I’m very happy with the Eagles start to free agency. Others aren’t. I understand those that were hoping for bigger moves. The Eagles didn’t add anyone yesterday that is likely to make the Pro Bowl. They didn’t add any blue chip players.
Go back to 2011. Nnamdi was the bluest of blue chippers. Cullen Jenkins was a notch below. DRC had even more raw talent than Nnamdi. Ronnie Brown was a versatile, workhorse RB coming here to be a backup. Vince Young was an incredibly talented QB coming to a team that seemingly got the best out of all QBs. Jenkins was the only non-1st rounder of that group. Those players had incredible potential.
Think about the guys from 2011 who worked out the best…Evan Mathis, Jason Babin, and Derek Landri. Mathis was a perfect fit for Howard Mudd’s blocking scheme and has developed into a Pro Bowl level player. Babin had an amazing 2011 season because he was a great fit for Jim Washburn’s system. Landri thrived while getting regular snaps in a defense that let him attack. Babin was the only former 1st rounder of that group and was long removed from that.
You don’t just add talent. You need to add guys who fit what you do. You also prefer players who can stay hungry, motivated, and focused. Brown and Young were coming here to be backups. Those were lesser jobs. I’m sure that was a bit awkward. Nnamdi and Jenkins were older guys that had great track records.
This time the Eagles got guys with something to prove. They got players who are hungry to show doubters that they can be top players. Casey wanted to be a bigger part of the offense. Fletcher wants to be a full time starter again. Chung wants to be a full time starter again. Sopoaga is the established vet coming in here, but he’s not a blue chip talent with Pro Bowls all over his resume. He’s still a grinder, a NT who embraces doing the dirty work. And Jason Phillips is here to earn a roster spot and show he belongs in the league.
I can’t promise you all of these guys will pan out. History says maybe 3, maybe 4 will. Heck, there’s no guarantee of even that. I do really like the fact we’re getting these kinds of players. Chip Kelly is a new coach. He needs players that are coachable. He doesn’t need established stars that will try to do things their way. Chip needs guys that will buy in.
One of the other reasons behind these moves, there were no elite CBs or Safeties available in FA. There were more talented guys than Fletcher and Chung, but those players were looking for mega-bucks. I have nothing against paying huge money to a player, but you want a return on your investment. The Eagles paid Jon Runyan huge money. He was worth it. The Eagles paid Jevon Kearse huge money. He was worth it in 2004. Injuries got the best of him after that.
If you don’t see players you love, then don’t go overpaying for guys who aren’t worth it. It feels like those players are less likely to pan out. Maybe they thrived due to a system. Or maybe due to being surrounded by top talent. Putting them on a team and projecting them to be the star rarely works.
Think about the best FA signings of the Andy Reid era. Runyan – 2000. Carlos Emmons – 2000. Brian Mitchell – 2000. Shawn Barber – 2002. Mathis – 2011. Juqua Parker – 2005. Leonard Weaver – 2009. I’m leaving out the 1-year deals of Antonio Freeman, Dorsey Levens, Jeff Garcia, etc.
Runyan was the only guy of that group who was a high level, proven starter at the time. Emmons failed to live up to expectations in PIT. Mitchell was “washed up”. Barber was coming off an ACL tear. Mathis was a nobody. Parker was a nobody. Weaver was talented, but an odd fit. Those guys all became terrific Eagles.
There is something to be said for taking chances on players that have talent, but some issue that has lessened their value.
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These moves by the Eagles are part of the offseason. They aren’t the be-all, end-all. Don’t look at this and say “So Howie and Chip think Fletcher and Chung mean the secondary is fixed?” That’s not the case at all.
First, the Eagles can still make further FA moves. Paul Domowitch said on Twitter that he still expects the Eagles to add another CB. I can absolutely see this still happening. The Eagles are going to be patient about it. Let the market settle down and then talk to the CBs that are left. Find someone that you like and see if he’s go reasonable expectations. Sean Smith is reportedly taking a visit today. Things have been quiet for Derek Cox, Antoine Cason, Keenan Lewis, Brent Grimes, and the gang.
I guess it is possible the Eagles could still add another Safety. I tend to think they’ll wait for the draft since they have Patrick Chung and Nate Allen. I’m not ready to give up on Nate yet, but he needs serious competition.
I do think Fletcher will be the LCB and Chung will be the SS. The RCB spot is wide open. Nate is the FS for now, but he’ll definitely get pushed. The Eagles will spend an early pick on someone to fight for that job. If there is any way that Jonathan Cyprien is on the board at the 2nd round pick, he could be the guy. If not, we’ll see.
We know the Eagles are talking to Ricky Jean-Francois today. He would fill out the starting group up front and be a solid signing.
Dan Graziano, ESPN’s NFC East blogger, reported that the Eagles are interested in OT’s Jake Long, Andre Smith, and Sebastian Vollmer. Long is in St. Louis and taking a physical today. If he gets a clean review, the Rams will likely sign him to be their LT. Vollmer was the RT for the Pats last year and would seem to be a good fit with the Eagles. We heard very little about Vollmer yesterday.
Smith is a guy that I just can’t see the Eagles wanting. He was the RT for the Bengals. He can be a dominant run blocker. Smith is only a mediocre pass blocker. The Eagles actually beat him regularly last December. He’s also not a guy in top shape. Would he fit Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense? Think about all the ex-Oregon players have said. “Be in the best shape of your life.” Smith isn’t.
Maybe I’m wrong and Kelly wants a dominant run blocker. This is part of getting to know Chip and how he thinks.
If the Eagles add RJF, go for another CB, and add a RT, they will have the freedom to do just about anything in the draft. That would be pretty wild. RT isn’t a lock to be addressed in FA so don’t focus in on that too much.
The Eagles have the cap room to make these moves. I just wonder if they could really add 3 more starters. That would make this one wild offseason.
And we’re just getting started.