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Sizing Up Eagles As They Stand

Posted Mar 22, 2012

If the season started now, how good would the Eagles be? It's a question raised prior to free agency and one the team needs to consider every day ...

No question they do ask themselves that question constantly. They look at the depth chart on their walls and compare what they have to the grades they have assigned to the unrestricted free agents still out there, and to the top draft prospects they will hope to land in April.

There is talk in the league about a "second wave" of free agency, but this is a real possibility: The Eagles could be done in free agency, and could walk away feeling great about their efforts, without hosting a single player at the NovaCare Complex.

Are there glaring needs on this team? There are needs, and there are questions, but there is not a single gaping hole that screams for a starting player right now. Oh, if you want to say that the Eagles need to emerge at the safety spots, you won't get an argument from me. If you say the Eagles have to go out and sign a veteran on the streets, then we can talk. I can't tell if, for example, Yeremiah Bell can play, but I can tell you that nobody would know better than cornerbacks coach Todd Bowles, who had Bell with the Dolphins. If Bowles felt Bell could fit, the Eagles would have reached out.

Who knows? Maybe they will at some point. Right now, the Eagles are quiet. Next week the NFL Owners Meetings will dominate the league's news, and front offices will transition into draft mode.

In other words, free agency could be all but dead.

As the Eagles look at their roster, they see some areas they need to address. As much as the team is high on second-year man Stanley Havili, they are going to bring in another fullback. It could be that they sign a veteran who is still out there (Marcell Reece? Tony Fiammetta?) or that they add one later or that they use a draft pick reasonably early. Safety makes sense to address, given the inconsistent play there last season, but would the Eagles use a draft pick on the spot having spent second-round picks in each of the last two drafts on safeties?

Linebackers? Sure, but the Eagles have nine of them on the roster already and there has to be a limit on the 80-man roster.

This is a roster that, by and large, is looking for depth and competition. Another running back? It's on the list. A swing offensive tackle? There seems to be a need. Another punter to challenge Chad Henry? You can book on one signing at some point.

Right now, though, the Eagles are in a good position. They have followed their wish-list blueprint as closely as could be expected, adding a Pro Bowl receiver (DeSean Jackson), a starting left guard (Evan Mathis) and a rock-solid Pro Bowl middle linebacker (DeMeco Ryans) in free agency. You could have made a case back in January that none of the three would be an Eagle right now and you would have found a lot of people agreeing with you.

Anyway, you know the Eagles are doing more things. The team has four draft picks in the opening three rounds in April's selection process, including three among the top 51 spots. The Eagles are wheelers and dealers and we all know to expect the unexpected.

And with a glut of good football players still on the streets in a free-agent period that perhaps hasn't been as fruitful as many veterans expected. How many veterans have changed teams in free agency? A few dozen? That's miniscule compared to other years, right?

The point is, the Eagles have seemingly executed their strategy well. They appear to have read the market accurately and accomplished their goals to date.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles wait until next week, or later, to dip back into free agency? Is there a rush out there to sign players? This is now about a leverage game, one that unrestricted free agents lose just a little bit more with every day that passes.

So we're in a bit of a lull, maybe. It's a good time to take stock of where the Eagles are and where they need to go with the roster prior to the draft. The Eagles are doing it, all day and every day.

We can do the same. It helps pass the time until the Eagles act again.

NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT

  • Ryans will wear No. 59 and second-year linebacker Brian Rolle will wear No. 52 this season. No drama there, and the Great Jersey Number Mystery is over almost before it started.
  • My read on Tim Tebow signing with the Jets: Good luck handling the media circus. It's going to be a zoo. Rex Ryan really isn't all that much different than his daddy, Buddy, is he? Those Ryans love the attention.
  • In the weeks following the tragic death of Whitney Houston, everyone has had some stories to tell and memories to share. I was reminded of one the other day: Quarterback Randall Cunningham and some of his teammates from those Buddy Ryan years took off from a preseason game to attend a Houston concert. Crazy times. The stories then were that Houston was a huge Cunningham fan, and not just because he was a great quarterback for the Eagles.
  • Not much to say on the penalties announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell against the Saints other than the obvious: They were severe, merited and they impact the Eagles, who play in New Orleans this season.
  • Just to make sure you are on top of things, there are no official free-agent visits scheduled for the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex.
  • I would describe the team's salary-cap situation as "healthy," although I don't have an official dollar number to give you. The Eagles can create cap room if they wish, of course, and they can go out and make a move at any time. They are in a good place here.

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