One big move complete, several more decisions ahead. The pecking order for the Eagles in this month of February is set, as the coaches and personnel department hunker down in preparation for the big, big event in a few weeks -- the NFL combine. Between now and then, the Eagles must cross off some important agenda items on their list. Here are some of the things that Andy Reid and Howie Roseman are no doubt meeting on as we speak ...
**1. Rounding Out The Coaching Staff
Bobby April is in as the special teams coordinator. Brian Stewart left his defensive assistant position after one season, moving to the college ranks, and the Eagles need to hire a defensive backs coach. No doubt Reid has a wish list prepared and he probably has already had conversations with some candidates.
Last week's Senior Bowl served as a perfect opportunity for out-of-work coaches to let every head coach know that they are available. There are only a few jobs of any kind open in the NFL right now, so you would think Reid is reasonably close to bringing a new coach on board pretty soon.
Otherwise, the coaching staff is almost exact to last year. Hiring April is huge. Everyone who has an opinion of April says he is the best in the business and that means we should all expect a great increase in the level of play from an already-potent Eagles special teams.
**2. Establishing Order With Free Agency Near
Roseman and team president Joe Banner faced the media on Friday when Roseman was introduced as the team's GM and the angle of some of the stories emerging afterward were, naturally, aimed at the quarterback position. Everywhere Donovan McNabb goes -- the Pro Bowl, radio row and TV interviews this week prior to the Super Bowl -- he is asked about his future in Philadelphia. McNabb was asked about it by sideline reporter Michele Tafoya on Sunday night during the Pro Bowl and McNabb paused, gave his cheesiest smile and the only answer he needs to give.
"I love Philadelphia," he said.
That won't end the questions, but it's probably about all that McNabb should say. To me, on a side note, the line of questioning and the persistent nature of it is exactly why it would be very difficult for McNabb to go into 2010 on the final year of his contract. Imagine the day-to-day nonsense from the media he would face ...
Anyway, the Eagles have 11 players who have expiring contracts and with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declaring that it is "virtually certain" that the league will have an uncapped year in 2010 and that a player can't become an unrestricted free agent until after his sixth season, the rules are totally new. How a team tenders a player is ultimately important. The Eagles want to keep many of their expiring contracts like fullback Leonard Weaver and wide receiver Jason Avant, among others. If they tender those players at too low a level, well, another team could come in and sign the player to a contract.
Of course, the other thing to consider is that allowing another team to negotiate a longer-term deal with a player and then matching the deal isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.
In the big picture, free agency begins on March 5 and it promises to be crazy, unprecedented and extremely, extremely important. The Eagles must have their blueprint ready to jump in early -- or to sit back and see how the rest of the NFL is playing a game when there is no spending limit.
**4. Adding To The Personnel Staff
Not only did Tom Heckert leave to become the GM in Cleveland, he took with him director of pro personnel Jon Sandusky and scout John Spytek, so the Eagles have a couple of areas to fill in the personnel department. How they do it, when they do it, we don't know. Will there be additional fallout after the April draft? Probably. There usually is.
Roseman is an extremely organized, thorough man who has a board in place, all of the reports and grades on players ready to go and will soon have the free-agent strategy and draft prep work in place.
The Eagles really like assistant director of pro scouting Louis Riddick and director of college scouting Ryan Grigson, both of whom interviewed for the general manager job. They both are key to the plans moving forward with Roseman as the GM.
**5. Evaluating The 2009 Season
This really doesn't stop much at all as coaches continue to look at the film of 2009 and diagnose what went right and what didn't go right for their particular groups both from personnel and scheme standpoints. The off-season conditioning program begins in mid-March under the direction of new strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin and the tweaks he will add to the process. And while there are a few players recovering from injuries -- Stewart Bradley, Cornelius Ingram and Omar Gaither are daily regulars -- and some who are working out because they are just workout fiends (Brent Celek is one) the NovaCare Complex is largely quiet.
It is a time for looking back at 2009 and continuing that review. And it is a time to peek into 2010, get a jump start on the X's and O's those opponents run and, most important, get everything in order for the slam-bang off-season which kicks into high gear when the Combine begins later this month.