Free Agency

Posted: February 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 53 Comments »

To sign free agents or not to sign free agents, that is the question.  Many of you are against the Eagles dipping into free agency because of what went wrong with the 2011 group.  For those who might have forgotten, here is a list of everyone we signed:

CB Nnamdi Asomugha

DT Cullen Jenkins

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins

WR Sinorice Moss

OT Ryan Harris

OG Evan Mathis

DE Jason Babin

QB Vince Young

TE Donald Lee

LB Rashad Jeanty

RB Ronnie Brown

WR Steve Smith

S Jarrad Page

CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie (trade)

That was an enormous group.  It was also an anomaly.  The FA class of 2010 was small due to the CBA situation.  That meant the FA class of 2011 was unusually large.  The Eagles had cap room and thought they were taking advantage of the situation by scooping many of these guys up at reasonable prices.  That FA haul led to mixed results, to put it mildly.

It is easy to say “we got burned by FA and let’s avoid it”.  You could focus on the draft and let Chip Kelly load up the roster with young guys that he can develop.  There is a problem with that.  The Eagles have several holes to fill.  Part of this is adapting to new systems.  Part of this is due to guys who haven’t played well.

The Eagles have:

1st – own
2nd – own
3rd – owwn
4th – own
5th – own
6th – from DEN (late pick)
7th – own
7th – from CLE (early pick)

You can’t count on every pick turning into a starter.  I think anyone taken after the 4th round has to be considered a backup or role player.

Now think about the needs.

backup LT
possibly RG or RT
backup TE
possible QB to develop
SAM
NT
possible 5-tech DL
backup ILB
SS
FS
CB – at least 1

You don’t expect to solve every problem this year, but some must be addressed.  I don’t think you can ignore free agency and go only through the draft unless you trade back to acquire extra picks.  Think of this as volume drafting.  Jimmy Johnson did this in Dallas and Miami and was masterful at it.

It would help if we knew how Chip Kelly would deal with rookies.  If he’s like Mike McCarthy and Pete Carroll and isn’t afraid to play anyone, then that might change things.  When the Packers won the SB, they had UDFA LB Frank Zombo starting.  7th Rd DE Chris Wilson started (although he wasn’t normal starter).  6th Rd RB James Starks started.  1st Rd rookie Bryan Bulaga was the RT.  Punter Tim Masthay was a UDFA.  2 of 3 TEs were rookies, 5th Rder Andrew Quarless and UDFA Tom Crabtree.  UDFA CB Sam Shields was a key part of the defense.

You cannot count on finding that much rookie talent, but it does help if you embrace them from the start.  Teams like SF and PIT prefer to limit rookies and rely on veteran players.  Both organizations are very successful so it’s hard to be critical of them.

We don’t know what Chip will do.

I’m fine with focusing on the draft and UDFAs, but I do think I would add in a couple of veterans DBs.  That doesn’t mean the guys have to get signed to enormous deals and be elite FAs.  Out of all the FAs I listed at the top, Evan Mathis turned out to be the best player.  He was here on a minimum deal (or close to it).  There are good players to be had in FA.

To those of you anti-FA…I would ask if you are prepared to watch some rookie possibly flounder at his spot.  It is easy to say “let’s go young”, but living with the reality of that can be painful.  As we’ve seen over the years, not all rookies pan out.  You can roll the dice on the young guys, but you must be willing to accept that there will be some long days.

The key is for Chip, Howie, and Tom Gamble to all get on the same page and act accordingly.  If we’re going to load up on rookies, we’ve got to embrace them and play them.  If we’re going to try and win right away, embrace the veterans.  Don’t sign a workhorse like Ronnie Brown and give him a couple of touches a game.  Use him.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Chip does with the roster.  This really is going to be an interesting year.

_


  • http://www.insidetheiggles.com/ CalSFro

    I think Chip and Howie will try to limit their foray into Free Agency, and build the youngest roster they can (I know the roster is already super young). Not necessarily because Free Agency is awful and there’s nothing to be had. Quite the opposite. I think you’re right, Tommy that if we’re judicious and select the right players to sign, we could absolutely pick up some quality, talented players in FA.

