March 13 will be here before you know it. That is the first day NFL teams can sign free agents. This year, there are some interesting names for a team in need.
The Eagles have key spots in the lineup that need attention.
They need immediate help on the offensive line and at running back. Safety was a thin position at the end of 2018, and there is talent out there for the taking.
Could defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence help the Birds? The 6-foot-3, 251-pound pass rusher could help any team.
The Eagles, with Derek Barnett coming back from injury plus Michael Bennett and Chris Long under contract, are OK with pass rushers. They also may be able to strike a deal to bring back Brandon Graham, who has stated he wants to return to the nest.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley could be there. But there are reports he might re-sign with the Ravens.
The Birds very much need help at linebacker, especially in the middle. Jordan Hicks started off great after the Eagles drafted him in 2015 in the third round out of Texas, but he has played only one full season and injuries are taking their toll on the 26-year-old. In 2018, his “contract” year, Hicks was limited in snaps and was not very productive.
The top names floating around beside Mosley include Kansas City’s Dee Ford, but the Chiefs will likely franchise tag him. Same goes for Texans ace Jadeveon Clowney.
But the Redskins’ Preston Smith, an outside guy, or the Seahawks’ K.J. Wright, who played well at the end of 2018, should be there. But Wright says he wants to stay in Seattle.
The Ravens’ Za’Darius Smith is a possibility. He is young (26), productive and gives the Birds the depth they are looking for.
In the secondary, the Eagles found some young, raw talent in 2018 when they pressed the rookies and practice squad players into action after so many injuries to the unit.
Last year, the Birds missed starting safety Rodney McLeod for most of the season. Rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox did a nice job of filling in as a strong safety, but the Eagles could use a young, but veteran, stud.
Enter three-time Pro Bowl strong safety Landon Collins, a second-round pick by the Giants out of Alabama in 2015. He has cleaned out his locker at Big Blue’s practice facility in East Rutherford, and it’s been reported that Collins has told friends and teammates he does not want to be tagged and wants to move on.
Collins is young (25) and durable, and has compiled terrific stats during his four years as a Giant.
The 6-0, 218-pounder has started all 59 games he’s played in. Collins missed just one game in his first three seasons in the NFL. In 2018, he was knocked out for the season in week 13 when he was placed on Injured Reserve and underwent shoulder surgery.
In addition to his three Pro Bowl years, Collins was selected All -ro in 2016, when he racked up 125 total tackles (100 solo), nine tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and four sacks.
For his career, Collins has recorded 428 total tackles (321 solo), 22 tackles for loss, four sacks and eight interceptions.
The Eagles’ best selling point to land Collins is the playoffs. In his four seasons with Big Blue, Collins has played in one playoff game, a 38-13 loss in the Wild Card round to the Green Bay Packers. Collins still might have been one of the best defensive players on the field, recording nine total tackles (six solo) and two defended passes.
The last two seasons, the Eagles have played five playoff games, winning four, including Super Bowl LII.
Yes, Collins wants to get paid, but there is no doubt a player who has won two SEC championships and a national championship in college wants that championship taste in his mouth once again.
The Eagles defense would jump to elite level if they can find a way to sign him.
On offense, the Eagles won’t find much help in the way of marquee linemen in free agency.
Tackle Daryl Williams of the Panthers is there. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2017. Williams is just 27 years old but missed nearly all of 2018 with a knee injury.
The Eagles are dealing with injuries to Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, whose return on time for 2019 is still uncertain, and future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters is 37 and can’t stay healthy. Do they want to take the risk of signing a big contract with another player coming off injury?
Tackle Ja’Wuan James of the Dolphins, center/guard Matt Paradis of the Broncos and the Rams’ Rodger Saffold are all free agents of some note and could help in a pinch. The 29-year-old Paradis has graded well over the last few years and may be a help at the guard spot.
The draft has just one plug-and-play lineman in Alabama’s Jonah Williams. If the 6-5, 305-pounder is still available when the Eagles pick at No. 25, they might be wise to grab him.
The Eagles were razor thin at running back at the end of last year after losing starter Jay Ajayi and Super Bowl hero Corey Clement to season-ending injuries.
Darren Sproles missed most of the first half of the season due to injury and remains a big question mark for 2019.
Rookie Josh Adams had his moments but became a turnover concern for head coach Doug Pederson, who barely played him in their two playoff games.
Wendell Smallwood also has his moments but is not leading this team to a title.
Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers is a generational player who sat out all of 2018 looking for a long-term deal.
He is just 26 years old. Do the Eagles want to take on a massive contract for a running back after all the problems they had staying healthy at that position last year?
Do the Eagles want to add a headache to a locker room that is one of the most serene since Pederson took over three years ago?
Howie Roseman has pulled rabbits out his hat to sign players they targeted. Will he with Bell? Veterans Mark Ingram of the Saints and the Falcons’ Tevin Coleman are likely to be there, but the Eagles might be better off loading up on running backs in the draft.
It all starts March 13. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii