Philadelphia Eagles focus on defense and special teams in free agency

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It wasn’t a full-on frenzy for the Philadelphia Eagles in the first day of free agency, but they certainly made a splash by signing five players. CB Bradley Fletcher and LB Jason Phillips signed 2-year deals with the team, while TE James Casey, S Patrick Chung  and DL Isaac Sopoaga struck 3-year deals.

The fact that four of the five deals made were with the defensive players reflects Philadelphia’s strongest overall need. And with the release of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowed to walk into free agency, replacing the severely depleted Eagles secondary is chief among the priorities for this team.

Unlike that infamous summer in 2011, the Birds aren’t waving money around at the biggest names available in free agency. Rather, they have so far taken a  more low-key approach, inking lesser-known players who they believe will truly make an impact on the team. There was also a decided emphasis on strong special teams performances with these signings.

Some background on each player:

S Bradley Fletcher – Fletcher (6-0, 200) was a third round selection of  the St. Louis Rams in 2009 out of Iowa.  In four seasons with the Rams, he posted 169 tackles and five interceptions, starting in 26 of 43 games. The 26-year-old played in all 16 games in 2012, making four starts and notching 25 tackles, eight passes defensed, one forced fumble and one sack. Bradley’s best season came in 2010 when he started in 15 of 16 games and led the team with four interceptions.

TE James Casey – Casey  (6-3, 240)was a fifth round draft choice of Houston in 2009 out of Rice University, where he was a running back on the team. He is a versatile presence, playing in 61 games (20 starts) in four years with the Texans as both a fullback and tight end. The 28-year-old set career highs in 2012 in receptions (34), receiving yards (330) and touchdowns (3). He has notched a total of 66 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career.

S Patrick Chung – Chung (5-11, 210) was a second round pick for the Patriots in 2009. Head coach is familiar with Chung’s skill set, as the player was a four-year starter at Oregon. In four seasons with New England, he totaled 235 tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks, and 19 passes defensed. Chung has played in 50 games in the NFL with 30 starts and has  racked up 25 special teams tackles. In a win over the Miami Dolphins on 10/4/10, Chung blocked a punt, blocked a field goal and returned an interception for a touchdown, all in the same game.

LB Jason Phillips – Phillips (6-1, 240) was a fifth round selection of Baltimore in 2009 out of Texas Christian University. He  ultimately spent  time with both the Ravens and Carolina Panthers in his four-year career as a reserve linebacker and special teams contributor, appearing in 29 total games. The 27-year-old played in all 16 games (two starts) for the Panthers in 2012 and led the team with 16 special teams tackles.

DL Isaac Sopoaga – Sopoaga (6-2, 330) has been a key contributor to the 49ers defensive line over the last nine seasons, recording 447 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 125 career games (80 starts). He was originally a fourth-round pick from Hawaii of the 49ers in 2004.  Sopoaga has experience at both defensive tackle and nose tackle. In 2012, Sopoaga played in 15 games (10 starts) and amassed 55 tackles and one sack. He also had eight tackles and one sack in the postseason. At 31-years old Sopoaga is older than than the rest of the free agent signings but his experience, versatility and success in a 3-4 defense speak for themselves.

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