Free agency starts next week. The Eagles have the money to be big players. They clearly have holes on the roster so logic would tell you they could go spend some money on big free agents to shore up the roster.
But is that the smart thing to do?
The Eagles signed several big name free agents in 2011 and got very mixed results. Last year the team went a different route and focused on mid-level guys. The results were much better. One of the big differences in the groups was character. The Eagles got team guys last March. Connor Barwin, team leader. Cary Williams, team leader. Bradley Fletcher, good locker room guy. Even a player like Isaac Sopoaga who flopped was a good locker room presence.
I’m real curious to see how Howie Roseman handles free agency this time around. Last year the Eagles were making a big transition on defense and they needed volume. They were smart to go after several mid-level guys rather than a couple of stars. The circumstances are different this year. The needs are more specific. Targeting high dollar players makes more sense.
But you do have the Chip Kelly factor. He wants the right kind of players. Kelly needs guys that will buy in to his program. Not all free agents are open-minded. Many come with a major sense of entitlement, which is greatly helped by the huge contract the team just handed them. The scouting department will put together detailed reports on the free agents, but just as important as their play on the field will be what kind of guys they are.
I have no idea if Jairus Byrd is a good guy or flaming jerk. Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon during Byrd’s final 2 seasons there. They won’t be close, but Kelly will have some idea what kind of guy Byrd is. That will affect the Eagles interest. Safeties like Mike Mitchell, Chris Clemons, Malcolm Jenkins and Thomas DeCoud could be total mysteries to Kelly. The Eagles will have some info on them, but there will be some guessing involved.
OLBs like Brian Orakpo and Jason Worilds will probably be mysteries as well. You can bet the Eagles will do lots of research on them.
Howie Roseman is aggressive. That’s just the kind of person he is. But he’s not reckless. He’s shown that he can sit back and be conservative in the draft and free agency. He prefers making big moves, but you can’t force them. And after the success of the last 2 drafts and last year’s free agency, I’m sure Roseman is trying to learn from what he did right in those cases.
The Eagles have signed some elite free agents over the years and gotten great results. The Andy Reid era wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without Jon Runyan at RT. The Eagles made him the highest paid OL in league history back in 2000. That was money well spent. The Eagles don’t go to the Super Bowl without Jevon Kearse. The Eagles got good production from Asante Samuel. You can hit home runs in free agency. You just have to understand that the misses can be very painful. Stacy Andrews is not a beloved name in Eagles history.
My guess is that the Eagles will be aggressive, in a controlled fashion. They will target a couple of high dollar players and will go after them. The Eagles won’t be afraid to walk away, though. I don’t think there is anyone on the market that you just hand a blank check to. I can’t stress enough that I think Kelly wanting the right kind of guys will impact the moves. The players brought in last year were all grinders and they fit the culture. The Eagles were a real “team” and that felt like a tangible part of their success.
I can’t wait to see how Roseman and Kelly handle free agency this year. With every move they make, we learn a little bit more about the new way of doing business. Next week should be pretty interesting.