How Chris Long And Patrick Robinson Affect The Philadelphia Eagles Offseason

Mar 1, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

From Super Bowl Champion and injured reserve to midnight green. What do the recent free agent signings mean for the Philadelphia Eagles moving forward?

Only one day after the annual NFL coaches meetings got underway, the Philadelphia Eagles inked Chris Long to a two-year deal, per multiple reports. Not an afternoon later, the Eagles had snagged journeyman corner Patrick Robinson for one year. Wonder if Doug Pederson had a conversation or two with Bill Belichick and Chuck Pagano, hmm?

So, who is Philly bringing in? Let’s start with Long.

The 10th-year defensive end played in each of New England’s 16 regular-season games last season, as well as their three playoff games. He entered the year as a starter, but finished as a situational pass-rusher, totaling four sacks over the season.

Now, as all Eagle fans know, sack numbers do not always accurately reflect a defensive lineman’s effect. DE Brandon Graham only tallied 5.5 sacks last year, but his disruptive presence in the opponent’s backfield was undeniable. His hurries last season (40) topped the NFL stat sheet, per Sporting Charts.

Chris Long came in 11th with 27.

Philadelphia Eagles
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Chris Long (95) against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

In short, the juice is still there for the just-turned-32-year-old (Happy Birthday, Chris)!

Is he a three-down starter? Probably not. But the Eagles and Jim Schwartz showed last year that they loved to rotate edge rushers. Long will be a piece in that rotation, and if he can replicate the success he had in New England, he’ll be a valuable piece indeed.

It’s worth noting, of course, that many veterans retire after their Super Bowl victory–not Long. Certainly, after eight seasons with the Rams, he wasn’t looking to return to a bottom-feeder. Similarly to the Alshon Jeffery signing, Long’s willingness to sign with the Eagles shows the league’s prevailing belief that something’s brewing in Philadelphia.

Robinson, 29, was a decent corner for New Orleans over his first five years in the league. He signed a prove-it deal in 2015 with the then-San Diego Chargers and performed quite nicely, earning himself a 3-year, $14M deal with Indianapolis. In that offseason, PFF listed him as one of their top FA CBs.

However, injuries to his groin and knee, along with a concussion, kept him off the field for all but six games of the season. Bringing him in on a 1-year, $1M deal poses little risk to Philadelphia, and adds depth to their depleted CB corps.

Philadelphia Eagles
Oct 23, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson (25) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

Now, there has been plenty of speculation swirling around Philadelphia drafting an impact rusher to line up opposite Graham in 2017, and everyone and their grandmother knows the Eagles intend to attack CB early come April. Per Adam Caplan following the Long signing, Philadelphia’s plans haven’t changed: he cites Philly’s top two draft priorities as CB and DE.

Robinson is, by no means, a CB1. He has only put together, generously, two seasons of decent CB2 play. If the Eagles were looking for that, they would have kept Nolan Carroll. We can pretty safely say he isn’t viewed as the solution for the Philadelphia Eagles’ back-end issues.

If the additions of Long and Robinson don’t impact Philadelphia’s draft plans, then what do they do? Well, beyond providing depth, they accomplish the very same things that the Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack signings do: create latitude on Draft day.

Remember when Roseman spoke about Band-Aids in January? Referencing the cornerback position specifically, he said he didn’t want to bring in short-term free agent fixes. He wanted to invest in long-term starters through the Draft. And until about an hour ago, he hadn’t brought in a short-term corner.

Just, you know, two short-term wide receivers, a short-term backup quarterback, a short-term offensive guard, and a short-term defensive end.

Now, throw on top of all of that a short-term corner who more so needs a Band-Aid than is one, and the Eagles’ roster is covered in flesh-colored plastic that will inevitably end up floating in your local swimming pool.

“Okay, Ben calm down. Admittedly, that Band-Aid joke was clever, and you’re quite funny”–Aww shucks, thank you–“But Roseman’s just bargain hunting. Besides Alshon Jeffery, Roseman’s signing cheap free agents with possible talent, looking to catch a break.”

Well, yes…but also no.

Before the league year opened up, here was my list of the Eagles’ needs:

You’ll notice that 1, 2, 4, and 5 have been addressed with Band-Aids. Torrey Smith’s deal, the longest of the lot at a whopping three years, can easily be dropped after 2017. If his legs still have the speed, he’ll stick around. If not, he’ll hit the curb. Chance Warmack never played up to his Round 1 pedigree in Tennessee, but in Philadelphia, he’ll only have to provide depth and competition in a crowded field of interior linemen. Can he cash in on his potential and earn a starting job?

