The Eagles filled their most glaring need, but it meant allocating cap space usually reserved only for elite cornerbacks. Maxwell is not there yet. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out right in the middle of the pack among all cornerbacks in 2014. He allowed a 63.4 percent completion percentage and an 81.1 opposing quarterback rating when in coverage. Granted, he was dealing with more attention opposite Richard Sherman, but that's not enough to justify his far-from-elite numbers. Luckily for the Eagles, he will be a nice fit in Billy Davis' defensive scheme because it draws similarities to the one he just played in. Unfortunately, he will no longer have Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to provide safety help over the top.
Kiko Alonso — Grade: A-
The Eagles acquired Alonso via trade, but that won't stop us from grouping the move here. He is coming off of ACL tear, and that holds this back from being A+ signing, but he is still expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp. When healthy in 2013, he put together a season that would win defensive ROY in most years. He racked up 159 tackles, four interceptions, and forced fumble. He is a rangy linebacker who excels in pass coverage and can pursue and take down ball carriers from the backside. Alonso was viewed as one of, if not the best young linebackers after his rookie season. The best part about this acquisition is that the Eagles have Alonso under contract for under $1 million through the 2016 season.
Getty ImagesAl Messerschmidt
Brandon Graham — Grade: A
Graham was one of the most dominant edge rushers on a per-snap basis in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished with 53 combined quarterback hurries, hits, and sacks on just 524 snaps as a situational player for the Eagles. The only other non-full-time player with comparable production was Pernell McPhee from the Ravens. He was also very stout against the run and made multiple stops in the run game. With Trent Cole gone, he will have an opportunity to truly break out with a bigger workload in 2015. The Eagles looked him up for about $6.5 million per year and $14 million guaranteed. This is a great value relative to rest of the edge rushers on the market.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
Mark Sanchez — Grade: C
Sanchez put up solid numbers in Chip Kelly's quarterback-friendly scheme, but his major flaws from his time with the Jets didn't go away. He still committed a brutal number of turnovers, and his arm once again proved too weak for outdoor games in December. He received the going rate for a middling quarterback with starting experience, but the Eagles were better off allocating the estimated $5 million in cap space to a safety, cornerback or offensive lineman. In the draft, Kelly could have found a deep prospect to mold for his offense. Considering how many games the Eagles' new starting quarterback has missed due to injury, I understand the need to find a backup who can start and win games. The only issue is that Sanchez is not that.
Sam Bradford — Grade: D
There is certainly an argument that Bradford is not only a better fit for Chip Kelly's offense than Nick Foles but also that he's a better overall quarterback. However, we are talking about two quarterbacks who earn starkly different salaries. The swap forced the Eagles to allocate nearly $11 million more in cap space to the quarteback position. If Kelly truly believed that Foles was not the answer, it makes sense to try and find that quarterback who he believes can win him a championship. Unfortunately, Bradford's long and damning injury history makes him a very risky bet. There is simply too much salary cap allocated to him in 2015.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Walter Thurmond — Grade: C+
Thurmond still hasn't allowed a touchdown in primary coverage since 2011, but keep in mind that he missed all but two games with the Giants during the 2014 season. He is a classic boom-or-bust signing, but his upside is through the roof. Prior to joining the Giants last offseason, he was viewed as one of the most dynamic slot cornerbacks in the NFL during his tenure with the Seahawks. He will likely line up on the outside with the Eagles as they are unlikely to move Brandon Boykin out of the slot. Outside cornerback is a position that he has openly hoped to play in the past. On a one-year deal, this is a relatively risk free investment from a financial standpoint. However, the Eagles will be counting on him to start right away and compete at a high level.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY SportsThomas J. Russo
DeMarco Murray — Grade: B
It's foolish to say that Murray was a product of his blocking, but the Cowboys did have one of the NFL's two best run-blocking units in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus. The good news is that the Eagles graded out as the top unit. He is not the same kind of back as LeSean McCoy in that he can win by forcing missed tackles in the open field, but he is also a smooth runner that can weave in and out of traffic with ease. Alas, there are negatives. He has a long injury history and he's coming off a season where he led the league in touches by a large margin. These are red flags. You also have to wonder if any back is worth allocating over $8 million in cap space in Chip's offense that features multiple backs for different situations based on the down and distance.
Ryan Mathews — Grade: C-
Mathews receives a poor grade not based on the value of his contract or his standalone value but based on his relative value to the team. With Murray, Darren Sproles, and Chris Polk already on the roster, it's tough to see where he can squeeze out a meaningful role. His contract is structured very similarly to the one that the Chargers handed out to Donald Brown last offseason. Brown ended up as a reserve back to begin the season when the entire depth chart was healthy. As a player, he has flashed brilliance as a runner with a smooth running style, good power, and excellent acceleration. However, he also comes with his own checkered injury history. Without a real role to project for him, this seems like a poor allocation of salary-cap space. The cap could be used in more pressing areas instead.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY SportsJake Roth
E.J. Biggers — Grade: D
Biggers offers positional versatility, having played both safety and cornerback, but he was also one the weakest links in one of the worst-performing secondaries in the NFL in 2014. The former Redskins safety is now slated to start for the Eagles at safety following the departure of Nate Allen. Look for the Eagles to bring in competition for Biggers in the draft.
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Cedric Thornton — Grade: B+
Thornton was a big rotational defensive lineman for the Eagles in 2014 and he graded out as the eigth-best 3-4 defensive end in run defense according to Pro Football Focus' game charters. He occupies blockers and allows other plays to make key plays. It was important to re-sign him.