Free Agency Turns 20

Posted: June 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

It is hard to believe there was ever a time without free agency.  But there was. The world changed in 1992 when Judge David Doty ruled in favor of the NFL players and free agency was created. The Eagles immediately lost TE Keith Jackson, one of the plaintiffs. True free agency didn’t start until March of 1993. And the football world has been very different ever since.

For PE.com I decided to take a look at the best signings by the Eagles and the best players that left.  I went position by position so some of my choices weren’t ideal. I listed Antone Davis on the list of best FAs lost. Was Davis a good OT? No. But the Eagles haven’t lost good OTs in free agency. You have to choose someone. Davis did start after he left here so I went with him.

One player I omitted is Brian Mitchell. And he was a very important signing. He was here from 2000-2002. Mitch gave the STs a major boost and he also brought the right kind of attitude to the team. Mitch was a tough veteran player. He was a natural leader and had a good effect on the young players around him. There are some reports that Mitch was a Redskin before 2000 and then played for the Giants after leaving Philly. I prefer to think that he just appeared out of the mist in 2000 and then returned there when his time in Philly was up. Brian Mitchell was truly a great free agent signing.

What I didn’t write about were the worst FA signings of the last 20 years.  Too often I think people get mixed up. They talk about Dhani Jones or James Thrash as bad signings. That’s not the case. Those guys didn’t pan out as hoped, but they were functional starters on some really good teams. This kind of mentality is also true when talking about movies. People will talk about some new film as the worst movie ever. No movie with a big budget is going to be that awful. The budget guarantees you a competent crew and talented actors. You really want to talk about the worst movies ever made, go watch Greaser’s Palace, Manos or The Sinful Dwarf. These films are so bizarre and so poorly made that they are painful to sit through.

Truly bad FA signings are guys that couldn’t become functional starters or even effective role players.  Like these guys…

Steve Wallace – OT – How many of you even remember this guy? He played LT for the Niners. And was good. The Eagles signed him in 1996. He was going to man the LT spot and protect Rodney Peete’s backside. Things didn’t exactly work out that way.  Wallace was god awful in a preseason game against the Patriots. The Eagles lost 37-10 and Peete took a huge beating. I still remember the game. It was a Saturday afternoon game on NBC. I was stoked to see the guys play, but it turned out to be much closer to a nightmare.  Check out this info from a write-up on the game:

“I told my coaches that I feel I’m not in the position I want to be in,” said a humiliated offensive tackle Steve Wallace, who gave up a pair of sacks and watched quarterback Rodney Peete get thumped repeatedly before having to leave the game with a sprained knee.

Wallace almost sounded like a man ready to call it a career, but Rhodes next best option at left tackle is Barrett Brooks, who played there as a rookie last season with mixed results.

Wallace was cut before the regular season. And of course he went back to SF and started for them at LT for 16 games. He was part of the team that beat us in the playoffs, 14-0. Talk about adding insult to injury.  He never did start again after the 1996 season.

Erick McMillan – Safety – He was signed for 1993. The Eagles thought Wes and Andre were losing a step. McMillan had 22 INTS and scored 5 TDs in his 5 years as a Jet. He seemed like an ideal fit. Oops. He never started a game in Philly and only played here for 6 weeks. This is the very definition of a FA bust…someone that can’t get on the field.

Tim Harris – OLB/DE – The man we signed to be Reggie’s replacement. Harris had 17 sacks in 1992 and was a star pass rusher for the Packers and Niners. However, he was a better fit in the 3-4 and he was awful as an Eagle. He played in just 4 games and had 0 sacks.

Steve Smith – WR – I can’t say I had sky high expectations, but I certainly expected more than we got. His signature play came against the Cardinals when he went to the ground on 3rd/long instead of fighting for the final couple of yards, which it looked like he could have gotten. That play is simply despicable.

Stacy Andrews – OL – Big. Athletic. And injured. The Eagles rolled the dice on Andrews and came up snake eyes. Andrews made Jay Ratliff look like a HOF player. Stacy played in 10 games with 2 starts as an Eagle.  Bigger bust than Dolly Parton.

Chris Boniol – PK – I thought the Eagles made a genius move when they signed Boniol. He was a RFA and great kicker for Dallas. The Eagles signed him to an offer-sheet that Dallas couldn’t match. It felt like we stole a weapon. In his final 2 years with Dallas, Boniol was 59 for 64 on FGs. And he made some clutch kicks as well. Boniol was just 36 for 52 as an Eagle. The big issue? Most of his kicks in Dallas were inside of 40 yards. The Eagles offense was not as good, which meant longer kicks. He was just 7 for 20 on FGs in the 40-49 range in his 2 years as an Eagle. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts or the Cowboys letting you have their PK.

