Just about everyone who has read here or across the Eagles Nation universe over the past decade should recognize the name “Leo Pizzini”.
He is a true blue (er, green) Eagles fan, yet beautifully objective in his analysis of the team. Leo is a former collegiate safety and punter. He knows the sport. He now is coaching local high school football in addition to his regular day job and family responsibilities. I reckon he will one day be coaching at the college or pro levels.
You may remember Leo as one of the “Four Horsemen” who pioneered the spirit of the regular fan gallery at Dave Spadaro’s “On The Inside” column at PE.com back in the day. It was GK Brizer, JB99, DDD and Leo. Those were the days when we were talking about players like Todd Pinkston and James Thrash. Seems like a long time ago!
I actually discovered Leo before even those primeval days. He was doing posts for Bleacher Report on the Eagles back before BR went corporate.
Anyway, Leo eventually started his own website called “Eagles Blitz”…but then allowed it to morph into a Facebook deal which is going strong today as an Eagles fan group, and it is now flourishing here.
Leo’s knowledge and opinion cannot be denied. So I copped this most recent post of his from his new Facebook medium:
“EAGLES 2018 OFFSEASON IN A NUTSHELL:
The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are going to start looking at 2018… Free Agency starts March 14th… and for the Eagles… it’s more a matter of which free agents they will be able to retain rather than procure… so the salary restructuring they can or can’t get done is going to set that stage…
Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Vinny Curry, Jason Peters, Zach Ertz, Malcolm Jenkins, and Rodney McLeod are the highest cap hits on the roster… the Eagles should look to restructure as much of that as they can… Curry jumps out from a production-to-dollars standpoint… Cox’ numbers are enormous… those guys could help out big time with a reasonable sacrifice (push a million or two to the back end of their contracts)… if the rest of that crew would take a modest restructuring, that would be a huge help (250K to 500K each)… Torrey Smith, Brent Celek, Chris Maragos, and Donnie Jones all have significant compensation that needs to be adjusted somewhat heavily or finding replacement players for their roles becomes very financially advantageous… We just didn’t use Celek enough… I think Maragos’ role as “Special Teams Ace” is slightly overrated, especially coming off an injury… Donnie Jones could be replaced for a much cheaper option like Alabama Punter JK Scott… bottom line… in all of this assessment… there is a lot of money that could potentialy be freed-up… we can’t do it while forgetting that we will need cap space at the end of next season to lock-up Carson long-term… Restructuring Peters is the least likely big cap savings as his salary is modest and a big portion of his cap hit is pro-rated bonus…
For the most part… the Eagles draft and free agency game plan should be about depth and competition… depth on the line and probably at the safety position (somebody should be able to challenge McLeod)… competition at WR (Challenge Torrey, Hollins & Co)… There is a definite need to solidify the linebacker positions… Jordan Hicks has shown you can’t expect him to play 16+ … we really need to retain Bradham… Mychal Kendricks is great for the group… but he’s off and on and fequently misses some time… we obviously need a little more there… quality and affordable depth anywhere we can get it!
The only free agent position the Eagles could reasonably be expected to entertain pursuing is LB… I’d expect them to take a high risk player with a lot of upside who will come at a low price tag… they may be able to find some cost-effective value at positions like TE and RB in free agency, too…
The Eagles first round pick has long been anticipated as an offensive lineman… with Peters proclaiming his intent to return and Vaitai doing a very nice job in his absence, that motion could be tabled if there isn’t a highly valued prospect available… With Curry being such a big cap hit number, it shouldn’t be too surprising that they may not come to terms on a 2018 arrangement with Curry (if he won’t significantly restructure) and an edge player could be in the cards…My dark horse position is WR… for a couple reasons… 1. Torrey Smith is a significant dollar-to-production concern… 2. Hollins and Gibson are fan favorites, but the way this draft class looks to me is that there will be valuable receivers available at pick 32 that could be stronger prospects, and Nelson Agholor is scheduled for free Agency in 2019 (Carson Wentz’s big contract year)… 3. The high value receivers may be slight reaches at pick 32, but they will not be available in the fourth round… dudes like Anthony Miller, DJ Chark, DJ Moore, and Michael Gallup (these guys look like amazing and slightly overlooked talents to me)… there are several interesting RB prospects… it would make sense… but the tandem of Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement (if nothing else) will probably keep the Eagles out of first-round running back reaches… and the big need… LB… if Rashaan Evans slips to 32… he could be the pick… if not… it’s possible that the Eagles reach a tad for a guy like Malik Jefferson (who has a couple of “Red Flags”) or even an underweight but skilled linebacker like Dorian O’Daniel … traditionally Roseman has shown a propensity to avoid LB and RB in the first round… we’ll have to wait and see if that trend continues…
As far as the Eagles’ fourth-round picks and beyond go… I won’t hazard a guess at particular players… but… I’d expect them to look to acquire a LB (possibly even if they take one in round 1), a lineman or two, a WR, a Defensive Back (likely a safety or a convertible corner – where they are thin and not particularly young), possibly a RB and potentially a DT for depth if they can’t re-sign Beau Allen… and possibly a TE depending on what happens with Burton and Celek…
With something like 20 out of the 22 current starters under contract in 2018… the Eagles are in a good position to make minimal additions if they can restructure their current cap overages…
The big question is the status and disposition of Nick Foles… some folks want to trade him while his value is high and some folks think he should start in 2018 over Wentz…but Wentz is clearly the Eagles’ dude… I would be beyond shocked to see anything different than that… and the Eagles in my opinion are indebted to Foles at this point… so the only question is… what does Foles want to do? … if he wants another starting opportunity or a big contract with a potential bad team?… then you do it for him… but we have to keep in mind… a first-round pick is a significant cap hit… so… acquiring a high pick is going to have significant cap implications (with long-term commitments) to consider as well… If he wants to stay… that’s just great news for our Eagles!
