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Fan-Demonium: Smart Start To 2012

Posted Mar 14, 2012

Fan-Demonium

Free agency began on Tuesday and the Eagles’ first moves did not involve outside players, but rather taking care of their own.  Right tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole both received contract extensions.  To some people this may seem like a strange start to the offseason.  I think it is a very smart way to go. 

The best NFL teams develop their own players.  Those teams then sign their players to extensions to keep them around.  While neither Herremans nor Cole was about to hit the market, both players had out-performed their existing contracts and deserved raises and extensions.  Simply put, these are the kind of players you want to keep as long as you can.  Let's hope they stay Eagles for life. 

Herremans had a good showing in his first season at tackle.  He was great at times, but also struggled against some speed rushers.  With a full offseason to work on his technique and to get completely comfortable at tackle, I expect Herremans to be even better in 2012.  Between him and Jason Peters, the Eagles have the best pair of tackles in football. 

As for Cole, he's just Mr. Steady.  He is a terrific pass rusher.  He is one of the best run stopping defensive ends in the NFL.  Anything he does, he does well.  I loved him back in the 2005 NFL Draft and was ecstatic when the Eagles chose him.  It is great that he's worked out so well for the team.  Really, really good player. 

There is nothing wrong with signing free agents.  It is a valuable tool in the process of roster building.  Still, focusing on the draft and keeping your own players is the way to sustain success.  Last year, the Eagles had multiple holes to fill.  That was a result of some poor draft choices and also the system changes that came with the hiring of Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn.  All of that meant the team had to dip into free agency hard and heavy.  The results were mixed.  Guys like Evan Mathis, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin were great signings.  Derek Landri proved to be a terrific role player.  The problem is that even though these guys played well on the field, they were outsiders.  They didn't know the Eagle way.  It is hard to be a leader when you're new to the team and figuring things out for yourself. 

Continuity is the most underrated part of success in sports.  Jim Harbaugh took over the Niners last year.  He didn't blow things up.  He made some changes, but left a lot of the roster intact.  That team made a quick turnaround.  Why rebuild something if you can simply improve it?  Pete Carroll has totally rebuilt the Seahawks and the results have been very mixed.  For my money, he's made too many changes.  It takes time for the new players to jell and develop a sense of togetherness. 

The teams that win aren't necessarily the most talented.  The teams that win usually play as a team.  The Niners did a great job of that last year.  The Eagles seemed much more individualistic.  I expect that to change this year.  The Eagles all got on the same page late last year.  Since I don't anticipate massive changes, that togetherness should carry over to 2012. 

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com

Certainly the Eagles will make some moves.  The roster has a lot of talent, but there are some holes.  I only anticipate one starting spot to get addressed and that is linebacker.  I'm not sure if the team will go for an outside or middle linebacker at this point.  The Eagles have some players targeted, but have to see how things work out.  The other 31 teams are also bidding for the services of players and that complicates matters.  I know some people say "outpay 'em".  That can be done, but smart teams will only embrace that attitude when going after players that deserve that kind of focus.  There is no linebacker in free agency that is so good that teams will go crazy for him. 

Heck, there were no linebacker moves on the opening day of free agency.  Thirty-two teams had a chance to make a move with linebackers, but no one did.  That should tell you where the position ranks in the NFL these days.  The focus on Tuesday was wide receiver, cornerback and defensive linemen.  Those positions received a lot of attention, both in the form of re-signings and deals with new teams.  That will certainly change.  There are some good linebackers on the market and they will start to move around pretty soon. 

The Eagles were connected to a few players yesterday, but I think that was agents trying to drum up interest in their players.  One report had the team looking into star guard Carl Nicks.  Really?  That would be highly questionable.  The smart move is to re-sign Evan Mathis.  He is a good player, great fit in Mudd's system and will cost less.  There is no need to break the bank for Nicks if you can get Mathis to stay.  That also ties in to the theme of keeping your own guys.  Mathis had a terrific season in 2011 and would be an ideal player to keep around.  He wants to test the market to find out what he's worth, but has indicated he would like to stay with the Eagles.  We'll have to stay tuned and see what happens with him. 

There have been reports that the Eagles are interested in LaRon Landry.  He's missed 15 of the last 32 games.  Some people point to deals from the past when the Eagles took a chance on injured players.  That is true, but those players came cheap.  Landry is looking for big money.  No team should give him a big deal with two straight years of injuries.  If there is no market and he's willing to sign a one-year deal, that changes things and maybe he does become a target.  For now, I'm doubting the Eagles are all that interested. 

Back to Herremans and Cole for a second.  Those deals are also important because it sends a signal to the other Eagles players that the focus here is to “take care of our own”.  Last year the Eagles paid a lot of outside players and that may have upset some guys on the team.  The Eagles don't normally like to do business like that, but last year was a strange set of circumstances.  This year we are seeing a return to the old way of doing business, which is great news.  Always look to your own roster first. 

Around The NFC East

Let's talk about the other NFC East teams for a bit.  Washington made a bold move by trading up for the No. 2 overall pick.  I think this is actually a smart move.  That team desperately needed a franchise quarterback.  Robert Griffin III looks like the real deal.  As Eagles fans, we can hope he turns out to be another Heath Shuler-type of disaster, but I really do like him as a prospect and think he's got a chance to be very good. 

The Skins were very active to start free agency and got back to their old ways of overpaying players.  This time they were throwing money at solid players, but not stars.  Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are talented receivers, but aren't exactly the type of players I think you aggressively go after.  The Skins still don't have a No. 1-type of wide receiver that scares defenses. 

Dallas is trying to land a star cornerback.  They released Terrence Newman, which will make the receivers of the NFC East sad.  Newman had really fallen off in recent years.  Dallas is focusing on Brandon Carr for now.  We'll see if they can get the deal done.  Carr is good, but hardly a great player.

The Giants are quiet so far.  They are going to wade in slowly rather than diving into free agency.

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