Darrin Smith – LB – The Cowboys were famous for their speedy defensive players in the mid-90’s. Smith was one of the fastest. He was the WLB for them and covered a lot of ground. He was an active tackler, but could also be a playmaker. The Eagles signed him before the draft in 1997 to a 1-year deal. Ray Rhodes put him at SLB since William Thomas was already the WLB. The hope was that the 2 speedy OLBs would be great in coverage and fly around the field. Smith only played 7 games before getting hurt. He was a disappointment on the field even before then. Smith went to Seattle and was great playing for Jim Johnson that year (5 sacks, 3 INTs).

Mike McMahon – QB – I was excited when the Eagles signed him. McMahon had shown some raw ability in Detroit. I thought coming here would mean he would get better coaching and be in a better environment. Unfortunately, Mike got here in 2005 and the TO meltdown really changed that whole team/season. McMahon had a lot of injuries that hurt him. At one point he had a rookie LT, rookie RB and his top receiver was Darnerian McCants. That’s not good. Still, he was in his 5th NFL season and had starting experience. I certainly expected better. He completed just 45 percent of his passes. Yikes.

George Hegamin – OG – Hegamin started 9 games for Dallas in 1997 and looked good. He showed very good run blocking ability The Eagles signed him in 1998, thinking they had stolen a good young player from a quality organization. Oops. Hegamin started just 6 games for the awful offense in ’98. He then got in Reid’s doghouse in Training Camp the next year. He famously had to push the sled up and down the field by himself after practice. Hegamin was then let go when the roster was cut down to 53.

Matt Schobel – TE – Possibly my least favorite Eagle of all time. He made up for his lack of good hands with his bad blocking. And yet…he somehow was on the roster for 3 years. Schobel must have had pictures of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg giving mustache rides (just hopefully not to each other). Schobel wasn’t supposed to be an impact player, but rather a good #2 TE. He started 11 games, caught 27 passes and scored 3 TDs. In my highly unbiased opinion (yeah, right), Schobel had 237 dropped passes and missed blocks combined. He also hates Christmas, puppies, Brian Dawkins, Reggie White, Funyuns, America and cute little kids. Bad, bad person.

Vince Young – QB – I wasn’t expecting football greatness from Vince. And I sure didn’t get it. He came into the WAS game when Vick got hurt. Andy/Marty stupidly called a pass with us backed up deep and Vince threw it right to the Skins. Luckily, Rex Grossman threw it right back to Kurt Coleman. Vince went 1-3 as a starter. And of course his greatest sin of all was…”Dream Team”. Ugh.

Nnamdi Asomugha – CB – I can’t ignore Nnamdi, even though he started for 2 years and had some games when he was terrific. We saw flashes of the guy from Oakland. We just didn’t see that guy enough. The hype with Nnamdi was over the top. The NFL treated him like royalty, as teams made their pitch to his people an then waited for a response. He wasn’t playing games or being arrogant. Nnamdi just had a lot of suitors and things to consider. I was beyond ecstatic when he chose Philly. That’s what makes his pedestrian play so torturous. We expected an elite CB and instead got an erratic one. Nnamdi wasn’t an awful player or anything close, but he certainly is one of the most disappointing free agents of all time.

* * * * *

So who did I leave out?

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama breaks the bad news that…the NFC East is pretty mediocre.

* * * * *

Were you guys happy with what the Sixers did last night? Seemed like a good night to me.

_


  • Jeppe Elmelund van Ee

    Great post as always Tommy.

    I’m no expert on NBA or basket in general. However, I don’t get how you can trade away an all-pro 22 year old player, and in return get a 1st round pick UNLESS it’s a top 5 pick. Why would anyone agree to that? That would never happen in the NFL, not even with Jerry Jones controlling a team.

    • Anders

      I followed the NBA draft. Lets just say that it is whole different world.

      The reason why you trade him, is to go full tank mode. So that they can get the top pick next year and get a true franchise changing player, something that Jrue Holiday isnt. Remember the Sixers did also get a top 5 pick in Noel and he was seen as the best prospect this year, but fell because he is coming of an ACL.

      • ACViking

        Anders —

        Noel was pegged, before his ACL injury, as the No. 1 pick.

        Nevertheless, the kid weighs about 210 lbs. I know he’s only 19. But where at that weight does he make an impact in the NBA?

        This line of conversation is justified under the “JEREMY BLOOM” precedent.

        • Sb2bowl

          I saw his weight and thought “that has to be a typo……..”
          nope. Son, go get a big mac and supersize your meal. You need it

          • P_P_K

            His weight didn’t seem like such a big deal in college but you are right, the kid better bulk up or he’ll be pushed all around in the paint.

