In less than three hours, the free agency period in the National Football League will officially begin.
The Philadelphia Eagles won’t be going all-in for players like they did last season. Instead they will pursue a selected amount of players to fill in the remaining holes on their roster.
As every Eagles fan is well aware, the biggest hole on the roster is at linebacker, where the team could realistically replace two of the three starters before next season.
There are a number of names on the free agent market that the Eagles might go after.
In no particular order: Stephen Tulloch. London Fletcher. Dan Connor. Curtis Lofton. David Hawthorne. Ben Leber.
Realistically though, who will the Eagles go after?
Tulloch, 27, might be the best option for the Eagles. He played behind a wide-nine in Tennessee and doesn’t want to play in Detroit anymore. He’ll likely require the biggest contract of any free agent linebacker.
Fletcher is 36 and will be 37 before next season starts. But he is a tackling machine and has never missed a game in his 14-year career. I just don’t know how much time he has left as a productive tackler. A year, maybe two. Would it be worth it to sign a player nearing the end of his career? The Eagles will just have to fill the hole in another year or two.
Connor, 26, is far from a household name. He has spent four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, starting just 19 games, 11 last season. He is a good, not great, linebacker who is very good against the run. He wouldn’t be nearly as expensive as some of the other players on this list and he could hopefully start for the next seven to eight seasons.
Curtis Lofton, 25, might be the second best option out there for the Eagles. He’s played all 64 games since the Atlanta Falcons drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft, and he’s collected more than 90 tackles in each of the past three seasons, by Pro-Football-Reference’s statistics. He would likely require a relatively large contract though, as he’s ranked by Pro Football Talk as the top free agent linebacker available this offseason.
David Hawthorne, soon to be 27, will likely be remembered by Eagles fans as the guy who provided the signature blow to the last loss of the season: a 77-yard interception touchdown to seal a 31-14 victory in week 13. He graded 18th of the 50 available inside linebackers last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He would provide an upgrade over last season’s linebackers, but then again, anyone would.
The Eagles worked out 33-year old Ben Leber earlier this week. Leber had nine productive seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings before playing in just seven games for the St. Louis Rams last season. I wouldn’t be a big fan of signing Leber. He’s old and he’s probably the worst option out of anyone here.
If I had to choose who I would most want, based on talent, age, and projected contract, I would go in this order:
1) Stephen Tulloch.
2) Curtis Lofton.
3) Dan Connor.
4) London Fletcher.
5) David Hawthorne.
6) Ben Leber.
Any of the six would be a major upgrade over the current linebackers, and remember, this doesn’t even factor in the draft in late April.