Source: Eagles eyeing Ravens' Graham

Posted: March 12, 2014

FEAR NOT, FANS. As today's 4 p.m. start of NFL free agency edges closer, a source close to the situation says the Eagles are "very interested" in a defensive back who has been to the Pro Bowl.

Of course, corner Corey Graham made that Pro Bowl trip as a special-teams player a few years back, but let's not get too picky.

Graham, 28, played at New Hampshire when Chip Kelly was there. If you watched the Baltimore Ravens' drive to the Super Bowl a little over a year ago, you know he's not a star, but he's a solid cog, a good guy to have in your mix. His utility work with the Ravens suggests that he could play safety, primarily or just here and there.

Graham, 6-foot, 196, could still end up staying in Baltimore. That's one of the things about the 3-day negotiating period before free agency starts: Agents can assess the market and go back to the original team, which might not have ever really wanted to lose the guy. Witness Seattle's reported 4-year, $28.5 million deal struck yesterday with defensive lineman Michael Bennett, a pending free agent whom lots of people thought was set to join his brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, in Chicago.

The Ravens are said to still be interested in retaining Graham, and the same is true for Carolina and safety Mike Mitchell, the other defensive back most closely linked to the Eagles.

In Carolina, Mitchell was very well-thought-of during his lone season as a Panther. Some Eagles fans are upset with the idea of adding him because Pro Football Focus said Mitchell led the NFL in missed tackles last season, but PFF - which is very good in some statistical areas, like targets and catches, less reliable parsing more complicated stuff - also thought DeMeco Ryans had a poor season. It says here that he didn't. The Panthers never thought Mitchell's tackling was a problem. He has smarts and size, and he's a willing hitter.

The same is true for pending New Orleans free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has been linked to the Eagles, here and elsewhere.

Speaking of this space and elsewhere, you have read that Philadelphia is an unlikely destination for the top free-agent safety, Jairus Byrd, because his plan to become the league's highest-paid player at his position seemingly clashes with the Eagles' distaste for overpaying.

A couple of things to keep in mind, though: Just because Byrd wants to become the highest-paid safety, that doesn't mean he will be. There were reports yesterday that teams were dropping out of contention for Byrd because of his asking price, $9 million a year or more. One touted potential landing spot, Miami, signed ex-Lion Louis Delmas to a 1-year deal instead. And, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman never flat-out said the Eagles wouldn't sign Byrd. The way he described their approach and their focus made it seem like a poor fit. But Roseman left wiggle room. He was careful to say that the Birds are always willing to make exceptions for exceptional players.

Along those lines, news broke yesterday evening that the Tampa Bay Bucs might trade or release corner Darrelle Revis, who is due to make $16 million this season. Revis, 28, wasn't that dominant in 2013, coming off an ACL, but he's still pretty darned good. Again, making a guy from another organization the highest-paid Eagle (by a bunch) isn't the team-building approach Roseman has been touting, but when he said all that stuff, it wasn't in the context of evaluating the addition of Revis.

We haven't heard much yet on landing spots for the Eagles who are about to become free agents. Sports Illustrated's Peter King yesterday posited the 49ers as a possible destination for quarterback Michael Vick. As we've said before, Vick wants a chance to start, but he probably wants a ring almost as much. Backing up Colin Kaepernick might not be such a bad gig.

It wouldn't be a shock if Nate Allen lingered in limbo - if the Eagles waited to see what they ended up with in free agency, then decided, what the heck, why not keep Allen in the mix as well, provided what they ended up with wasn't overwhelming. Hard to imagine suitors beating down Allen's door, with lots of safeties on the market.

The Eagles are expected to pursue at least one edge rusher in free agency. They've looked into Lamarr Houston from the Raiders, but Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network reported last night that the Bears are "pushing hard" for Houston, now that they know they aren't getting Bennett from Seattle.

The Steelers' LaMarr Woodley apparently will be released today, but he has been slowed by injury the past few years, managing just five sacks in 2013. Hard to see him as more than a rotational player for the Eagles, and equally hard to see Woodley embracing that role.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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