happens to Foles and he has to sit out a couple of plays or a quarter or a game or a few weeks, Sanchez gives Kelly the ability to put a quarterback into the game who's not going to be overwhelmed. And there's peace of mind in that. Sanchez might not play well, and the Eagles might struggle if they have to go with him for a few weeks, but the same can be said for any backup anywhere.

The best-case scenario for Sanchez in all of this is that he gets an opportunity at some point to put on a positive performance and rebuild his career as an NFL starter. But if all he's going to be is a backup, the fact that he used to be a starter makes him a valuable one.


Lurie touches on Vick, Byrd

March, 25, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the team learned its lesson in free agency after their mishap a couple years ago. And that was a big reason for their approach in 2014 – and perhaps why they did not pursue safety Jairus Byrd.

Lurie also learned over the last few seasons their now-departed quarterback, Michael Vick, could be counted on as a leader.

“He’s underrated in terms of his influence with both young people and teammates,” Lurie said of Vick, now with the Jets.

Lurie spoke with Eagles beat reporters at the NFL owners’ meetings Tuesday, touching on several topics -- but not touching the biggest one right now. When asked after his six-plus minute interview about DeSean Jackson, Lurie said he had “nothing to say.”

But he did have something to say on:
  • Not signing Byrd. He reminded reporters that Eagles coach Chip Kelly coached him at Oregon. “Nobody knows the Saints safety better than our coach. Very big confidence in that. And if he thought we should allocate our resources to have that player be our safety for the next several years at that level, then that’s what we would have done. You have to be very astute in how you want to allocate your resources to win big. We learned a lesson a few years ago. Sure, we were the team that signed Nnamdi [Asomugha] and some other guys. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to be disciplined. In this case it was great because our coach knew some of the top free agent safeties and they played for him and we could operate on a level based on his projection of reality.”
  • Vick’s legacy in Philadelphia. “The fact that he owned up to his mistakes and did something about it, not only served his time, but when he came out he was on a mission to prove it wasn’t just words that he wanted to do good things and reverse a lot of the bad things he did. He took action to do that. “He had some great moments on the field, some frustrating moments. Would get hurt at times. But at all times he was a good teammate for Nick [Foles]. Nick will tell you Michael was always supportive. When they were competing he was supportive. When Michael beat him out he was still supportive and when Nick played at a Pro Bowl level Mike was incredibly supportive.”
  • To illustrate Vick’s leadership more, Lurie pointed to the Riley Cooper situation last summer. “The people that stepped forward and were the most valuable in the locker room and who were the most influential were Michael and Jason Avant. A lot of respect for those two in terms of what they brought.”
  • As was stated earlier, Lurie did not want to address the Jackson situation. But he perhaps indirectly opened a window into what’s going on or what Kelly wants from his players. “It’s a very focused plan based on what the character needs to be and what the performance level needs to be. It’s a very focused target system where you know the kind of people you want to surround our current players with and who to go after and what the function of this offense is because it’s different than it was with Andy [Reid], the defense is completely different...It worked out well the first year with Chip and the personnel department and Howie [Roseman] figuring out what would be best.”
  • Free agency and their ideal philosophy. “The ideal system is to maximize your salary cap with the terrific players you have on your roster. You hope to be one of the teams that drafts so well that you’re spending one of the least in free agency. We’ve always been aggressive. That’s just our nature. We’ll always maximize our cap and what we spend. We would prefer to spend it on our terrific young players. That’s the best way to win.”
Michael Vick left the Philadelphia Eagles in part because he wanted a chance to be a starting quarterback. The New York Jets have offered him that chance.

“It’s going to be really interesting to watch that competition unfold,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., “but Geno Smith is going to be hard to beat out.”

Ryan said Vick would have a chance to be the Jets’ starter in Week 1, which led to questions about who would take the first snaps when the team’s on-field activities start this spring. Ryan deflected all of them, returning to a theme that competition is a good thing.

Smith threw for 3,046 yards as a rookie with 12 touchdown passes, but he was intercepted 21 times.

When Vick first got together with New York offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg with the Eagles, he had his best season with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions in 2010. Ryan said Vick’s background with Mornhinweg and the system will help him in competing for the job.

