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Weighing Risk-Vs-Reward Factor

Posted Feb 15, 2012

His is a name that has been floated in association with the Eagles for the last year: defensive tackle Alberty Haynesworth, a Pro Bowl talent who has seen his career flushed away to insignificance lately ...

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, Haynesworth was one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He had enough of a pass-rush presence to record 8 1/2 quarterback sacks in 2008 as a member of the Tennessee Titans and then parlayed that performance into a much-ballyhooed $100 million deal with the Redskins.

And then it all went south.

So when Tampa Bay announced on Wednesday that they released Haynesworth to say a $7.2 million salary-cap hit, it came as no surprise. Haynesworth underperformed in two seasons plus six games of a third season in Washington, didn't make a dent in New England in the structure of a team that went to the Super Bowl, and then played in Tampa Bay and did, statistically, a decent job in trying circumstances there.

He isn't worth $7.2 million. But is he worth a look with the Eagles, who happen to have Jim Washburn coaching the defensive line, the same Washburn who guided Haynesworth to his greatest career success in Tennessee?

It's a question that, naturally, has been asked since Haynesworth became available. Who wouldn't be interested in adding a talented player at a premium position? Well, is Haynesworth still a quality player? Talented, yes. Motivated? That's been the rap on him since he signed the mega-deal with Washington.

When you consider the Eagles' picture at defensive tackle, you look at the top-level talent like Cullen Jenkins, who played at a Pro Bowl level in 2011 and who was a leader in a locker room searching for someone to step forward. You see Mike Patterson, the ultimate technician who is durable and hard working and productive. You consider Derek Landri, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after a season in which he impressed with his hustle, attitude and desire. There is Trevor Laws, another potential free agent who gives the Eagles some pass-rush punch inside in the nickel.

And then there is Antonio Dixon, who fits the description of the "big" defensive tackle at about 320 pounds. He is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 but is at the NovaCare Complex on a daily basis rehabbing his shoulder and hitting the weight room hard. Dixon looks fantastic.

What happens if Washburn pleads with head coach Andy Reid and lays his reputation on the line that he can get Haynesworth to play at a high level, a Pro Bowl level, and that the reward far outweighs the risk of signing Haynesworth to an incentive-laden deal? What happens then? How much of a risk are the Eagles willing to take on a player who hasn't exactly been the poster boy for hard work these last several seasons?

Then again, what is Haynesworth looking for? Does he think he can make big money in free agency, that there is a tackle-starved team out there with a strong locker room looking for a 350-pound guard-eating interior defensive lineman?

I'm just throwing the idea out there. Why not? It's that time of the year. Names are hitting the streets and the Eagles, and every team, have to consider the wisdom of adding those players to a roster that developed a lot of chemistry late in 2011 and that hopefully will benefit from winning four straight games to end that very disappointing season.

We know that the Eagles have to win a high percentage of their personnel decisions in the offseason, and the thinking here is that the team is going to approach the offseason with the intention to keep as much of the core together as possible before they reach out and add players from the outside. My expectations are minimal. The focus is to see what the Eagles do internally first with their salary-cap room. Do they retain wide receiver DeSean Jackson and offensive guard Evan Mathis, two of the key players -- 10 in all -- who are scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on March 13. Dixon, by the way, is a restricted free agent who will cost some dollars to retain.

General manager Howie Roseman and his group, along with Reid and the coaching staff, have to consider every avenue through which to improve the roster and win a Super Bowl in 2012. They no doubt have a report written on Haynesworth. They understand how valuable a 350-pound tackle would be to helping their linebackers run free to the football and improve the run defense. They know how much Washburn wants to rotate his linemen to keep them fresh. They know that the interior defense has to improve in short-yardage situations and in the red zone.

Will the Eagles make a move for Haynesworth? There has been no indication that they are interested. I do know that to summarily dismiss the idea just because "Haynesworth is Haynesworth" makes no sense. The Eagles always keep their eyes and mind open. They value high character and players who love the game, categories the Haynesworth since 2008 hasn't necessarily fit.

There are positives and there are negatives, and the Eagles must consider every avenue to take to get better even if it means bringing in a player who has largely been a dud since his days with Washburn and the Titans way back when.

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