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Fan-Demonium: 20 Years Of Free Agency

Posted Jun 27, 2013


1993 was the first time that the NFL had true unrestricted free agency. Players could go where they wanted. Crazy, huh? Prior to 1993, teams had some measures that allowed them to control the players’ ability to switch teams.

Some younger fans probably have a hard time understanding the idea of players not being able to switch teams when their contract is up and March rolls around. The NFL offseason is a huge event these days. Free agency is one of the most exciting times of the year.

The Eagles have been affected by free agency about as much as any team, both good and bad. I thought it might be interesting to look at the best players the Eagles signed and the best players the Eagles lost over the last 20 years. We're talking about unrestricted free agents. This does not include trades.


WR Irving Fryar
WR Terrell Owens
TE Mark Bavaro
FB Leonard Weaver
RB Ricky Watters
QB Mike Vick
OL Jon Runyan
OL Guy McIntyre
OL Raleigh McKenzie
OL Evan Mathis
OL Richard Cooper

DE William Fuller
DT Paul Grasmanis
DT Rhett Hall
DE Juqua Parker
LB Carlos Emmons
LB Jeremiah Trotter
LB Shawn Barber
FS Greg Jackson
SS Mike Zordich
CB Troy Vincent
CB Asante Samuel

Let's talk about this group. Troy Vincent is the best signing of them all. He came to the Eagles at a time when that wasn't a popular move. I'm sure Vincent was heavily influenced by the fact he was from the area. The great thing about his signing is that the Eagles not only got a stud cornerback, but they got a great person. Vincent was worth every penny the Eagles paid him. He's one of my favorite all-time Eagles.

I included Owens on the list even though the Eagles did have to trade for him. That was a sham. The Niners and the NFL screwed up when they approved his contract that led to the situation. Owens should have been a free agent, but the league wanted to save face and made the Eagles give up minimal compensation for him. There are plenty of other receivers to choose from. Antonio Freeman, Kevin Curtis and Donte Stallworth all were good signings by the Eagles.

All of those receivers pale in comparison to Fryar. He is my favorite Eagles receiver. Fryar was made for the West Coast Offense. He was as big and physical as anyone I'd seen to that point. I loved watching him and Ty Detmer connect.

That group of offensive linemen isn't overwhelming beyond Mathis and Runyan. The funny thing is that the Eagles got Mathis cheap and had to pay Runyan a record contract to get him. Both guys were terrific as Eagles. Mathis hopefully has several more good years left.

William Fuller would be very high on my list of best signings. He is another outstanding player and great person. His intensity and work ethic were huge factors in the team playing well during his tenure here. The Eagles defense was ranked in the top five in yards allowed in each of Fuller's three seasons. His battles with Cowboys star Erik Williams were epic.

I went back and forth at the other end spot. It was between Jevon Kearse and Parker. Kearse had one really good year (2004), but Parker had a longer and better Eagles career. He was also a great value signing.

Grasmanis only started a couple of games, but he was on the roster for six years. At his peak, he was a terrific backup defensive tackle. Grasmanis was a great value signing. Rhett Hall started for two years. An injury robbed him of another year. He was a good penetrator and once had 8.0 sacks in a season.

Trotter? The Eagles signed him in 2004 after the Skins cut him. Trotter then re-signed in 2005 and was very good that year. He went downhill in 2006, but still was a good signing for the couple of years.


WR Fred Barnett
WR Calvin Williams
TE Keith Jackson
FB Keith Byars
RB Duce Staley
QB Randall Cunningham
OL Barrett Brooks
OL Jermane Mayberry
OL Raleigh McKenzie
OL Lester Holmes
OL Antone Davis

DE Reggie White
DT Mike Golic
DT Corey Simon
DE Clyde Simmons
LB William Thomas
LB Jeremiah Trotter
LB Seth Joyner
FS Brian Dawkins
SS Quintin Mikell
CB Eric Allen
CB Mark McMillian

I hope there are no questions that this list really is all about Reggie. He is my favorite Eagle of all-time and one of the great players in NFL history. I loved him in Philly and even in Green Bay. Reggie was truly bigger than life. I miss him.

Watching Reggie visit other teams in 1993 was torture. I agonized at the thought of him signing with the Skins or Cowboys, two teams that he did talk to. I hated to see him go, but was relieved that he went to Green Bay. That was a team that I could enjoy following. I had nothing against them and they weren’t bitter rivals with the Eagles.

For the other end spot I went back and forth with Simmons and Derrick Burgess. Simmons played longer after leaving so I went with him. Plus, losing him hurt more. Burgess was a mystery when he walked. You just didn't know if he could stay healthy. Simmons was a proven star.

That overall defense is pretty darn good.

The offense is far less impressive. I chose Cunningham as the quarterback, but he was a backup when he left here. He was a non-factor in 1996 and 1997 before having his miraculous season in 1998. That year Cunningham helped the Vikings set the NFL record for points scored in a season. Jeff Garcia was another possibility. He started for two seasons in Tampa after leaving the Eagles.

The offensive linemen I chose were pretty weak. A couple of those guys were backups in their final year as an Eagle. You can see that the Eagles have not been an offensive lineman factory over the last 20 years. Good players get re-signed. Some guys get traded. Very few actually hit the market.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and is a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

* * *

I hope that a player from the free agent class of 2013 plays well enough to earn some consideration for the good list in the future. Linebacker Connor Barwin could be a player to watch for that. Obviously I couldn't list any of these players since we have yet to see them in action.

Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen are young players who have expiring contracts and could theoretically leave the Eagles next offseason. It would be great if both players played at a high level and then got new deals to stay. We'll see what happens.

Free agency used to scare me. I watched good players leave the Eagles in droves. Now, the team is much better run and free agency is a good thing. If you choose wisely, it can be a helpful tool in improving a roster. It certainly helps when your good players want to stay more than go.

Former owner Norman Braman saw quite a few good players leave on his watch. That changed when Jeffrey Lurie took over. Some big names did leave, but most of them were not players that had much success away from the Eagles. It hurt to see Hugh Douglas, Fuller, Vincent, Staley and Barnett let go, but they were marginal players after leaving. The trick to free agency is knowing who to keep and who to let go. For the most part, the Eagles have been pretty good at this under Lurie.

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