NFL free agency 2021: Recapping the first week of Eagles’ free agency

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Dave Zangaro
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Recapping the first week of Eagles’ free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The NFL’s 2021 league year officially began on March 17 at 4 p.m., so we’re now a week into this thing.

Overall, it’s been a pretty quiet free agency period for the cap-strapped Eagles.

But that doesn’t mean they’re done. The fact that they were planning on bringing in Adoree’ Jackson for a visit shows that they understand they need help at cornerback and are willing to continue to sign free agents despite their cap situation.

Here’s a recap of Eagles in free agency so far:

Joining the team:

S Anthony Harris: This is the biggest move the Eagles have made thus far, adding the 29-year-old safety on a one-year, $5 million deal. Sure, the Eagles are going through a youth movement, but they still have to try to field a competitive team in 2021 and they had an obvious need at safety. In Philly, Harris will reunite with his former college teammate Rodney McLeod and his former coach Jonathan Gannon. The Gannon connection is what makes this signing so noteworthy. It probably signals that Gannon will be using plenty of concepts from Mike Zimmer in Minnesota and having an intelligent player like Harris in the building should really help install his defense.

QB Joe Flacco: The Eagles are bringing in Flacco on a one-year deal with $3.5 million in guaranteed money. While that’s not an outlandish amount for a backup quarterback, it is a considerable raise from the $1.5 million deal Flacco signed with the Jets this time last offseason. But you have to remember that there were serious injury concerns with Flacco last offseason. He wasn’t great with the Jets in 2020 but he proved he was healthy, which is likely why that price tag rose. And does it really surprise anyone that the Eagles are willing to potentially overpay for a backup QB? They care about that position. From a football perspective, this makes plenty of sense. Flacco is an experienced backup who won’t really threaten Jalen Hurts’ starting role. The Eagles might call it a competition but something has gone wrong if Flacco is starting over Hurts.

S Andrew Adams: This was the first move the Eagles pulled off this offseason, signing the 28-year-old safety/special teamer. Adams has started 32 games in his NFL career but was primarily a special teamer with the Bucs last year on his way to winning a Super Bowl ring. With the Eagles, he signed a one-year veteran salary benefit deal with just $65K guaranteed and a cap hit under $1 million. Adams is a depth piece and a special teams contributor to whom the Eagles made a very small commitment.

Staying with the team:

DT Hassan Ridgeway: The Eagles brought back Ridgeway, 26, on a one-year deal the day after he became a free agent. When he’s been on the field the last two years with the Eagles, Ridgeway has played well and he has familiarity with Gannon from his time in Indy. The problem is that Ridgeway hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’s played just 19 games in the last three seasons. But in 14 games with the Eagles, he has 3 sacks, 6 TFLs and 5 QB hits. He’s an adequate third DT behind Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave and offers some pass rush ability but I’m just not sure the Eagles can rely on him.

LB: Alex Singleton: The Eagles’ tackle leader from 2020 was an exclusive rights free agent and will be back for cheap this season. He’ll be an RFA next offseason.

WR Greg Ward: Ward was another ERFA and will be back for cheap. He’s not an explosive slot but he’s the most experienced receiver the Eagles have on the roster right now and is at least a steady presence for the offense.

RB Boston Scott: The third ERFA, Scott will also return this season. Maybe the Eagles still look to bolster the running back room but Scott isn’t a bad second option. And with Nick Sirianni’s emphasis on pass-catching running backs and getting play-makers into space, Scott probably looks intriguing to him.

Leaving the team:

S Jalen Mills (Patriots): Mills got a four-year contract worth $24 million with $9 million guaranteed from the Patriots. The guaranteed money runs out after the 2022 season but this is still a nice contract for the versatile defensive back. The Eagles didn’t need to match it and they didn’t. After five years, Mills is leaving Philly but the Green Goblin isn’t leaving Mills.

S Rudy Ford (Jaguars): It was a little strange to see the Jaguars make Ford a Day 1 priority but they did. Ford got a two-year, $4.2 million deal from Jacksonville with $600,000 guaranteed. Ford doesn’t offer much defensively but is a dynamic gunner on the punt team. He struggled to stay healthy in Philly.

P Cam Johnston (Texans): The Eagles wanted to keep Johnston and he was interested in staying but ultimately, the Eagles were priced out. Johnston got a three-year, $8 million deal from the Texans. That APY of $2.67 is just too big of a luxury for an Eagles team that is rebuilding and in a cap crunch. But they’ll miss Johnston in 2021.

LB Duke Riley (Dolphins): Riley’s one-year deal with Miami is worth $1.128 million with $637K in guaranteed money. It’s one of those salary benefit deals, which means he counts less than $1 million in cap space. Riley was a special teams captain in Philly but the Eagles decided to let him walk.

DT Malik Jackson (Browns): The Eagles released Jackson at the beginning of the new league year with a post-June 1 designation, which means they’ll carry his current cap hit through June 1 at which time they’ll save another $2 million in space. Jackson’s two years in Philly were disappointing. Thanks in part to injury, he didn’t live up to the three-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2019.

WR DeSean Jackson (Rams): The Eagles released Jackson to save $5 million in cap space. It was a no-brainer, ending his second stint with the Eagles. Jackson is 34 now and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. But he’ll be heading home to Los Angeles to play for a Rams teams that is acting like a contender this offseason.

DE Vinny Curry (Jets): Curry will be 33 for the start of the 2021 season and while the Eagles kept a few aging veterans, it was time to move on from Curry. After picking up 8.0 sacks in limited time over the last two years, Curry still has something left and will be reunited with GM Joe Douglas in North Jersey.

Still free agents:

OT Jason Peters: The 39-year-old potential Hall of Famer has expressed a desire to keep playing but acknowledged earlier this offseason that it likely won’t be in Philly.

WR Alshon Jeffery: Like Malik Jackson, the Eagles released Jeffery with a post-June 1 designation, which means they’ll save another $2 million in cap space at that date.

QB Nate Sudfeld: The former backup didn’t play well in the regular season finale and the Eagles just signed Flacco, so Sudfeld will be looking for a new home.

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Eagles thought they got NRC for a steal last year but the nickel corner didn’t play up to expectations. Now 29, he’ll be looking for his third team in three years.

CB Cre’Von LeBlanc: The 26-year-old fan favorite has dealt with injuries the last couple years but is still garnering some interest from teams in free agency.

TE Richard Rodgers: While we all wait for a Zach Ertz trade, Rodgers is quietly one of the better tight ends still available on the free agent market. He caught 24 passes for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns in a resurgent 2020 season.

LB Nathan Gerry: Gerry was forced into a starting role with the Eagles last year and it didn’t go well. But the 26-year-old was a solid special teamer and should find a job on the strength of his special teams play.

RB Corey Clement: It’s been a really strange career for the Glassboro, New Jersey, native. He went from being a Super Bowl hero as a rookie to an afterthought on offense in 2020. Maybe injuries have taken their toll. But hopefully, for his sake, he’s able to latch on somewhere and get back to being a contributor.

TE Josh Perkins: Perkins was a restricted free agent and the Eagles obviously didn’t tender him.

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