It’s been awhile since Vick was that good, but Ryan believes Vick has plenty of football left.

“First off, you’re getting a guy who’s a proven winner,” Ryan said. “He is a dynamic player.”

It will be an interesting time around the Jets, as always.
The Philadelphia Eagles need a backup quarterback. Mark Sanchez needs a new place to restart his career.

With ESPN Insider Chris Mortenson reporting Sanchez is expected to sign with the Eagles, it brings together two sides filling a major need.

Nick Foles is without question the Eagles' starter. He threw 27 touchdown passes and had just two interceptions while compiling an 8-2 record in 2013. But with Michael Vick off to the New York Jets and Matt Barkley an unknown, coach Chip Kelly is dipping into the Pac-12 quarterbacks again.

Kelly was Oregon's offensive coordinator when Sanchez played at Southern Cal.

We will now get to see if he can revitalize Sanchez.

Things started so well for Sanchez with the Jets. He helped New York and Rex Ryan to two straight AFC Championship Games, losing to Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, but he never made the next step in his career.

His best statistical year came in 2011, when he threw for 3,474 yards with 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, but the Jets lost their final three games and that was the end of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Tony Sparano did not help Sanchez in 2012. A shoulder injury kept Sanchez out last year.

Provided the shoulder checks out, Sanchez will become the backup to Foles.

Kelly's first order of business is lifting Sanchez's accuracy. He is a 55.1 percent passer for his career. The best he has had in his career is 56.7 percent. In today's NFL with the rules the way they are, quarterbacks must complete about 65 percent to be effective.

With the Eagles, Sanchez would have better tools around him, especially on the offensive line. He could have DeSean Jackson at wide receiver, at least for a minute. He would have Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to go with Brent Celek and Zach Ertz at tight end. And of course he would have LeSean McCoy.

He would also have Kelly, who has won with different kinds of quarterbacks along his stops at New Hampshire, Oregon and last year with the Eagles.

The Eagles are not the ground-and-pound of the Jets in Sanchez's first two years, but Kelly will run the ball to control the game and his quarterback.

Sanchez would be going to a perfect spot without the pressure to be the Sanch-ise. All he would need to be is a backup, not a savior.

Vick, Jackson once produced magic

March, 22, 2014
Four years is a long time in the NFL, so it’s not as if a moment -- or game -- that occurred in 2010 is somehow relevant now. It isn’t. But one play, one game, will provide a snapshot of two players who once made the Eagles a feared offense.

One just left. The other could be headed out soon. According to, a “source close to DeSean Jackson … said Jackson now believes his departure is inevitable.” Whether or not it really is, time will tell. Regardless, a lot of smoke surrounds Jackson and with the league meetings set to begin Sunday, trade talk -- not just about Jackson -- will escalate.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesDeSean Jackson's big-play ability has helped boost the Eagles' offense throughout his career.
Yes, the Eagles will survive the loss of Michael Vick. Yes, they should still have an excellent offense without Jackson, though I’m quite certain the other NFC East defensive coordinators would be quite happy. If I’m Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, I’m texting Eagles coach Chip Kelly to remind him that Jackson is not “his kind of guy.” Hourly.

Anyway, speaking of Haslett, it brings me back to 2010. Vick and Jackson against the Redskins on a "Monday Night Football" game that began with a bang. Redskins safety LaRon Landry, who probably gets out of bed talking trash, started yapping in pregame with Jackson.

One play into the game, Jackson responded and one of the most impressive offensive performances had begun. Vick dropped back, and threw down the middle to Jackson, who easily sped past Landry. An 88-yard touchdown that ignited a 59-28 rout. Funny to say it, but the game wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate -- not that it comes close to suggesting it was.

After the game, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, “Not too many guys can throw that ball. I don't know how far it went -- 65 yards in the air. That's a great play by Vick and Jackson both.”

Vick went on to have a game that ranks among the best in NFL history, certainly one of the most dominating. The Redskins had no answer for him as Vick was in a zone; his passes zipped, his legs caused infinite amounts of frustration. In the end, Vick finished with 333 yards passing and four touchdowns; 80 yards rushing and two scores. His game set a standard as he became the first player in NFL history to finish a game with at least 300 yards passing, 50 rushing, four touchdown passes and two touchdowns rushing. On the other sideline, a former Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, continued his downward spiral.

