5 Philadelphia Eagles Starters Who Will Likely Be Gone In 2014
5 Key Eagles Players May Not Return In 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles posted a 10-6 record on their way to a division championship in Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach. Once one of the league's most dysfunctional franchises, the Eagles have rebuilt their offense, defense and special teams on-the-fly over the past year. The team infused the roster with younger talent and has quickly repositioned itself as a contender for several years to come.
Led by 24-year-old revelation, Nick Foles, the Eagles now feature one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. And with the emergence of young impact defenders like top slot corner Brandon Boykin, the defense played significantly better in the second half of the season. The team supplemented this infusion of youth by also acquiring numerous reasonably priced veterans during the 2013 offseason. This approach has ensured that the Eagles are positioned well under the NFL's salary cap heading into the 2014 offseason.
According to eaglescap.com, the Eagles have close to $20 million in salary cap space for the upcoming year. While this cushion allows the team to bring back some key veterans, the majority of the cap space will likely be used to offer extensions to critical pieces such as Jason Kelce and DeMeco Ryans. While not a windfall, it is enough space to keep their key playmaker in place and make specific upgrades in need areas.
With an emphasis on extending the contracts of core playmakers and replacing underperforming personnel, a handful of quality starters on offense and defense will either not be offered contracts or cut before roster bonuses are due in March. Here are five players who made an impact in 2013 and are unlikely to return in 2014.
Riley Cooper showed good rapport with Foles, excelled as a blocker and graded out as a top-40 wide receiver in 2013. While his reception, yardage and touchdown totals were well beyond what he has produced in previous years, his inability to get consistent separation still makes him replaceable.
Though Cooper's skill set is a schematic fit for Kelly's offense, the Eagles are more likely to install Jeremy Maclin as the team's starting X wide receiver opposite DeSean Jackson next season. If fact, Maclin has already been rumored to have a deal in place with the Eagles. While Maclin's contract will most likely be a one-year "prove it" deal, Riley Cooper flashed enough big play potential in a handful of blowout wins that one of the 31 other NFL teams is sure to overpay for his services in 2014.
Meanwhile, Maclin's per-game production in 2010-12 still trumps Cooper's breakout 2013 season. Given the choice, the Eagles are more likely to take a flier on the undervalued Maclin than sign Cooper to a $20 million-plus multi-year deal.
The former second-round pick has been a starter since he entered the NFL in 2010 and is coming off a career-high 94 tackles in 2013. Playing a key role in Billy Davis' defense, he enjoyed his most productive year since his rookie season.
However, the Eagles have also become intimately familiar with Nate Allen's limitations over the past four years and are looking forward to Earl Wolff emerging as a true playmaker in the back of the secondary in 2014. A team less familiar with Allen's weaknesses will likely offer him more money than Philadelphia is willing to spend this offseason.
Brent Celek was an efficient pass catcher and elite run blocker in the Eagle's up-tempo offense in 2013. He embraced his blocking role and stepped forward as true team leader. However, his cap number for the upcoming year is $4 million. This is expensive for a player who caught just 32 passes on 50 targets.
With Zach Ertz primed for an every-down role in 2014, and the slightly cheaper James Casey emerging as an effective run blocker down the stretch, Celek will likely be asked to restructure his deal or be cut. Given this choice, after a late-career coming out party in 2013, Celek would likely decline the Eagles' offer and opt to sign on with a team in need of a versatile, every down tight end.
Patrick Chung is owed $3.25 million in 2014 and is coming off a abysmal 2013 where he graded out as the 71-ranked NFL safety by profootballfocus.com. Chung's game tape shows him getting relentlessly burned by opposing receivers and tight ends and often taking bad angles on running backs. Most egregiously, Chung forced zero turnovers in 2013. Despite a second-round pedigree, he has been exposed as a liability against both the run and pass and will surely be cut by the Eagles in the weeks ahead. Sadly, his days left in the league may also be numbered.
With Nick Foles emerging as the Eagles' franchise quarterback of the future, and the team recently spending a fourth round draft pick on Matt Barkley, Michael Vick no longer has a defined role in Philadelphia.
While the team appreciates his veteran leadership, Vick has publicly stated that he desires a starting gig. Even at the advanced age of 34, because this year's quarterback market is a bare cupboard, a handful of teams in need of a quarterback upgrade for a playoff run will surely offer the dual-threat Vick more than the Eagles can reasonably offer.