Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Offseason Preview
SI.com is laying out offseason road maps for all 32 teams as they start their journey for the Lombardi Trophy -- two teams per day, from the teams that need the most work to contend in 2013 to the ones that are in pretty good shape. See them all.
2012 Record: 4-12
Key Pending Free Agents: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB; King Dunlap; OT; Jake Scott, G; Jon Dorenbos, LS; Colt Anderson, S; Derek Landri, DT.
List of Draft Picks (pending compensatory picks): 1 (4), 2 (35), 3 (67), 4 (98), 5 (129), 6 (186), 7 (194), 7 (214).
Available Cap Space: 15.6 million.
GM/Coaching moves made: Andy Reid's 14-year tenure as head coach ended on Dec. 31, with University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly hired as Reid's replacement on Jan. 16. Kelly named ex-Browns head coach Pat Shurmur offensive coordinator, and ex-Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis defensive coordinator.
After all those seasons of playing competitive and often playoff-caliber football, Reid's Eagles were an epic disaster in 2012, losing 11 of their last 12 games after an illusionary 3-1 start. For the first time since 1998, the year before Reid arrived, Philadelphia had the NFC's worst record, in this case tying the 4-12 Lions for that dishonor.
And it was an ugly and painful spectacle to watch, as Philadelphia's effort level waned as the season progressed and the inevitable Reid firing became virtually the only story that mattered. Far from fighting for their embattled head coach, the Eagles instead sank into a level of dysfunction rarely seen in Philadelphia, with Reid sending both coaches (Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn) and players (Jason Babin) packing in panic moves and/or belated dismissals aimed at staunching the bleeding.
Alas, nothing much worked. Quarterback Michael Vick saw his season ruined by a spate of turnovers and health issues. The injury-decimated offensive line was a sieve, the secondary was laughably over-matched, and Washburn's wide-9 defensive scheme became a running joke that never seemed remotely funny. The Eagles still had people talking about how much talent they had, but it was mostly wasted talent, and in the end what shone through was a poorly constructed roster and a locker room that lacked dedication and cohesion.
If there was any symbol of Philadelphia's lost season it was the turnover. The ever-sloppy Eagles tied for the league lead with 37 giveaways, including a boatload of them by Vick. Turn the ball over that many times in a season and the turnover theme is likely to spread to the roster and the coaching staff. It did, and now the Eagles are starting over in 2013.
347. Number of yards rookie running back Bryce Brown ran for in a two-game span in late November and early December, when starter LeSean McCoy was out of the lineup with a concussion.
The Eagles at least possess the kind of skill-position speed needed to play a version of the fast-break football that Chip Kelly won big with at Oregon. Running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should thrive in Kelly's up-tempo offense, and if quarterback Michael Vick can stay healthy and take care of the football, his faltering career might enjoy a renaissance of sorts in the zone-read spread scheme. Kelly's attack requires fast, athletic ball-carriers to thrive, and Philadelphia is well-stocked in that department.
120.6. Opponents quarterback rating when throwing into the primary coverage of Nnamdi Asomugha, third highest among all corners (mininum 400 snaps in coverage), according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Eagles don't opt to release Asomugha, who still has three seasons left on the five-year, $60-million free-agent deal he signed in 2011, they have to make the task of rebuilding his confidence job one one for new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Asomugha will have to agree to a significant pay cut to remain on the roster, but perhaps he'll be eager to stay and take part in Philly's fresh start, believing that the Kelly era will help him regain what once were shutdown corner skills.
1. Find out who should play quarterback. Whether it's Michael Vick, Nick Foles or someone else (Dennis Dixon?), Kelly needs to find the right fit for his fast-paced offense. Kelly said Vick and Foles will wage a competition, but the restructured one-year deal the Eagles awarded Vick on Monday certainly seems to put the 33-year-old in the driver's seat. Vick is likely an insurance policy who'll buy Kelly time, and options. With the quarterback crop only so-so in this year's draft, the Eagles probably live with Vick in 2013, and evaluate the position again next year at this time.
2. Identify a man in the middle. With Philadelphia possibly transitioning to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Davis, filling the nose tackle position becomes an obvious top priority. There's not a classic wide-body type on the roster currently, and free agency won't be brimming with them either. The Eagles could do worse than spend their No. 4 overall pick on Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who has a headline name and a body made to hold the point of attack.
3. Upgrade the safety valve. The Eagles need to get with the times and find more of a pass-catching threat at tight end, where Brent Celek and Clay Harbor did little to challenge defenses vertically in 2012. If Stanford's Zach Ertz or Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert linger to that 35th pick overall, Philly should be looking in their direction.
Honeymoons are always exciting, if brief. But the bar of expectation has finally been lowered in Philadelphia, and that's going to help Kelly's cause as his first offseason unfolds, because improvement on last year's 4-12 debacle shouldn't be difficult. There's almost nowhere to go but up.
There won't be any Super Bowl talk for a change, but if the rookie head coach can sort out his team's puzzling quarterback situation, clean up the mess that is the offensive line, and devise a way to get more out of the underachieving secondary, there's no reason to think the Eagles are sentenced to last place in the NFC East for the foreseeable future. After all, the division champ has won 10, 9 and 10 games the past three seasons, so there aren't any dynasties on the horizon.
Kelly's Eagles likely will be re-inventing themselves on both offense and defense, and that takes time and patience. There are a lot of unknowns in this equation. But Philly has cap room to work with, and an advantageous draft position in the opening three rounds, where NFL starters are ready and ripe for the picking. It's a year of transition in Philadelphia, but after the stalemate that the Reid era had become, Kelly will rightly receive the benefit of the doubt as the Eagles go about their renovation project.