The NFL Scouting Combine gets underway this week. Although I love tuning in for the agility and speed drills, I’m not a big “Combine Guy” when it comes to evaluating future talent. I think a player’s previous game tape from college tells you more about his aptitude for playing the sport at the next level. The medical exams, the interviews, the IQ tests, and the physical drills are all nice pieces of the pie, but what you’ve got on competitive game tape gives you so much more information about a candidate’s ability to thrive as a professional football player.
The Eagles did a lot of housekeeping in preparation for sending a comprehensive team of coaches and scouts to the Combine. They announced the following coaching/football ops changes: • Phillip Daniels promoted to defensive line coach • Carson Walch promoted to wide receivers coach • Mike Bartrum hired as assistant tight ends coach • Matthew Harper named assistant wide receivers coach • Roy Istvan hired as assistant offensive line coach • T.J. Paganetti named assistant running backs coach • Luke Thompson hired as assistant special teams coach • Matt Burke hired as defensive special assistant • G.J. Kinne hired as offensive special projects • Joe Pannunzio hired as director of team development • Andrew Berry hired as vice president of football operations • Greg Delimitros promoted to vice president of equipment operations • Patrick Dolan promoted to vice president of football technology • Jon Ferrari promoted to vice president of football operations and compliance • Jeremiah Washburn hired as advanced projects coordinator…
There are still some tough “stay or go” free agency decisions to be made:
It’s more or less a given that QB Nick Foles will find a starting job in new pastures, but still up in the air are:
DE Brandon Graham: The Super Bowl LII hero was limited by an ankle injury for the better part of the 2018 season. The fact he’s 30 years old and coming off a down season will affect his demand some, “but he has fuel left in the tank, plays a highly valued position and can fit into any locker room. Extension talks have been quiet since last offseason. The Eagles will likely let his market settle to see if he fits in their budget. One source close to Graham put his odds of staying in Philly at 50/50. But the allure of a bigger payday might be too much to pass up.” —Tim McManus, ESPN
WR Golden Tate: A cryptic tweet about the lack of extension talks between him and the Eagles suggests Tate isn’t feeling a desired sense of urgency. He could very well end up elsewhere, as Philly already has a slot receiver, Nelson Agholor, under contract.
LB Jordan Hicks: Hicks has shown he can be an impact player when healthy, but has been bit by the injury bug plenty over his four-year career. That will suppress his market some. If the price is right, it’s not hard to envision the linebacker-needy Eagles bringing Hicks back.
CB Ronald Darby: He tore his ACL in November but should draw interest given his age (25), speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash time coming out of Florida State) and ability. With young DBs such as Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Rasul Douglas in house, Darby’s best opportunity will probably be elsewhere.
WR Mike Wallace: The Eagles will pursue a speed receiver this offseason. Will Wallace be in the mix? He was activated late in the season after breaking his leg in Week 2 but never returned to game action. Wallace, 32, won’t cost much. And he’s familiar with coach Doug Pederson’s system. “The best bet might be to bring him to camp and see what he’s got.” —Tim McManus, ESPN
RB Darren Sproles: He was supposed to retire after last season but didn’t want to go out on injured reserve, so the 35-year-old came back in 2018 and provided a spark to the offense down the stretch. He is highly respected in the organization and beyond. The Eagles might keep the door open for him, but he needs to decide whether he’s playing another season first.
RB Jay Ajayi: Like several other Eagles, Ajayi hits free agency coming off injury. He has been on the mend from a fracture in his back and a torn ACL since October. The Eagles know his medical history as well as anyone, and will have to assess whether bringing him back on a prove-it deal is worth the risk.
Other free agents: DT Haloti Ngata (Go), G Chance Warmack (Go), S Corey Graham (Go), TE Richard Rodgers (Stay), LB LaRoy Reynolds (Go), WR Jordan Matthews (Go), LB D.J. Alexander (Stay). [“Stay” or “Go” recommendations courtesy of Tim McManus of ESPN]
As for what happens with DT Tim Jernigan, the Eagles can free up money by declining to pick up Jernigan‘s $11 million salary before the start of the league year. Look for a team-friendly restructure of that contract to keep Jernigan in the mix.
At the Combine the Birds staff will be looking with special interest at defensive and offensive line guys with future depth in mind. They will also be extremely interested in outside receiver, running back and linebacker talent.