        • Cafone

          He’s young. He’ll put on weight. And if he doesn’t? It may not matter. The NBA isn’t exactly a league full of monster centers. It seems like half the teams play a PF at center these days. Big guys slow you down and post play isn’t as important as it once was.

      • Michael Winter Cho

        Just to add to your point, in basketball, there are only 5 guys on the court and so having a truly elite player (or 3) is a must. So it is essential to find them, and getting the 1st pick in the draft is the only way for small-market teams to get them. Unfortunately, the history of tanking, and small-market teams in general, is poor. Oklahoma City is probably the example of the one case where it worked out. San Antonio might also fall under this category (although it happened 15 years ago).

    • HipDaDip

      Jrue was not an all-pro player. The only reason he was an all star this year was due to injuries to other PGs in the East. As Anders said, we are going into full tank mode, but don’t overlook that Jrue’s stock was at its highest right now, after the All Star season, and getting somebody with Noel’s potential and a likely lottery pick in the stacked 2014 draft is a very good haul.

      Before last night, there was no plan for the Sixers moving forward. They were still without a true star and had very few assets. The key is that we got good value on all the trades we made last night, and are in a much better position for the long term.

      “…The hardest asset for a team to acquire leading up to the draft was a 2014 lottery pick… So the 76ers got arguably the most coveted player and the most coveted asset in the same draft. The 76ers saw an asset being undervalued in Noel, and saw the ability to claim a very coveted future asset, and pounced.” from http://www.libertyballers.com/2013/6/28/4473818/sam-hinkie-the-execution-of-a-plan-76ers-nerlens-noel-jrue-holiday

      • Cafone

        I agree completely. It was a brilliant move. It is one of those moves that should be judged positively even if it doesn’t work out because the current team was going nowhere and in the NBA you either have to get extremely lucky or make your own luck.

        • GEagle

          Absolutely!! Fact of the matter is we can’t get good without hitting on a huge gamble. You have to keep swinging for the fences I,e we did with Bynum, and how we are now trying to get the top pick in next years draft after trading Jrue…..Until you hit on one of these Big Gambles and draft a young superstar, we will be stuck in quicksand..,.Hopefully Andrew Wiggins can come rescue this city a year from now

    • GEagle

      it’s actually pretty simple. jrue isn’t a superstar, and nothing in basketball remotely matters until you get a superstar. Until we draft a superstar all the free agent cap space in the world won’t get us anything better then a Josh Smith type and we would be stuck in NBA no mans land, also known as the 8th seed in the playoffs.
      ..
      I adore Jrue Holiday, but he had to go because Nrue keeps us from being bad enough to ever draft a superstar. We have been Bad, but not Bad Enough to ever seriously get better. If you had to Tank a season this would be the year because the next draft has potential to be one of the great drafts in the history of the NBA. It’s Stacked with potential superstars and it’s extremely deep.

      Finally the sixers are willing to sacrifice a season to actually give ourselves a chance at getting better…The Andrew Wiggins sweepstake has begun and if you miss out on the number one pick, there are plenty of studs to chose from: Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, MRio Herdoza, Isaiah Austin, the Harrison Twins…friggin Cauley Stien is even more athletic than Nerlens Noel. The dude is a 7fter who was a wide riecer two years ago…scary athleticism

  • Tom33

    Demetress Bell has to count, right? He was supposed to be a replacement for Peters, but wasn’t even active for a bunch of games. And I’ll never forgive Ronnie Brown for the goal line “pass” – he never panned out either.

    Only other guy that comes to mind is Blaine Bishop. I will never erase the image of Joe J running down the sideline in the NFC Championship game from my memory.

    • ACViking

      Tom33:

      As for D-Bell . . . I think T-Law left him out because he’s in a purgatorial category all his own.

      On Blaine Bishop, I’m hesitant to agree.

      Bishop pulled a groin about 2/3 of the way through the 2002 season and the staff replaced him with rookie SS MIchael Lewis. To that point, I think Bishop had played alright — but I leave that judgment to T-Law.

      Unfortunately, the coaching staff — and I suppose Jim Johnson — made the decision that when the playoffs arrived, Bishop’s experience outweighed both Lewis’s inexperience and the gimp Bishop still had.

      I blame Jim Johnson for having Bishop out there. I blame Reid and Banner for letting Trotter leave and replacing him with the combination of Kirkland and Gardner. [Gardner still has gotten the dust out of his eyes from being in Jurevicious's wake . . . . ]

      2002 was still prime “Gold Standard” territory — which, in hindsight, meant a good record as much as lots of room over the salary cap.

      Now having thought about 2002 . . . I’m sick to my stomach.

      • TommyLawlor

        Bishop was solid for us during the year.