Robinson flashed some talent in the past, the same way Leodis McKelvin and his cheap, prove-it deal did last year. Can he return to health and regain his 2015 success? And Chris, Long-in-the-tooth (did I really write the article if there isn’t a poor pun in it?), produced situationally for the league’s #1 defense last year. Why can’t he do the same in 2017?

And as much as we may hate to admit it, Alshon Jeffery is a Band-Aid. His prove-it deal does nothing but lessen the pressure on Roseman to get Carson Wentz a weapon in the Draft. If he stays healthy and performs, he could ink a long-term deal with Philly. But he and his three fellow Band-Aids could all be elsewhere in the 2018.

So Roseman’s bringing in Band-Aids, even after he said he wouldn’t. Why?

And here we arrive at our conclusion: latitude in the Draft.

Let’s draw up the likely hypothetical: Philly goes cornerback in the first round. Remember Patrick Robinson is likely a slot guy, maybe a CB2. Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama, Cordrea Tankersley out of Clemson, and Gareon Conley out of Ohio State are the names to watch there. It’s unlikely they go RB, given the positional value. Unless Solomon Thomas drops, there won’t be an EDGE rusher worthy of #14. WR isn’t pressing enough of a need considering the Jeffery and Smith signings. Teams may reach for an OL/OG if they’re desperate, but Philly doesn’t have to go fishing for value in the trenches just yet.

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You can already see how the Band-Aids patch holes on Philadelphia’s roster, giving them the freedom to go CB in the first. But the true beauty of their FA bargain-hunting comes in the second round.

At #43 overall, the Eagles have plenty of needs they could address. A corner opposite their Round 1 selection, a dynamic edge-rusher, a three-down running back to pair with Wentz, an offensive tackle to eventually replace Lane Johnson, and even a young wideout to invest in the future–these are all possibilities.

Which direction will they go? Repeat after me, kids: Best Player Available!

However the board falls, Philadelphia can adapt and select their greatest value. With a slew of talented EDGEs and CBs peppering the top two rounds, Roseman could see a Round 1 prospect drop into his lap.

Players like Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, and Derek Rivers all may get a top grade from the Eagles, but slide into the top of the second. For corners, Sidney Jones might be just too talented for Philadelphia to pass up, even with the heart-breaking injury, while Adoree’ Jackson has physical tools that Jim Schwartz may want to mold.

With a slew of talented RBs peppering the middle rounds, teams may forego one of the top backs, and the Philadelphia Eagles could snag a bellcow on the cheap: think McCaffrey, Cook, or maybe even Mixon. Wideouts like Chris Godwin, Carlos Henderson, and Josh Reynolds all have blue-chip traits that Philadelphia can add to their growing stable of receivers.

The crux of the matter is this: they can go any direction they like. CB2 isn’t so desperate a need, especially considering the first round selection and Robinson signing, in this deep of a class. They can go DE later, rotating their rookie in with veteran leader Chris Long, utilizing the considerable depth of the class.

They can go WR later, because they have Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery already starting–and hey, guess what? There’s solid middle-round depth to this class. And finally, they can go RB later, given the retention of Ryan Mathews, the development of Wendell Smallwood, the agelessness of Darren Sproles, and–wait for it–the depth of the class.

Here’s my favorite part: that entire argument up there? Repeat it for the Eagles’ third round selection. And their two fourths, as well.

Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles general manger Howie Roseman on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Jets, 14-6. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Just look at the smile on the ol’ wheeler-dealer’s face.

Roseman has positioned the Philadelphia Eagles perfectly moving in to April. He has the pieces to field a competitive roster. He’s acquired productive players (Jeffrey, Long), forgotten talent (Robinson, Smith), and young potential (Warmack).

Each addition can earn a spot with a solid performance, or be cut without significant consequence should they sputter. Those savvy free agent signing give his revamped personnel office (looking at you, Joe Douglas) an opportunity to invest, not solely in the Eagles’ many needs, but in the intersection of need and talent.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles Draft: Edge Rusher Positional Preview

Howie vowed not to resort to free agent Band-Aids–that may have been a bit of a fib. But he also vowed to improve the Philadelphia Eagles’ draft record. And he’s well on his way to doing just that.