That play, that game, certainly served as a reminder of the prodigious talent Vick possessed and what he could do when everything clicked. There were moments that produced the opposite, whether it was injuries or fastballs that sailed high or wide. But the chance that he could do something spectacular, with his legs or his arm, made him interesting to watch. And scary for defenses.

Ironically, Jackson only caught one other pass in that game, for 10 yards. But he helped make a statement and provided fear in the defense, helping other wideouts get open with his presence.

Even if the Eagles trade Jackson they should still have a good offense; enough weapons remain. But Jackson and Vick were nightmares for defenses as much because of what they could do at any moment versus what they always did. One is done in Philadelphia, the other may soon follow.
There was really no way Michael Vick would return to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, but it became official Friday when he signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the New York Jets.

He came to the Eagles in 2009 after spending 21 months in state prison for his involvement in dog fighting and rehabbed his image.

On the field Vick had some magical moments, but nothing was quite as good as it was in 2010 when he went 8-3 as the Eagles' starter and threw 21 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He remained a deadly runner (nine touchdowns) but his decision-making was the best it had ever been. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was the Comeback Player of the Year.

But he could not recapture that 2010 form. Injuries slowed him down, including a hamstring injury that led to Nick Foles becoming Philadelphia's unquestioned starter as the Eagles won the NFC East in Chip Kelly's first year.

Vick had a 20-20 record with the Eagles. He had 56 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions. He had two 3,000-yard seasons.

Vick was good for Philadelphia, and Philadelphia was good for Vick.

How will you remember Vick's time with the Eagles?
Michael VickChris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsMichael Vick has thrown 57 touchdown passes since joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
Free-agent quarterback Michael Vick has a visit lined up this weekend with the New York Jets, who need him more than the Philadelphia Eagles do and thus look likely to lure him away. Even if the Jets don’t sign him, it appears increasingly likely that Vick’s time in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason.

Vick signed with the Eagles in August 2009, a month after he was released from federal prison following a two-year sentence on dogfighting charges. The move was a surprise, since the Eagles had Donovan McNabb at quarterback and a young Kevin Kolb being groomed as McNabb’s replacement. The idea that Vick would ever start a game for the Eagles, let alone be on the team for five years, was difficult to believe at the time. Even the Eagles themselves presented it as a move designed to help a guy get back on his feet, and if he helped the football team then so much the better.

But it has in fact been five seasons for Vick as an Eagle, and while it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, he has had his moments. And whatever you want to say about Vick's tenure in Philadelphia -- whether it's over or not -- you can't say it hasn't been interesting:

2009: Amid speculation that then-coach Andy Reid and then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may have been dreaming up some special offensive packages designed to maximize Vick's speed and athleticism, Vick stayed more or less on the sideline while coaches worked with him in practice to sand down some of his rough edges as a passer. He played in 12 games, attempted a pass in eight of them (and no more than three passes in any) and had a rushing attempt in 11 of them (but never more than four in a game). If he was on the field at all, he was a decoy or a mop man. But he did get to throw for one touchdown and rush for another in garbage time in a 34-7 victory in Atlanta, which had to give the former Falcon some satisfaction.

2010: Kolb was named the starter in the preseason, but he got hurt in the opener and Vick came in and put on a dazzling show, nearly leading the Eagles to a comeback victory over the Packers. He was 16-for-24 for 175 yards and rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries. He was so brilliant that, even once Kolb was cleared, Reid announced he was switching up and giving the job to Vick, who did not disappoint. Highlights included the six-touchdown "Monday Night Football" torching of the Washington Redskins and the incredible comeback in Week 15 against the Giants. That was the game DeSean Jackson won with his now-famous last-second punt return, but the work Vick did in bringing the Eagles back from a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes of the game was utterly breathtaking.

That was the high point, though, as the Eagles followed it with an inexplicable Tuesday night loss (that's right, look it up) to the Joe Webb Vikings and then fell in the first round of the playoffs at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. That was a close game. Vick cut it to 21-16 with a touchdown run in the final 5 minutes, and the Eagles had the ball in Green Bay territory in the final minute. But Vick threw an interception in the end zone and his sizzling season came to an early end.