    But like I said, I think Chip will make every effort to go as young as possible. He’s a new coach, fresh out of the college ranks with no prior NFL experience. Yes, there’s NFL experience on his staff…but they’re not the one’s implementing a massive culture shift. Chip is. And I think he and Howie will look to accumulate young players who haven’t priorly been inundated with a certain way of doing things. Chip needs guys to buy in, and that’ll be harder to do with players who’ve been in the league and done things one way their whole careers.

    • phillyfan1987

      If you make a GOOD team …you def. want to keep them around each other as long as possible….thats why we go young at FA and young at draft in my opinion. Sometimes Vets are good rolemodels but sometimes they are only here for a check and have no vested interest becoming cancers… bringing in a young guy will lessen the chance of ego while also maybe bringing somone still hungry for the game and the success they can get out of it.

    • D3Keith

      That’s a good point, Chip wanting impressionable young talents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.verhoog Matthew Verhoog

    We need to be smart and only sign the FA who are going to vastly outperform their contracts.

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ll suggest this strategy

      • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.verhoog Matthew Verhoog

        Thanks, i’m not sure why more teams don’t try this

  • SuPaFrO

    i kno i said this before but after Tommy’s list

    backup LT: Joeckle, Fische,
    possibly RG or RT :Eben Britton
    backup TE: Dustin Keller(even though he might be a starter)
    possible QB to develop
    SAM:Dion Jordan
    NT- I am not too sure on which FA but draft in the 2nd round)
    possible 5-tech DL:Knighton( i had him last time as a NT but some say hes more of a PASS DT) Dwan Edwards, Shaun Cody
    backup ILB MAUALUGA( probably a starter else where) same to Daryle Smith. Deandre levy, Justin Durant
    SS: Landry, Vacarro, Cyprien, Mcdonald, Honeybadger
    FS: JariusByrd, i believe in giving Nate Allem this one more year, but still draft a mid round prospect)
    CB – at least 1 Sean Smith, Sam shields, Aquib talib (though i believe he will stick with the Pats)

  • ICDogg

    To be clear, I’m not against signing FA’s. I’m against signing high-profile, high-priced FA’s for this team. Backups, journeymen, guys who need a new chance, I’m all in favor of that.

    • D3Keith

      to take it even a little further, we should sign FAs who have yet to peak or will be in their prime for the next few seasons, not guys who are at the end of their ropes — unless we want one or two for leadership (Vick and Ryans seem fine for this though)

      Of course, those entering their prime free agents are probably the same ones everyone else wants, which his how you end up with the bloated contracts.

      • ICDogg

        I don’t mind having a couple stopgaps so that the rest of the team can run as it should, even if those guys won’t be here long. We can’t get everybody we want for the future at once.

  • JJ_Cake

    You guys are probably going to torch me but, why care about this year, outside of using it for practice. I say let’s suck for the #1 pick. Clowney or the best QB next year. Let’s trade cole and other vets for picks next year.

    This year let’s trade back a little and pick up chance warwick. Trade Watkins, save up the cap by not picking anyone up because who’s worthy as we look to the future?

    • ICDogg

      I guess that type of strategy worked for Jimmy Johnson in Dallas years ago but it rarely does work.

      • xlGmanlx

        helps having Walker as trade chip, the only one on this team like that is shady

    • laeagle

      Not the best way to build a solid football program under a new coach, is it? “Guys, this year I’m going to teach you how to suck. Then next year we’ll magically switch gears and WIN!”

      • ICDogg

        Yep, and there are teams that get high picks year after year and they still never seem to rise above mediocre, even at their best.

        • JJ_Cake

          Yes, but how many of those top picks turn out good. Most of those guys have been busts. Det is the only team who picked two legit stars in Megatron and Suh who still suck, but I think they picked some non team guys as well and their coaching is suspect.

          I guess we could get lucky and get a Kaeppernick or Brady or Bree’s in later rounds, but most of the star qb’s are 1st rounders.

          • mlopy

            Which is why(if they aren’t in love with a player at #4) the eagles should trade back this year and get ammo for next years draft.

      • JJ_Cake

        What do you think the Colts did recently. I agree on it usually being honorable to play your best, but isn’t the top talent coming out next year an enigma? Doesn’t that warrant consideration for trying to at least get as many 1st round picks as possible next year?

        That being the case trade cole and Watkins to KC for future picks. Foles for next years 1st or this years 2nd.

