Who will stay and who will go?

Kicker Alex Henery can expect to face competition in training camp this summer, according to Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.    YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Kicker Alex Henery can expect to face competition in training camp this summer, according to Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.    YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 08, 2014

Chip Kelly confirmed on Monday that Nick Foles will be his starting quarterback heading into the offseason. With that obvious statement out of the way, here are some trickier questions and our attempt to answer them as the Eagles head into Kelly Year No. 2:

1. Which veterans will have to restructure their contracts to return?

Assuming the Eagles want to bring back any of the following players in 2014, it is possible some will have to rework their contracts (read: take a pay cut) if they would like to return. Linebacker Trent Cole once seemed destined to be jettisoned, but he had a strong second half. He is 31 and scheduled to make $5 million next season. Guard Todd Herremans, like Cole at a new position, improved as the season progressed. His $3 million salary and cap number ($3.6 million) aren't outrageous. Brent Celek's receiving numbers dropped and Zach Ertz certainly will get more snaps next year, but he was the team's best blocking tight end. He is slated to make $4 million. Jason Avant would be an invaluable member of any team, but his production dipped. He was more of a blocker than receiver by season's end. DeMeco Ryans' 2014 salary is a hefty $6.8 million. The linebacker is the defensive leader and a solid run stopper, but he was a liability in pass coverage. Left tackle Jason Peters returned from a ruptured Achilles tendon and was named an all-pro. He stands to make $9.65 million in the last year of his contract, and the Eagles may be open to lowering that number and extending his deal.

2. Who will be the backup quarterback?

Michael Vick will become a free agent, and there appears to be little reason to believe he will be back as No. 2 after Foles. If that's the case, Matt Barkley jumps up the depth chart, but Kelly may want someone with more experience. There aren't many attractive options in free agency. Barkley's offseason development will be important, especially if the Eagles have any interest in drafting a quarterback after the first round.

3. What will the Eagles do at wide receiver?

Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are slated to become free agents. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said that the door was open to both possibly returning. Their worth on the open market certainly will factor into signing both, but neither should break the bank. The Eagles aren't likely to sign any big-name free-agent receivers, but they could be inclined to draft one in the early rounds, especially considering the depth at the position in this year's class.

4. What will the Eagles do at safety?

Roseman conceded that the Eagles may have to reconsider how they evaluate the position. It has become one of the most difficult to effectively fill. Nate Allen will be a free agent and was steady from October on, but he never stood out. Earl Wolff will get every chance to start in Season Two. Patrick Chung was probably the worst of last season's free-agent additions. He won't be back. The Bills' Jarius Byrd and the Browns' T.J. Ward will be free agents, but the Eagles may not be willing to meet their price.

5. Which of the other free agents could be back?

 

Punter Donnie Jones is likely a slam dunk to return after signing a one-year deal. He had a Pro Bowl-worthy season. Safety Colt Anderson led in special-teams tackles again, but isn't an option on defense. Safety Kurt Coleman may get an invite back, but no guarantees. Defensive end Clifton Geathers' spot in the rotation could be filled by Joe Kruger, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Linebacker Phillip Hunt missed the season with a knee injury and may not have ever been a scheme fit. Defensive end Cedric Thornton is an exclusive-rights free agent and isn't going anywhere.

6. Will Alex Henery be back?

If he's back, he won't be the only kicker in training camp. The Eagles made the mistake of not having competition last year, but Roseman said there will be rivals this year. Henery's field-goal percentage has gotten worse in each of his three seasons, he missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt in Saturday's playoff game, and he doesn't have a booming leg for kickoffs and long field goals. But are there better options out there?

 

7. Will Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher return?

 Considering what the Eagles paid and the relatively low expectations, the starting cornerbacks were successful free-agent signings. Neither has elite speed, but they are long, physical, and not afraid to tackle. The key date for Williams will be March 16 - the fifth day of the new league year when the Eagles have the option to pick up his fully guaranteed 2014 salary of $4.75 million. Fletcher has one year at $2.9 million remaining on his deal. Both should return as the Eagles try to find young potential replacements.

8. What about young players who may not fit the defensive scheme?

Linebacker Brandon Graham and defensive end Vinny Curry were productive pass rushers percentage-wise, but they played only 27 and 26 percent of snaps this season. Neither was an ideal fit for a 3-4 two-gap scheme. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis found ways to adapt to the former 2010 first-round and 2012 second-round selections' skill set, but they should be more than part-time players. Graham's cap hit in the last year of his contract is $3.2 million.

9. Who needs to step up next season?

Aside from the obvious - Foles, everyone else - defensive end Fletcher Cox and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks have room for growth in their third seasons. Cox was stunted briefly by the move to a 3-4 and new responsibilities. He adjusted and played well, but wasn't consistent. The Eagles' 2012 top pick has a world of natural ability, but he got lost for long stretches in his second season. Kendricks took a jump after his rookie year, but still had lapses. He's still only 23 and his athleticism is off the charts. But his height (5-foot-11) hindered him in coverage. Tackle Lane Johnson, defensive lineman Bennie Logan, Ertz, and Wolff had promising rookie seasons, but need to take the next step.

10. Who could be in line for more money?

Receiver DeSean Jackson said he wants his five-year, $47 million contract restructured. The Eagles may be willing to work something out to get the 2014 cap figure down, but it's unlikely they will give him new money. He put up career numbers, but so did running back LeSean McCoy, who earned all-pro and Pro Bowl honors - unlike Jackson. Center Jason Kelce is eligible to have his rookie contract extended. The Eagles probably will try to get him sewn up for the foreseeable future.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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