        He was hurt in the NFC-CG and the coaches should have pulled him. That’s on them.

    • knighn

      I think we have to count Bell four times.
      Twice for each of his first names, multiplied by two for just how bad both of those guys were.

    • TommyLawlor

      Tom,

      I got so caught up in looking at old rosters that I forgot about 2012. Bell should be on there.

      Ronnie Brown was mis-used by the coaches. That’s on them. He’s not totally blameless, especially for that pass, but Marty/Andy are more to blame.

      • Tom33

        I wish I could forget about 2012!

        • Mac

          Wait, wasn’t that the lockout year where we suffered with no football?

      • Rage114

        Really? Bell was ignored by 31 other teams and only was signed by the Eagles when it was clear Peters was lost for the season. And at that point, there wasn’t a whole lot of options.
        They paid him a boatload but it was basically a yearly contract.

    • Cafone

      The screenshot for IgglesBlitz on my Chrome start-up page is the “Demetress Bell, Vanquished Eagle” headline.

  • Tom33

    Tommy –

    On your PE.com list, I think the case can be made that Garcia was a better QB signing than Vick based on half a season plus a playoff win? Vick has only had one good year and 0 playoff wins. You mention Garcia as a candidate for best to leave – I think he might have been the best they signed as well.

    • TommyLawlor

      Maybe. Garcia went 4-1 as starter. AJ Feeley played most of the season finale. Garcia then went 1-1 in the playoffs.

      Vick was magical in 2010. He is still 18-16 overall as an Eagle starter.

      • Flyin

        and i believe vick is 10-15 in his last 25 starts. correct me if i am wrong.

  • T_S_O_P

    Greaser’s Palace, Manos or The Sinful Dwarf.

    Ninja Thunderbolt?

    Stacey was doubled disappointing as his arrival was meant to help alleviate his brother’s “issues”. Most expensive miss as we paid both Andrews’ for ZERO return.

    • Mac

      The Ewok Adventure… I triple dog dare anyone who is an adult to attempt to sit though that entire movie.

      And I second your motion on Stacey Andrews “the BIG disappointment.”

    • A Roy

      Plan 9 From Outer Space… which is kinda how the Andrews bros. played .

      • TommyLawlor

        I have yet to see that, but have heard it is truly awful.

  • nicolajNN

    I will start by admitting that I had no idea who the two DTs on the best signings list were so I’ve only done a quick search on them, but could Darren Howard not be on there instead of one of them? He didn’t really live up to his contract, but he did have some good seasons

    • TommyLawlor

      Darren was a DE that we played inside in the Nickel.

  • Sb2bowl

    We were walking out of Applebee’s when I looked up at the TV- SportsCenter was on. Nnamdi was an Eagle, out of nowhere! I made a few people feel pretty awkward as I stood over them and their dinners, but I HAD to see what they were saying. Shock set in, had to check bleedinggreennation before I started the car, and the rest of the night was a blur.
    Now, its time to move on. He didn’t live up to his contract, was a loner, and was only occasionally good. Oh well, at least they tried. Right?

  • Rage114

    I would like to give an honorable mention to Steve Everitt.

    • TommyLawlor

      He was a disappointment, but did start for 3 years. Just didn’t play like the star C we thought we were getting.

  • mkivland

    Darren Howard?

  • A Roy

    Worst FA signing in Philadelphia is still Lance Parrish.

    • TommyLawlor

      He still hit more than Nnamdi did.

      • A Roy

        Good One. Nnamdi was a Ddisappointment. We expected both high priced FAs to lead us to the Promised Land and we ended up in the hinterland.

      • Flyin

        But we hit the Cowboys hard snagging Nnamdi right under thier secure noses… those 24 hours of escasy wore off quick and dragged on for two years. Fin’ Cowboys!

  • Flyin

    Tommy,
    Thanks for putting out article after article in what I thought would be a dead zone. I think my out of the “top 5 words that describe you” #1 is Passion. And why us fans love the players that play with it… “Dawk”. You are the media equivalent.

    • GEagle

      Yeah, the quantity of articles you pumped out this week really helped me get by Another football dead zone week along with Hernandez being an idiot. 4 more weeks to get through

  • Wilbert M.

    Please refresh my memory regarding Nnamdi’s good games. Maybe it’s selective memory, but I don’t recall them. Yeah – how did Demetress not make this list?
    I love what the Sixers did. Tear it down and start over. They got the guy who most thought would be the 1st pick and another 1st rounder for a guy who is very good but not great.

  • Frank Kemp

    Ernie Simms was pretty bad. If the ball carrier lost a shoe on his way upfield Ernie would put a big hit on that shoe, or miss the shoe and knock out a team mate. Barf