Over the weekend, we learned that while the Eagles had checked in on free-agent safety Mike Mitchell, they were ‘lukewarm’ on Jairus Byrd of the Bills, who is one of two former Oregon safeties that is predicted to set the market value for the crowded free-agent safety class. This morning Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, provided us with an update on the other former Oregon standout, that appears to be garnering the most early interest of any free-agent safety–T.J. Ward of the Browns.
Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward has drawn interest from about 11 teams during the free agency negotiating period, and the Browns are still in the mix, a league source told cleveland.com.
Cabot lists the Browns and Lions as the only teams definitively on the 11 team list, but speculates that the Eagles and Broncos are two of the other teams on the list.
One team expected to pursue Ward is Denver, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
The Eagles might also be on the list because Ward played for coach Chip Kelly at Oregon.
Byrd played at Oregon when Kelly was the offensive coordinator, which makes the idea that he is going to come to Philadelphia to reunite with Kelly, a stretch. Ward on the other hand, played under Kelly in his Senior season, when the Ducks won the PAC-10 title, reached the 2010 Rosebowl, and Kelly was named the PAC-10 coach of the year. Kelly wasn’t the defensive coordinator on that team, but considering he was the head coach, Ward may be more likely to take a discount to come to Philadelphia than Byrd would.
For the 27 year-old All-Pro to end up in midnight green, it might take him taking some sort of discount to come here.
Of the 11 teams, interest is strong from at least several. Others might not be able to meet his asking price — which could be upwards of $8 million a year.
On paper, the Eagles could afford that price, but unless they plan on letting Mychal Kendricks or Fletcher Cox walk after the 2015 season, it doesn’t seem likely that they are going to guarantee that type of money to one player annually. I think Howie Roseman is perfectly comfortable addressing the holes at both safety positions by signing a cheaper veteran and using the 22nd pick to go after a safety like Calvin Pryor or LaMarcus Joyner, rather than signing an expensive veteran. And seeing how the Eagles $10 million a year plus signings of Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha (I know they are corners not safeties) never produced a Superbowl title, I’m alright with that.