Chip Kelly on Eagles' holes at safety, guard, and wide receiver
PHOENIX - With the Eagles' big free-agent splashes likely behind them, they probably will need to rely on internal options and the draft to replace departed veterans at safety, wide receiver, and right guard.
"You're trying to see what the market is," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday at the NFL meeting about remaining free agents. "There are conversations going on, but I couldn't say one way or the other."
At right guard, the Eagles will look to veteran Allen Barbre to replace Todd Herremans. Barbre, who spent most of last season on injured reserve, received a contract extension in June 2014.
"We've been high on Allen for a long time," Kelly said. "Versatile player. Feel very confident in Allen Barbre."
At safety, the Eagles could have a competition during organized team activities and training camp. They need to replace Nate Allen in the second spot next to Malcolm Jenkins. The free-agent market has mostly dried up, and although the Eagles could draft someone, it does not sound as if Kelly has an urgent plan for the position.
The top internal option is Earl Wolff, whom Kelly mentioned. Wolff is coming off a season-ending knee injury. The other safeties are Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski, Jerome Couplin, and Ed Reynolds. Cornerback Jaylen Watkins is also an option at safety. Nolan Carroll is not an option - he will compete for a starting cornerback job.
At wide receiver, the Eagles will likely look at Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and the draft as ways to replace Jeremy Maclin in the starting lineup on the other side of Riley Cooper. Kelly said receiver is the deepest position in the draft.
Kelly said he did not want to use the franchise tag on Maclin because it would have been too costly. The Eagles were not enthused about the rest of the free-agent class.
"We didn't think there was another receiver in that price range in free agency," Kelly said. "We were trying to get Mac back, felt we gave him a real competitive offer. Kansas City offered him a lot more than we did. We just weren't going to go that high."
Kelly confirmed that the Eagles granted Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for guard Evan Mathis, permission to seek a trade. The coach said that nothing has come out of that pursuit, that he hopes that Mathis is on the team, and that he is not actively trying to trade Mathis.
"But as I said the other day, everybody on our roster is available if someone wants to call," Kelly said.
'Hint of racism'
Kelly said he was "disappointed" to hear former assistant coach Tra Thomas' comments to Fox-29 that some players on the Eagles feel "a hint of racism." Kelly said he has never heard that claim from players on the Eagles or when he coached in college.
"I don't ever look at the color of any player," Kelly said. "I think in 2015, I don't think that's something that's ever going to [happen]."
Linebacker Kiko Alonso is on track to return from surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in time for organized team activities. . . . Kelly said the Eagles need to get Darren Sproles on the field more in 2015. Sproles played 29 percent of the offensive snaps last season and missed one game. The Eagles' backfield is already crowded with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. . . . Kelly said Marcus Smith showed flashes last season, but he must be more consistent. Asked if Smith will play only outside linebacker, Kelly said, "we'll see."