Replacing offensive coaches Frank Reich and DeFilippo is a bummer too… I believe both of them were very important to our 2018 success… sad to see them go… we’ll all be waiting to see if JimSchwartz gets courted as well… the coaching staff shuffle is going to be a serious hustle for Howie and Pederson to resolve…”
Thank you, Leo!
It’s interesting to note that Jimmy Kempski (who is a paid observer of the Eagles with Philly Voice) also agrees with just about all of Leo’s points:
“This time last year, the Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerbacks were Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks, C.J. Smith, and Dwayne Gratz. Their receivers were Dorial Green-Beckham, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs, and Paul Turner.
“You could safely say that the Eagles had glaring needs at corner and receiver last year, among other spots.
“This year? Not so much. The Super Bowl-winning Birds don’t have much in the way of glaring needs. Rather, they have some positions where they could use some upgrades, added depth, or young players to groom for the future behind aging vets.
“Here are the Eagles’ five biggest needs to address this offseason, in no particular order.
“The Eagles are set with Zach Ertz as a starter at tight end for the foreseeable future, but their excess of depth is likely to erode this offseason. Brent Celek’s body has taken a pounding over 11 years with the Eagles. Now that he has a ring, there’s a thinking that he will retire. Meanwhile, Trey Burton is set to become a free agent and may make starter money on the open market. The Eagles aren’t going to be able to afford to match that, if so.
“With Burton and Celek both potentially no longer on the roster, the Eagles will need to fortify that position, ideally with at least one guy who can block well.
“Gun to his head, Doug Pederson thinks Jason Peters will be his starting left tacklenext season. Prior to the 2017 season, we noted that you have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a player older than Peters who started at least 10 games at left tackle in a season. That would be Lomas Brown, who started at LT for the Giants at the age of 38. And now Peters is another year older. Still, if there’s a freak of nature who can come back after a torn ACL at the age of 36, it’s JP.
“Peters aside, the Eagles have to love what they saw from Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the playoffs, who more than held his own. After a rough start to his career, Big V has slowly but surely gotten better. My guess is that there are differing opinions on the second floor of the NovaCare Complex on whether or not Vaitai should be viewed as a long-term starter.
“Either way, the Eagles need to add to their offensive tackle pipeline. When the Dallas Cowboys lost Tyron Smith for a couple games, their offense completely fell apart. Credit crappy depth, as well as crappy adjustments by their coaching still, but it remains a lesson learned on the importance of depth at that position.
“The Eagles will have to decide if they want to pay Torrey Smith $5,000,000 this season, or part ways with him. In my view, he did not play well enough in 2017 to justify that price tag. If Smith agrees to a pay cut, then the Eagles should consider keeping him. If not, they are better served using those resources elsewhere.
“The Eagles are set at two receiver spots with Alshon Jeffery, and slot receiver Nelson Agholor. Beyond them, Mack Hollins showed some promise as a rookie, but it’s too soon to rely on him as your No. 2 receiver heading into 2018. That is why I believe wide receiver is a position the Eagles need to continue to look to upgrade this offseason.
“I’ll also note here that the Eagles need a returner. If they can find a receiver or running back who doubles as a return specialist, that would be ideal.
“The Eagles got unexpectedly very good play out of Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks this season after losing Jordan Hicks to a ruptured Achilles. Bradham is a free agent, Kendricks is making a lot of money, and Hicks may not immediately be the same player he was, pre-injury. He’ll also be in the final year of his deal in 2018.
“No matter how it all shakes out with those three linebackers, the Eagles need to add depth at the position, which was exposed at times this year.
“Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan are a good duo on the interior of the Eagles’ defensive line, though Jernigan slowed down as the season progressed. Beyond them, depth could be thin if Beau Allen bolts in free agency, which is a decent possibility, as some teams out there may view him as a starter.
“The Eagles need to keep adding to their depth along the line, both at DT and DE, but maybe more urgently at DT.”