Free agency, 2012, offers the Eagles a challenge they haven't had in a long time. The Eagles are coming off a disappointing season acknowledge by Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie in his State of the Team post-mortem press conference. There is, clearly, a lot of pressure to win now and in the future.
How do the Eagles handle this offseason? Well, they are always aggressive, and that won't change. They have to be creative, perhaps, but that is the way they do business, anyway. They're going to have to mine some nuggets in a free-agent class that isn't as attractive as last year's crop, but every team is facing that scenario.
It's business as usual in a lot of ways for the Eagles, but then again, it isn't. It's a new year and a new set of challenges and, well, this is the time of the year when head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman dig in their heels and get it done.
To borrow a phrase, and a philosophy, just do it.
How the Eagles get better on defense, from top to bottom, and how they add to the offense considering a possible departure by left guard Evan Mathis and the need to make the red-zone efficiency improved, and how they bring in some danger in the kick return game on special teams, that remains to be seen.
A couple of things to talk about, right off the top ...
- The decision to tender defensive tackle Antonio Dixon at a second-round level (the Eagles would receive a second-round draft pick as compensation should he sign an offer sheet with another team and the Eagles decline to match within 7 days) was a no-brainer. The Eagles think Dixon can really thrive with a full offseason getting his shoulder right and working himself into tip-top shape and then getting into Jim Washburn's program along the defensive line.
- Dixon's tender means he will earn about $1.9 million this season, giving the Eagles not a lot of wiggle room under the salary cap. At the moment, they have approximately $8 million to spend, including draft picks and emergency dollars, etc. Not much room at all.
- What happens with left guard Evan Mathis, who played so well after signing a one-year contract last year? I don't know. I have a feeling he will test the free-agent market. With several teams in the fortunate position to have a lot of cap room, Mathis is going to get quite a bit of attention if he is an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. I have a feeling, just a feeling, that Mathis will be elsewhere this season. The Eagles would then have to fill that hole either in free agency with a veteran or in the draft with the 15th pick, or a trade back in the first round. It is just my feeling. I'm guessing at this point, as is everyone else.
- On my wish list for free agency: A linebacker who can start and maybe another veteran, possibly a safety to challenge for a starting job.
- Will the Eagles do something with cornerback Asante Samuel to gain some room under the salary cap? It's a possibility, but would they do it at the onset of free agency or would they wait until the draft to try to make a deal? Do they restructure his contract, or do they trade him or release him? Or do the Eagles keep Samuel and hope that talent wins out above all else on defense?
- I can't help thinking that Reid and Roseman will exhaust all avenues, including something massive. Maybe a trade. I don't know. I don't see anything big coming, and I've said that throughout the offseason, but you never know with this crew.
- One of the major initiatives for this organization is to take care of some deserving players with new contracts. My list: running back LeSean McCoy, defensive end Trent Cole, offensive tackle Todd Herremans.
- Still high on my wish list, but I don't have a name, is a kick return man. How do the Eagles manage that?
- The shocker news on Monday was that the league was reportedly going to strip the Redskins of $36 million in salary-cap dollars and take away $10 million from Dallas for improperly using the salary cap in 2010, when there was no ceiling on spending. That is not official yet, so the reported $1.8 or so million that 28 teams in the league would receive is not yet on the books. If that happens, both Washington and Dallas have two years to shed those dollars. That is crippling in Washington's case.
- Sportline.com's Pete Prisco Tweeted out late on Monday night that he is hearing that linebacker Dan Connor to the Eagles is virtually a done deal. We shall see about that one. Connor has battled injuries in his career, but played pretty well last year as a starter in Carolina. All of these rumors ...
- Speaking of which, it was amusing to hear on Monday the media scrambling to find out if quarterback Peyton Manning was visiting Philadelphia, per a caller to a radio station. Such nonsense. Fun, but nonsense. It isn't happening.