2011: Vick actually threw for more yards in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he ran less and his other stats dropped. His interception total rose from an unsustainable six to a more reasonable 14. And the Eagles fell apart around him, starting out 1-4 and never recovering until they were out of the race in December. Vick contributed to the problem with a staggering 11 turnovers in the first six games, and his late-season injury issues forced a completely unprepared Vince Young into the starter's role in key games. The Giants won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and went on to win the Super Bowl as the Eagles, who had to win their final four games to get to 8-8, watched in self-disgust.

2012: This was a weird one. The Eagles won three of their first four games in ugly fashion. Vick threw four interceptions in the opener against the Browns and two more the next week in the home opener against the Ravens, but he led game-winning drives both weeks and the Eagles won each game by a single point. In Week 4, he led them from behind to a two-point victory over the Giants. The Eagles were getting away with all kinds of sloppiness, and it eventually caught up with them. They lost 11 of their final 12 games and got Reid fired in the process. By mid-November, a concussion and other physical ailments had sent Vick to the sideline, and even once he was healthy Reid decided to roll instead with backup Nick Foles to see what they had for the future. Vick's time in Philadelphia appeared done.

2013: Surprisingly, the Eagles re-signed Vick to a one-year contract and new coach Chip Kelly named him the starter in training camp. He looked good in the season-opening victory over Washington and threw for 428 yards and two touchdowns the following week in a loss to San Diego, but tough losses to the Chiefs and Broncos dropped the Eagles to 1-3 and had folks grumbling. Vick would run for 79 yards on seven carries in the first half of a Week 5 victory over the Giants, but he pulled his hamstring on his final run of the half, and that was that. Foles seized the job and never looked back, leading the Eagles to an 8-3 finish with 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. But Vick's 2013 legacy may be the capstone on an Eagles career that began as a reclamation project. He made no waves, served as a willing backup and was attentive and helpful to Foles and the rest of the offense in practice and in meetings. Vick's ability to handle losing his starter's job with dignity likely helped his case as a free agent this year. Teams that may have been wondering a year ago about what kind of backup he'd make now have some proof that he wouldn't be a detriment in that role. Who knows? It could even land him back in Philadelphia if things don't work out this weekend with the Jets.
Michael Vick is expected to visit the New York Jets this weekend and if all goes according to plan he’ll backup Geno Smith and send Mark Sanchez to the free agent market.

With Vick looking for a new place of employment it leads you to wonder if the Eagles quarterback situation is really stable.

Yes, the starter is Nick Foles and that’s not changing with Chip Kelly as the coach.

But is a man with 16 starts under his belt ready to take the Eagles to playoffs again without a proven backup in place?

Currently, the Eagles have Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne on the roster as the backup quarterbacks. Is this good enough?

Barkley struggled in two appearances last season when Foles was nicked up. Kinne spent time with the Eagles in the preseason and eventually was released but re-signed to the practice squad in October.

Should the Eagles look at a veteran backup to Foles?

The Eagles have struggled with the health of their quarterbacks. The last time a quarterback finished a full season with the Eagles was 2008 when Donovan McNabb was still around.

McNabb made 14 starts in 2009, but after he was traded to Washington, Vick took over and didn’t start more than 13 games in a season.

The Eagles have started Vince Young, Kevin Kolb and Foles at quarterback due to injuries suffered by Vick.

And Foles himself left games with injuries, leading to Barkley to get his playing time.

Should Foles go down again with injury in 2014, maybe the Eagles need a veteran on the roster? Matt Flynn? Jason Campbell? Josh Freeman? Rex Grossman? Sanchez?

Whoever is signed, the key will be that veteran’s ability to run Kelly’s spread offense with efficiency. Not every quarterback can do it, and finding the right fit will be important.

As of now, it’s Barkley, but the Eagles might want to find somebody else.

Nate Allen not looking for handouts

March, 18, 2014
From the time he arrived, Nate Allen felt the pressure. He's no longer the answer for the Eagles' safety position, but he still hopes to be part of the solution. The Eagles might not be counting on it, but they clearly haven't given up on him either, having re-signed him to a one-year deal.