        The nfl should make the top 10 picks a lottery. No one is going to convince me that the colts didn’t use the system to get Luck.

        • ICDogg

          It’s not a matter of being honorable. It’s a matter of establishing winning attitudes, winning ways, winning habits. If you don’t have that with the coaches and players it doesn’t matter what wunderkind you add to the team, the team will never win squat.

          On the other hand, the Eagles are looking toward the future preferentially to winning immediately. So they would want to shape their personnel accordingly.

    • phillyfan1987

      I rather pull a ATL Falcons and break the bank for a QB, if they are all that great, then tank….Tanking will have serious affect on the teams confidence and may get your coaching staff fired before they have the chance to succeed. Everyone expects a learning curve but no one will accept going worse than 4-12 if so we should have kept Reid and let him revamp the roster.

      Second whether we have Tebow at QB (Pls dont ever consider this EVER) or VIck or Foles or a Brady type…I have too much pride to want and root for us to tank…it was frustrating just missing the playoffs and not being in the superbowl.. but not winning more than 4…I was livid!!!!

      • phillyfan1987

        the ATL reference was about how they got Julio if a QB is there for the taking next year…just in case it was misunderstood.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=696449117 Michael Jorden

    I think you have to use a blend of the draft and FA. I’m optimistic for the quality of vets or draft picks we bring in given Gamble now in place and the new coaches being fresh out of the collegiate realm.
    I’d like to trade back in the 1st to add an extra pick.

    In the draft I’m figuring to find 3 or 4 immediate starters (CB, FS, SAM, NT) at best and can fill most of the depth roles (LT, QB, TE, NT)

    In FA I’m not too interested in older players (we’re not in win-now mode) but would look for good fits, younger vets with proven track records to fill:

    SS (Moore, Clemons), CB (K.Lewis), OL (Vollmer,D. Thomas, C. Rinehart)

    Any players I’d bring in I want to be physical, good tacklers, and on OFF good run blocking.

    Maybe some lower tier signings to flesh out depth or provide comp. as well.

    .

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=696449117 Michael Jorden

      Well, looking at it like that I’m not sure it gets done in one offseason either. That’s a lot of holes. And every season new holes pop up where you weren’t expecting. Be interesting to see how it shakes out,

  • http://twitter.com/PhiIs_Goodman Phils Goodman

    Just stay away from 27-31 year old guys who are already established stars in the league this summer. In most cases you will just be paying top dollar for regression in their decline phase.

    There are bargain role players to be found in free agency every year, especially players who weren’t drafted into ideal situations and are looking for their second contract.

  • Iskar36

    I think you need to take advantage of both the draft and Free Agency. There are absolutely players in FA who are worth signing that can help the team both long term and short term. For me, because I do not think we are Super Bowl contenders this season, I really hope they avoid high-priced FAs who have already reached the peak of their career. Because you have to sign them to such large contracts, those guys tend to be risky signings regardless (see Nnamdi), but on a team that is more than just a few pieces away, I think you need to be very careful with those types of signings, and frankly, I wouldn’t be upset if we avoided them all together this offseason.

    What I do hope the Eagles can manage to do is find young guys coming off teams where they didn’t fit the scheme/got caught in a money or numbers game/etc. but show potential to be a quality player (Mathis). That’s obviously a lot easier said than done, but if we are not looking for high priced veterans, I think you can sign several of these types of guys with the hopes that a few of them actually pan out without risking too much money.

    • A_T_G

      I think that last part is especially important. There is not a random free agent generating machine that spits out a group each year for teams to fight over like piñata candy. There is always a reason they are available. Find he guys that were let go because teams needed to, not because they wanted to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.verhoog Matthew Verhoog

      Players that fit our scheme but not the team that they left are usually good targets

  • GermanEagle

    If the Eagles can get one or two of my favourite Free Agents this year I am gonna cream my pants:
    OT/OG Branden Albert
    WR Danny Amendola
    TE Jared Cook
    OLB Paul Kruger
    OLB Anthony Spencer
    ILB Bradie James
    CB Sean Smith
    CB Keenan Lewis
    S Jairus Byrd
    S Dashon Goldson

    • http://twitter.com/sjampendk Patrick

      I still cant believe the Bills will let Jairus Byrd walk, so i dont want to get my hopes up. I will however hope for Goldson and Keenan Lewis. Both are pretty young(28 and 26), and in both cases it seems that they arent gonna get huge bucks anywhere.

