Nobody really knows for sure in the middle of March how the players signed in the last week will impact the team. That's the crapshoot of free agency. But there are projections to make as head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman configure a roster that looks so dramatically different than it did at the end of the 2012 season.
Eight may not be enough for the Eagles in free agency, but we now have a chance to break down the newcomers with a bit of long-range forecast for their roles as Eagles ...
JAMES CASEY, tight end
Whether he is labeled a tight end or a fullback or an H-back,
Casey isn't here to take
Whether that means Casey lines up as a tight end, or in the slot, or as a man in motion or in the fullback stance, hey, anything is possible. The idea is to make defenses account for Casey. The hope is that he's too fast for a linebacker in coverage and took big for a safety in space. Casey is 6 feet 3, and he could be a valuable weapon in the red zone.
CONNOR BARWIN, linebacker
Conner Barwin recorded 11 1/2 sacks in 2011 and established himself as a big-time pass-rushing threat off the edge in a 3-4 defense. The Eagles, it is clearly obvious, are going to incorporate a lot of 3-4 into their scheme, and they needed a proven element to get to the pass rusher. Enter Barwin, who saw his sack numbers drop to three in 2012 as the Texans used him in a variety of ways. Barwin played the run well and had 16 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss.
Here, it's likely that Barwin would play on the strong side and rush the quarterback off the edge. He's here to add some punch to the pass rush as the Eagles meld some of the talent they used in the 4-3 scheme into Bill Davis' new-look defense. What Barwin's arrival means for the likes of
CARY WILLIAMS, cornerback
A starter for the last two full seasons in Baltimore and an instrumental piece in the Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012,
Williams has the physical tools to match up with the big-time receivers on the Eagles' schedule this season. We don't know if defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants to blitz a lot or if he plays zone schemes in coverage or any of the X's and O's, so that remains to be seen, but understand that Williams is coming here to play a major role at cornerback.
PATRICK CHUNG, safety
Injuries slowed the progress of
Is Chung the rising safety who appeared to be on the verge of some Pro Bowl recognition in his first three seasons with the Patriots or have injuries set him back too far? Chung says he's healthy and ready to go, and he's got an infectious, positive personality that will be great in the locker room.
There is so much still unknown, though, that it's going to e fun to see how the defense shapes up. The Eagles have a lot of new pieces to fit together in the scheme.
BRADLEY FLETCHER, cornerback
The numbers suggest that
Here, Fletcher has a chance to earn significant playing time and perhaps even start. The Eagles may still use a draft pick on a cornerback -- everything appears to be on the table -- or they could add one later in free agency or via a trade. The team wants depth here, big time.
Still in the mix is
KENNY PHILLIPS, safety
A first-round draft pick in 2008,
So there's a sizeable injury question here. Phillips has a one-year contract and a chance to earn playing time. He's tall and rangy and talented, and if Phillips had stayed healthy his entire career he would have been one of the best in the game, perhaps.
The Eagles clearly want open roster battles in the secondary and throughout the defense. Phillips is right in the mix with that.
ISAAC SOPOAGA, defensive lineman
Everyone seems to have a good idea of how
A solid veteran player who was part of the 49ers' resurgence, Sopoaga has to be strong at the point of attack for this run defense to flow to the football and be successful. He's a high-energy player who has the size and athletic ability to really help out.
JASON PHILLIPS, linebacker
An inside linebacker who has had minimal starting time in the NFL,
Phillips is a hard-playing, physical guy who is just what the Eagles need on special teams if he plays as well as the Eagles think he can.