With the news that former first round pick Brandon Graham had to have microfracture surgery on the knee he’s also trying to rehab from an ACL tear, the Eagles defensive end situation has suddenly become very serious.
Outside of the underrated (just ask him) Trent Cole, the Eagles basically have a collection of guys that would make Barry Horowitz look like a main-eventer.
Here’s how they look right now:
Juqua Parker – he’s a hard worker but never a big producer, and at age 33 and with a cap hit of $4.3 million and an actualized savings of $3.5 million (thanks eaglescap.com), he’s a good candidate for getting cut.
Darryl Tapp – he’s barely more than a rotational guy. If he’s taking starter snaps the team had better hope they sign both Nnamdi Asomugha and a 1995 version of Deion because balls will be flying all over the place from QBs standing tall in the pocket. With a cap hit of $3.25 million and with a potential savings in real money of $2.25 million, Tapp is yet another candidate for the All Out On The Street Squad.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – it’s hard to say this guy can’t play since he rarely saw the field as a rookie third-round pick, but yeah, it’s not looking good. He’s yet another seemingly miscast draft pick that is likely to never really serve a purpose for the Eagles. It’s too early yet to call him the next Bryan Smith, but the likelihood of DT-N being anything more than a jobber is slim. He needs to hope that the new style of defense employed by Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn can find a way to get more out of him.
Ricky Sapp – yet another miscast guy that went from potential first rounder for a 3-4 team to fifth round “steal” to a failed stint at linebacker before moving back to defensive end to ultimately going out for the season with an injury in camp. To say he inspires zero confidence is an understatement.
Phillip Hunt – CFL import. A longshot at best. Putting up great stats in the CFL still means you put up great stats in the CFL. Hopefully he’ll blossom and be the next Cameron Wake, but banking on that happening would be a risky investment at best.
Victor Abiamiri – a free agent with a long and distinguised history of neverending injuries, he’s as likely to be back as Donovan McNabb.
Having a lot of guys at a position doesn’t mean you have “depth” if they can’t play – what it means is you’re in big trouble. And these guys pretty much can’t play.
So with Graham’s status up in the air – and him missing the entire season being very possible – the Eagles are in a bad way at the position. And after a bit of an underwhelming rookie campaign before his injury, having a healthy Graham from the jump wouldn’t exactly mean a whole lot anyway.
The Eagles need to find someone who can play right now. Barring a trade, that’s going to have to be in free agency.
Free Agent Targets:
Charles Johnson, Panthers – The slightly undersized Johnson (6-2, 270) quietly put up 11.5 sacks on a very bad Panthers team this past season. Only 25 just this month, he’s poised to get paid. It’s likely the Panthers will spend big to keep him and he’s said he wants to stay, but with the possibility of a huge free agent payday looming and Carolina likely to remain a crap franchise, Johnson may decide to go to the highest bidder. As he should, of course.
Ray Edwards, Vikings – He’s been a great complement to Jared Allen in Minnesota, and at 26 is just hitting his prime. Over the past four seasons he’s started 58 games, putting up 29.5 sacks. Edwards may be a bit overrated due to the benefit he sees playing across from a game-changer like Allen, but the talent is there. At 6-6 and almost 270 pounds, Edwards has fantastic size. He also has a nasty streak, with toughness evidenced by the fact that he want to be a professional boxer.
Jason Babin, Titans – He’s not young anymore at 31, but like he himself said, he doesn’t have a lot of wear on his tires after getting dicked around early in his career. After a solid if unspectacular stint as an Eagles backup, Babin flourished under line coach Jim Washburn in Tennessee. With Washburn now with the Eagles it could be a perfect fit. Babin is going to want to get paid but will be making less than a younger player like Edwards.
Mathias Kiwanuka, Giants – Kiwi missed most of 2010 with a herniated disc, but he’s just the type of highly talented injury risk the Eagles show interest in, especially if it means signing him on the cheap. With the Giants pretty stacked on the line with Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and LeSean McCoy’s bitch Osi Umenyiora, it’s possible they won’t work too hard to bring Kiwanuka back, and he may be looking to move somewhere he can get a chance to start. That spot opposite Cole has to look good to him.
Vernon Gholston, Jets – OK, he’s a major bust but he should come cheap. Moving back to a 4-3 that will likely play to the strengths of undersized but athletic edge rushers, Gholston could at least hope to resurrect some semblance of a career playing under Jim Washburn. And again, cheap.
It’s not that great a group, made less so by the real possibility that more than one may re-sign with their legacy team. The severity of the Eagles end situation could be alleviated somewhat by a high level of play from the interior, but with both Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley being more invisible than Harry Potter under his cloak, that’s not happening. So with the end crop thin, the Eagles’ free agent focus may have to shift to the defensive tackle spot, but that’s another conversation.
The offense is set, but with a couple key moves on defense – OK, maybe more than a couple – the Eagles will have to be considered a legit contender in the NFC.
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