      • GermanEagle

        Byrd to the birds! That’s should be the motto this off-season.

        • http://twitter.com/sjampendk Patrick

          You have my vote to replace Howie with that.

  • A Roy

    I’m not as concerned as most about the age of the average free agent. I want some that are older and can provide leadership while doing an adequate job. (Another reason to have kept #20.) If you go just with youth, they’ll want to “get paid” at the same time some of your draft picks are becoming stars. Better to have some of them hire on at 27-29 and age out over the next few drafts.

  • DanJ3645

    Re: Eagles coaching summit

    In the quote from Azinarro the concept he is discussing has been practised by the British Olympic Cycling team for the last ~6years. Dave Brailsford has coined the term “the aggregation of marginal gains”.

    Basically the concept is to look at every little thing, and figure out how to improve it by just 1%. When you make this improvement across enough processes you make a significant performance jump.

    Examples that have been discussed include every rider having a specific mattress and pillow that the team transports with them, to ensure they get the best possible nights sleep.

    Brailsford has overseen the first British team with a British rider win the Tour de France inside 4 years of starting the team, and dominate the last 2 Olympics with Great Britain. Hearing that Chip Kelly and his coaching staff appear to be applying the same concepts is very exciting.

    “In every situation you go in, you’re trying to figure out ways you can optimize your talent… You try to investigate everything that you can from a sports science standpoint.

    (Points to a bottle of relish on the table)

    Is that really good relish to be feeding our guys? Is that filled with sodium and sugar? Well, that’s the way we think. I know that it’s important that if my guys are going to come and eat here, that I need to understand what’s going on in that relish bottle.”

    • TommyLawlor

      Very interesting. New story to me.

      • DanJ3645

        couple of links if you want to see a bit more about it:

        TV show where the ideas are discussed throughout the 5 episodes- http://skyatlantic.sky.com/shows/british-cycling-road-to-glory

        Team Sky official story – http://www.teamsky.com/article/0,27290,17547_5792058,00.html

        One of the quotes from the above article:

        “If a mechanic sticks a tyre on, and someone comes along and says it could be done better, it’s not an insult – it’s because we are always striving for improvement, for those 1% gains, in absolutely every single thing we do.”

        It highlights a key part of the philosophy which is that everyone’s ego is subservient to the goal of winning. If someone can improve something that is celebrated, but also expected.
        Given how Howie has been surrounding himself with strong, ‘football’ people I think that he seems to be embracing this type of concept.

        The overall concept also meshes with what CK talks about by saying that nothing in the schemes is new, it is about execution. That is what marginal gains is targeted at.

        One of the most seemingly trivial ideas discussed in the media is that the team analysed the best way to wash your hands. They then taught the riders to do this, and expect the riders to comply.
        While this seems trivial the improvement from this action was described as, “if one rider has one extra training session, where he doesn’t have a cold, or flue bug, then that will give the coach extra time to improve their skills.”
        If you think about how much impact even a 1 week holdout has for a rookie you can see that if only 1 player participates in 1 extra training session it could be the difference between making the winning play.

        When you multiple that by the hundreds and thousands on little improvements it all adds up to moving from being good to great to world class.

        If you can get the team to buy in.
        Which does support the idea that the team could be looking for humble, goal driven FAs, players who play in the NFL because they work harder than anyone else. These are the type of players who would buy into this detail orientated approach.

    • Anders

      In general when you compare Cycling teams or swimming teams they are miles ahead in terms of sport science than NFL.
      A professional rider have his year detailed down(food, training, everything) to every single day so that his will hit his best when he needs to perform his best.

  • phillyfan1987

    I understand that after the fourth round…you are mostly getting back ups or people that may not even make the roster, but you can always find gems like bryce brown and cedric thorton( whom we could have drafted late but he became a undrafted free agent). Do you think with Gamble we increase our chances of not missing after the 4th?

    Also the thing I Think I know about Kelly is he was able to work with what he had and get the most out of what others considered mediocre or find what who others may have written off and utilize them. I am actually very excited about what pieces we get in the late rounds and the UDFA I say stack up on depth and see who can compete.

