OK, so we have obsessed about the quarterback position for weeks. We have speculated over the possibility of making "a big splash" in the next few days. We have wondered about the relatively obvious things, like making sure the center and right guard positions are fortified, adding another running back to the stable, fixing the defense. The question nobody considers, and what we all know is going to come, is this: What out-of-the-box element will the Eagles add in the weeks to come?
They seem to do it every year, don't they? Just taking a peek back into recent off-seasons, the Eagles have made many moves beyond the somewhat-obvious headliners. After they signed defensive end Darren Howard in 2006, for example, they inked free-agent quarterback Jeff Garcia, re-signed offensive tackle Jon Runyan -- who had hit the market as an unrestricted free agent -- traded for wide receiver Hank Baskett and then, late in the summer, acquired wide receiver Donte' Stallworth in a trade.
In 2007, the Eagles engaged in a long negotiation and finally signed wide receiver Kevin Curtis, and then pulled off a trade to acquire linebacker Takeo Spikes from the Bills. The next year, the Eagles made the big splash by signing cornerback Asante Samuel and then continued with the free-agent signings of defensive end Chris Clemons, linebacker Rocky Boiman and tight end Kris Wilson. Not headline moves, and certainly not ones that shifted the fortunes of the team, but moves that came out of the blue in free agency.
Last year, 12 months ago, the Eagles had one of their more remarkable off-seasons. They signed offensive lineman Stacy Andrews right away, and then made one move after another -- trading away wide receiver Greg Lewis and cornerback Lito Sheppard, trading for left tackle Jason Peters, signing fullback Leonard Weaver, etc. -- and then concluded the busy off-season by wheeling and dealing throughout the two-day draft.
What is it going to be this year? What position will the Eagles address that we just never saw coming? Which player will the Eagles add, or trade, who seemed like a distant thought earlier?
If you have your hopes up for a big splash early, well, I say don't put all of your eggs in that single basket. There are a handful of players who are nearly free agency who seem to fit a need here. But there are also 31 other teams in the league, and most of them have more pronounced needs than do the Eagles.
Certainly, the Eagles have to make improvements. And finding some help in the opening few days of free agency -- the talent pool is such that the upper-echelon players are likely to be gone in the relative blink of an eye -- would certainly alleviate some of the "must-have" pressure of the draft weekend.
But this is going to be a marathon. In a new, no-salary-cap world, the Eagles are going to explore every option, think creatively, and address this football team from top to bottom. Will they strike it big in free agency? No way to know. I wish I could tell you and end the suspense, the agony, the anticipation.
The reality is that the Eagles are on the verge of the start of free agency, and the quiet is deafening. You think it's tough to get a gauge of what this team wants to do by reading the Internet all day? Try being in my shoes, and asking those who know what I can expect in the months ahead.
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Do you have the endurance to last, folks? Don't make a judgment on this team after one week of free agency, after the cream of the crop is gone from free agency. Whether the Eagles make something happen or not, they need a full off-season to improve the roster to the point where they want to be. As difficult as it will be, we have to grade this off-season as training camp begins, and maybe even beyond that.
It's Wednesday afternoon. I'm waiting for something to break. Nothing is happening. Nothing at all. Lots of closed doors, lots of meetings, and a general rise in the excitement level for sure inside the NovaCare Complex. There is work to be done, and I am waiting for the word on what the Eagles plan to do -- and what they don't necessarily have planned now that might just happen down the line.