Allen started every game last season, but he could be challenged this year by second-year Earl Wolff. Or, perhaps, the Eagles could draft a safety though they don't have to do so now. But Allen is used to the pressure, having felt it when he arrived in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Eagles hope that this offseason they've finally started to solve a position that has vexed them ever since Brian Dawkins departed in 2009.

"That pressure, that was there, right when I came in. Everybody was saying, 'You've got big shoes to fill,' [meaning] Brian Dawkins. But like I've said from Day 1, I'm not B-Dawk. He's a future Hall of Famer," Allen told Philadelphia reporters during a break from working out at NovaCare. "I'm going to be Nate and play my game and not put any more added pressure on myself, and just go out and play football."

Allen said he wasn't worried about the free-agent process and compared it to draft day. He said he had expressed his feelings about wanting to return and then he let the market develop. There wasn't a strong demand for him elsewhere, so he opted for the one-year deal with the Eagles, for whom he has started 54 of 59 games he's played since joining the team.

"I'm just going to try to get better this year and improve, whatever I can do to help the team win,” Allen said. “I wouldn't want anything just handed to me. I'm a pretty simple dude, so any amount of money I get is good for me. A lot of times, it's not even about money. I'm just happy to be back here, in a system I'm comfortable in. I've been in Philly for four years. It's all a blessing.

“I just kind of stepped back and let everything fall into place. Knew that at the end of the day, if it was meant for me to be here, I'd be back."

Free-agency review: Eagles

March, 18, 2014
Most significant signing: Considering the struggles at safety the past couple of seasons, Malcolm Jenkins has to be the most significant signing. Jenkins is coming off a strong season, but has been inconsistent in the past. He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he's a definite upgrade over what Philadelphia has had of late. His versatility -- he's a former college corner -- is a big plus.

Most significant loss: The Eagles haven't had a significant loss. One free agent who left was backup defensive end Clifton Geathers, who signed with Washington. But that's hardly significant -- for either team. Quarterback Michael Vick hasn't drawn a lot of attention in free agency, which suggests many teams agree with the Eagles that his career is at, or very near, the end.

Biggest surprise: The trade for running back Darren Sproles. Had New Orleans just cut Sproles, it's possible the Eagles would have lost out on him. And it's not as if he was a strong need. But Sproles was a terrific weapon to add for this offense because of his versatility -- he can line up anywhere and catch passes. His presence also means the Eagles could be creative in how they deal with other players -- a trade to recoup some draft picks perhaps? Or it could just mean they have another player defenses must worry about. He might not be the same as he was three years ago, but the Eagles don't need Sproles to be that dynamic given who else they have on the roster.

What's next? The Eagles still need more help on defense, even after also signing cornerback Nolan Carroll. The secondary in particular could be strengthened more -- perhaps with strong safety Calvin Pryor in the draft? The Eagles have added depth and key special teams players. They need to find a few players to develop into starters in the draft.

Eagles building nest at safety

March, 17, 2014
Is it safe to say the Philadelphia Eagles will not be targeting a safety early in the May draft?

Nate Allen re-signed with the team on Monday with a one-year, $2 million deal that can max out at $3 million. Last week, the Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year, $15.5 million deal that pays him $8.5 million guaranteed, and Chris Maragos to a three-year, $4 million deal.

The Eagles now have Allen, Jenkins, Maragos, Earl Wolff and Keelan Johnson at safety.

Philadelphia has struggled to replace Brian Dawkins the way the Dallas Cowboys have struggled to replace Darren Woodson.

Sean Jones, Kurt Coleman and Patrick Chung had nothing more than moments. Allen has been better the past few years as a strong safety.

The Cowboys have been searching for Woodson's replacement since 2004 when a bad back forced him to retire early. Dawkins left the Eagles after the 2008 season and is one of the franchise's all-time greats.

With Jenkins, the Eagles finally hope they have something close to Dawkins to keep the back line in place. Keeping Allen allows them to have some continuity with a player who looked like he found a home in 2013. Allen had a career-high 94 tackles in starting every game in his career to go along with one interception.