    • A_T_G

      I actually think the later rounds have been fine in recent drafts. We have found solid role powers and a few surprises. I am hoping we can improve the early rounds, where we need to find stars and not just solid players. Hopefully the change (and being 10-15 picks higher every round) will do both.

      • phillyfan1987

        You are def. right about hitting on the first rounds (1-3). Nate Allen, Jaquwain(sp) Jarrett.. two years of waisted #2′s on Saftey play… Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney,Brian Rolle(picked him and he isnt here) ….the two positions we been struggling on is the two spots we been missing on

        • D3Keith

          the two positions we been struggling on is the two spots we been missing on

          Chicken or the egg? Part of the reason we’re struggling is because we’ve been missing.

    • TommyLawlor

      There are players to be found late/UDFAs, but you can’t count on them. You can’t expect to find 2 starters from the 6th round on. Depth/competition, but projecting them as starters would be too much.

  • http://twitter.com/MFlicker Mike Flick

    I think it may be easier this year to integrate FA into the team. Because with a new coaching staff, everything is new.

    Normally you have a new guy competing against a guy who knows the coaches, and in a system where everyone else is comfortable. So he is a higher paid but less experienced in what the coaches want which makes a possibly awkward situation.

    This off-season that won’t happen.

  • nopain23

    I’m all for signing Landry but not at 6 mil per year. 6 mil guaranteed is ok.
    I know he has had injury problems but he was healthy all of last year and maybe this new sports science guy can keep those Achilles of his in check. Landry could be an enforcer in our new aggressive scheme .

  • Arby1

    I’d just add backup C to the list unless you think Reynolds improved enough by the end of the year. Anyway, couldn’t hurt to upgrade.

  • mark_in_jax

    Sign a cb (toler/houston/butler,etc) and draft milliner with our 1st. would love to draft cb/cb/s with 1/2/3 (sort of like 2002) but unsure of front office patience. if no patience, sign cb/s/cb. both lines will be fine. if we really want to go 3-4 go get kruger (or spencer to make those people who wanted him in draft happy).

  • Chris

    When is the last time a QB did not go in the first round? I don’t know if this year’s qb crop is getting no buzz because of how vastly different it is star power wise compared to last year or if it is because each top qb this year has such obvious flaws.

    With that said, is there any way the first round goes without a QB with the other positions being so much stronger like O-line, D-line, etc? Or will one to multiple teams pull the trigger on a qb since qbs generally get overdrafted?

  • T_S_O_P

    If Buffalo franchise Byrd they can then trade him – right?

    If so, and presuming a deal can be worked, would anyone consider B Graham by means of compensation for Byrd?

    This is a thoroughly researched post, i.e. I am presuming that they will still run the 4-3 in upstate New York.

    • D3FB

      Mike Pettine took over the Defense. He learned at the feet of Rex Ryan (some pun intended). Not sure Graham has a home in that D either.

  • austinfan

    Free agency is no different than the draft, focus on value, don’t “reach.”

    In free agency, that means avoiding guys like Kruger or Goldson coming off career years who will be relatively highly paid and have more downside than upside (i.e., they played well enough relative to their raw talent they’re unlikely to play better, but have played significantly worse in the past and may do so in the future). Also, beware of players who look good because of their fit in a scheme, Kruger once again.

    Mathis is a great example of a player who was a bargain because he was a bad fit on his previous teams but a good fit for what the Eagles planned to do.

    If you do pay top dollar, pay it for an elite player at an age where he can be expected to sustain his performance for three years or more (i.e. until most of the dead money is exhausted). Vincent, Runyan are good examples.

    The FAs they should look at are the ones coming off their first contract, who have just recently begun to start, and have significant upside but who won’t be overly expensive. It’s usually safer to give big money to your own free agents who you know intimately than someone else’s player – because if they were so good, why did that team let them walk in favor of someone else they paid. With ascending players, if you miss on one or two, it won’t cripple you cap wise. Emmons is a good example.

  • BC1968

    I heard the eagles signed Wang. That took balls.

    • ICDogg

      They’re going to convert him into a D tackle and have a front 3 of Dixon, Cox, and Wang.

      • D3Keith

        What are we, 12?

        *giggles*

  • xlGmanlx

    FA has its place, but is better served locating depth. Obviously everyone wishes they drafted better, but better teams build through draft and upgrade depth with FA. I’m hoping gamble and roseman start to improve on their mid tier FA signings.