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Expecting Minimal Noise Ahead

Posted Mar 5, 2012

It is just a feeling I get, having been around the Eagles throughout this offseason, wondering the strategy, that free agency is going to be more of a whimper than a scream starting next Tuesday ...

Last year as the Eagles emerged from the latter days of the NFL's work stoppage, the team spoke of the plan it had in place and how aggressive it would be and wait, just wait, until the doors for business were open again.

True to their word, the Eagles came out blazing with an unprecedented barrage of signings. And while the strategy didn't produce what the Eagles intended, the core of that free-agent group remains in key places and the team is expecting so much from the likes of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and, certainly, offensive guard Evan Mathis should he remain here in 2012.

Not all of the moves worked for the Eagles. Never does it work exactly as planned in this league. The Eagles filled enough holes in last year's free agency, maybe, to get back to crossing a "T" or dotting an "I" this time around.

That is the expectation here. There are several reasons for my hesitation to get too excited about free agency.

1. The crop of players has been thinned substantially by the record 21 players given the franchise tag. Teams have room within the salary cap and they aren't afraid to use it. It makes sense, and it goes along with the theme the Eagles are carrying forth: Take care of your own first before venturing into the risky business of free agency.

2. With a full week to go before the start of free agency -- March 13 at 4 p.m. -- teams are going to hammer away at negotiations with free agents-to be, and so the talent pool will be drained even more substantially. There seems to be a glut of players destined to become free agents. I don't think it is going to look all that attractive when March 13 at 4 p.m. rolls around.

3. Even with some big names sure to hit the market, there is going to be a lot of competition for the very best players. I don't see, for example, the Eagles making a push for Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan or San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson or Houston defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams, a few of the most attractive names, at the moment, expected to hit the market. Teams around the league have cap room. Those teams are looking to make a splash. The Eagles made their cannonball-sized waves last year. This time, expect more of a dip in the water. OK, maybe the Eagles go in knee deep.

4. While it looks on paper as if the Eagles have a lot of cap room -- about $19 million taking into account DeSean Jackson's franchise tag number of $9.4 million according to Eaglescap.com (those guys do great work) -- a lot of that money is going to be goggled up if A) Mathis signs, B) The Eagles do a deal with, say, running back LeSean McCoy and; C) Any other current player on the roster has his deal done, and believe, there are some deserving players on this roster.

5. The Eagles have three of the first 51 picks in April's draft. There are only so many holes on the roster -- and we've talked about this before, but I will go with a linebacker or two, maybe a safety, perhaps a defensive lineman or two, some depth on offense and a kickoff return man -- and the draft is where the Eagles hope to fill most of them.

I always get cranked up for free agency. This year will be no different, regardless of how it goes down. I think the Eagles are going to sign a player, maybe two. It won't be anything like last July and August, and that is OK by me.

The key to this offseason is to hit on a very high percentage of the personnel moves and then work the roster from there. It is quality, not quantity, that matters for the Eagles in 2012. And if that means free agency is more on the quiet side, so be it.

NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT

  • No promises on linebacker Monte Simmons, added to the roster on Monday. He had his hand in the dirt as an undersized defensive end in college and then moved to rush linebacker as the 49ers looked at him in 2011 on their practice squad. Simmons is a linebacker here. Can he move and play in coverage? Do the Eagles see him more as a space pass rusher? The kid has to make the team first. He is here to add competition in training camp. His addition does not preclude the Eagles from signing a linebacker in free agency or drafting one or two in April.
  • Somewhere, Buddy Ryan is chuckling at all of this bounty talk. If you have been an Eagles fan long enough, you know what I'm talking about. So does former placekicker Luis Zendejas.
  • Don't expect the Eagles to say much, if anything, between now and free agency. One of the great joys of my life is seeing the offseason plan unfold. And whether you believe what you read or not, understand this: Only a few people know the true plan the Eagles have in mind. The rest of the rumors and reports is just talk.
  • Of course, on a serious note, the Saints' bounty story has far-reaching implications, including this 2012 Eagles season. The Eagles, of course, are scheduled to play in New Orleans this year.
  • The 2012 NFL schedule will be announced in April. Stay tuned.
  • The team is having a draft party at Lincoln Financial Field. Tickets will be available on PhiladelphiaEagles.com in early April.

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