By making a series of moves in recent days, the Eagles have cleared quite a bit of cap room — with more than $40MM available (the seventh-highest figure in the NFL), Philadelphia is clearly set up to spend when free agency opens next week. The club’s secondary, in particular, could be in need of a talent infusion, and sources tell Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com that defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Devin McCourty will be the team’s “top targets” come free agency.
Philadelphia’s defensive backfield is an obvious area of concern, as the club ranked second-to-last in passing yards allowed in 2014, besting only the Falcons. Additionally, the club has already released cornerback Cary Williams — while not an outstanding player by any means, Williams was a steady presence on the Eagles’ defense, playing on 1,198 snaps, second-most among Philly defenders.
The 27-year-old Maxwell is considered the top corner available on the free agent market, and will be in line for contract that averages more than $10MM per year. A report last month indicated that Philadelphia would be the frontrunners to sign Maxwell, who has only been a full-time starter for one season with the Seahawks. However, the Jets are also expected to target Maxwell, and New York has more both more cap space and arguably a greater need at CB, meaning the Eagles could be forced to overpay.
Like Maxwell, McCourty is the premier player available at his position, and there’s perhaps even less free agent talent available at safety than at corner. Somewhat surprisingly, the Patriots opted to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead of McCourty, so while it isn’t a fait accompli that McCourty won’t return to New England, the odds are certainly lower than they were just a week ago. Jordan Raanan of NJ.com wrote yesterday that the Giants will be interested in adding McCourty, and the 27-year-old should enjoy a robust market starting next week.
The Eagles have been perhaps the most active team in preparing for the opening of free agency, as they’ve traded LeSean McCoy, released Williams and Trent Cole, and signed linebacker Brad Jones. Additionally, Maxwell and McCourty aren’t expected to be their only targets among defenders, as they also reportedly have their eyes on free agent outside linebacker Jason Worilds.