Last week, we profiled three free agents the Eagles could consider trying to sign, which were all of the "bargain" variety. Today, we'll profile three more role players who all fit that bargain theme once again. In other words, Jairus Byrd will not be found below.
Last offseason, the Eagles had former Cowboys OLB Victor Butler (6'2, 245) in for a visit, but Butler wound up following his defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to New Orleans. Butler was buried on the depth chart behind Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer in Dallas, but when he got his opportunities, he made the most of them. During his career in Dallas, he registered a sack every 36.5 times he got an opportunity to rush the passer.
By comparison, here is a chart how many times 3-4 OLBs (minimum of 7 sacks) had to rush the passer this past season to get a sack. The lower the number on the right, the better:
Marcus Benard is similar to Butler in that regard. In four seasons with the Browns and Cardinals, Benard has registered a sack every 32.2 times he has had an opportunity to rush the passer, which is outstanding.
In addition to his 3.5 sacks in 2013, Benard also knocked the QB down 10 times, according to ProFootballFocus. That was tied for 8th in the league among 3-4 OLBs, which is extra impressive considering the low number of opportunities Benard received. A list of the 3-4 OLB knockdown leaders last season, and the number of times they rushed the passer.
Note that Benard had less than half the number of opportunities to rush the passer as anyone on that list, and less than 1/3 of four of those players.
Benard's price tag will be dirt cheap, and he could be an interesting option for the Eagles to pursue for depth at OLB.
However, Benard does have some red flags. In 2011, he crashed his motorcycle after practice and was done for the season after playing in just four games. It appears as though Benard was being reckless.
Browns defensive end Marcus Benard was driving "at a high rate of speed" and crossed four lanes before crashing his motorcycle into a guardrail, according to a police report.
Benard was thrown an estimated 241 feet after slamming his Can-Am Spyder into the guardrail on Monday after practice. Benard, who broke his hand in the wreck, has been charged with driving under suspension and reckless operation.
I'll do that math for you. 241 feet = Approximately 80 yards. Benard is lucky to be alive.
In 2012, Benard dislocated his elbow in a preseason game against the Eagles, and the Browns waived him.
2011 and 2012 just happen to line up with Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis' tenure in Cleveland as their LB coach. Davis will know Benard well, but their paths crossed during the worst period of Benard's career.
Alex Henery' struggles are well documented by now, and perhaps one of the worst aspects of his game last season was his inability to boot the ball deep on kickoffs. In 2013, Henery had kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks on just 41.1% of his kicks, which was 26th in the NFL. Graham Gano led the NFL in that category by a comfortable margin with a touchback rate of 78.8%.
Gano also hit on 24 of 27 FG attempts, and was 6 for 6 on attempts of over 50 yards. Henery is just 2 for 5 on kicks from beyond 50 for his career.
Gano's career numbers aren't very good, but he had the misfortunte of playing with a horrific special teams unit in Washington. For example, if you were to look up his stats out of context, they'd say he was 31 of 41 in 2011, for a paltry 75.6% conversion rate. However, the Redskins had 5 kicks blocked that season, and none of them were Gano's fault. If you excuse the blocked FGs, it was more like 31 of 36, for a much more respectable 86.1%.
The difficulty with signing Gano would be the presence of Henery in Philly. Henery will definitely have competition in training camp this year, but the Eagles probably aren't ready to throw in the towel on him just yet. If you're Gano, coming off your best season as a pro, how willing would you be to go to Philly to compete with a guy who is a former 4th round pick that the team may give the nod to if the competition is near even? To sign Gano, you'd probably have to commit to him as being "the guy." In other words, you'd probably have to cut Henery to sign Gano, and the Eagles probably aren't ready to do that.
Last season, Ginn was 6th in the NFL in punt return average, with an average of 12.2 yards per return. By comparison, the Eagles as a team averaged 6.6 yards per return, which was 27th in the league. He also averaged 23.8 yards per kick return, which was 16th in the NFL. The Eagles averaged 21.4 yards per return, which was 26th in the league. Ginn has 6 kick/punt returns for TDs for his career. Here's one last season against the Ravens during the preseason. Ginn will turn 29 in April, but he still has jets.
Ginn also had a nice year with the Panthers as a receiver, catching 36 passes for 556 yards (15.4 per recpetion), and 5 TDs. More importantly, he excelled at getting yards after the catch, averaging 6.3 yards after the catch on his receptions. That would have led Eagles receivers last year, who, with the exception of Jason Avant. all had YAC averages in 2013 that were higher than their career YAC averages.
Ginn could significantly upgrade the Eagles return units and give them another very speedy weapon in their offense.