By Ray Boyd

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With 2014 officially behind us, Eagles fans are fully invested in looking ahead to the 2015 season. That may be taking place earlier than most expected, but it is upon us nonetheless.

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Free agency in the NFL has become the marquee time period of the off-season. The Eagles have a total of 10 free agents entering the off-season with free agency slated to begin on March 10th. Over the next two months, the team will put together a strategy based on who to keep, who to let go and who to target.

The Eagles’ 10 free agents are:

  • S Nate Allen
  • CB Bradley Fletcher
  • LB Brandon Graham
  • WR Jeremy Maclin
  • LB Casey Matthews
  • QB Mark Sanchez
  • WR Brad Smith
  • RB Chris Polk (restricted)
  • DE Cedric Thornton (restricted)
  • WR Jeff Maehl (exclusive rights)

 

Almost from top to bottom, this group of free agents is filled with some interesting names that the Eagles will have to make key decisions regarding.

The biggest name in the group is clearly Maclin. The wide receiver emerged as the team’s top threat in the passing game in 2014 and completely rose to the occasion when it came to replacing the production of DeSean Jackson in the Eagles’ offense.

Maclin bet on himself going into 2014 when he agreed to a one-year deal to prove himself to the Eagles following a season ending injury in 2013. He won that bet and is in line for a serious payday either in the form of a long-term contract or the franchise tag.

Maclin was top 13 in the league in receptions, top 9 in receiving yards and top 12 in touchdown receptions.

The Eagles parted ways with a high producing receiver after the 2013 season and losing two such receivers in back to back off-seasons would be less than ideal.

The other name on the tip of everybody’s tongue is Brandon Graham. Is Graham ready to be a starting linebacker for the Eagles?

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The organization will have to answer that question because that is what Graham will be faced with from other teams looking to lure him away from Philadelphia.

If the Eagles are willing to outbid teams for Graham, they will all but certainly have to expand his role. The expansion of Graham’s role means the decreasing of Trent Cole’s role. The decision making on both of their futures with the Eagles hinges on the evaluation of Graham’s preparedness to become a starter in this system.

The rest of the names on the list may not resonate the way Maclin and Graham do, but some of those names are very vital in their own right.

The Eagles secondary was much maligned all season, but is the team ready to allow two starters in Nate Allen and Bradley Fletcher to just walk with no apparent replacement in place?

Allen missed his share of plays on the season, but also posted four interceptions. Bradley Fletcher was Bradley Fletcher. It seemed like he fell more and more out of favor with the Eagles’ faithful as the year went on.

Parting with two starters, no matter how well they performed, means the team will have to commit a serious amount of resources to getting starting caliber players in the fold.

Then, there is Mark Sanchez. The notion of him coming back to compete for the Eagles starting quarterback job may be out of the question following the team’s collapse down the stretch which cost them a playoff spot and which was characterized by untimely turnovers.

However, it would be hard to argue that Sanchez is not one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL and as Eagles fans learned this past season, you can never have too many quarterbacks.

The key will be whether or not there is interest in Sanchez elsewhere that presents an opportunity to either start or compete to start.

Chip Kelly and the Eagles will begin the process of going back and looking at these players to determine who is worth asking back to the nest. This process is the first in trying to do what Howie Roseman said was the mission for next season; to take the Eagles from “good to great.”

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