Philadelphia Eagles News

Checking Off The To-Do List ...

By giving Jackson the franchise tag and securing his rights for at least the 2012 season, the Eagles have accomplished one item on their extensive offseason agenda. There is more work to be done on the Jackson story, of course, as both parties continue to work on a long-term contract that both sides say they desire.

The other burners on the oven demand some attention, too. Let's discuss ...

SIGNING LEFT GUARD EVAN MATHIS

For the first six seasons of his NFL career, Evan Mathis was a good, solid journeyman left guard with three teams. He was mostly a backup, sometimes a starter and a reliable player when he stepped on the field.

With the Eagles in 2011 working with line coach Howard Mudd, Mathis found his stride. He found the perfect system, and Mathis became one of the best players at his position in the league.

Now he's a free agent, and somehow the Eagles and Mathis have to come to an agreement before 4 p.m. on March 13, or he will become an unrestricted free agent and, well, anything can happen. At that point, at 4 p.m. on March 13, Mathis would be able to negotiate with any team in the league.

It is a great match, Mathis and the Eagles. But in Mathis' mind, he is looking for perhaps his final contract in the league, and the business side of the NFL is very real.

What is going to happen here? The Eagles want to retain Mathis, no question about that. And Mathis would like to stay here. The two sides have a week to get a deal done. Otherwise, well, the Eagles could be looking at a gaping hole on the left side of the offensive line and Mathis could be looking for a situation as perfect as the one he has with the Eagles.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS?

Who else is a target for the Eagles to retain prior to free agency? Defensive tackle Trevor Laws is one, and he has said he is hopeful of having a deal done before next week. What about defensive tackle Derek Landri, who was so productive in an emergency role last season? Is he looking for a starting job out there?

Offensive tackle King Dunlap has reportedly been gaining some attention, notably from the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Vince Young is going to hit the market looking for a starting job. Running back Ronnie Brown would seem to be a longshot to return to the Eagles.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF FREE AGENCY, THE EAGLES ...

Well, what will they do? How active can the Eagles be when free agency opens? The pool of names will become less enticing between now and next week as teams use the franchise tag and sign their own players.

The Eagles have what I will describe, although not sure how accurately, as a moderate amount of room within the salary cap. They can probably get in the game for a player or two. But that's just guesswork here. The truth is, only a few people truly know the strategy for free agency. The Eagles always play it close to the vest, and this free agency is no exception.

Have they put together a plan for free agency? No doubt, and it will be discussed every day of the week ahead. When free agency begins, the Eagles will be prepared to go. Where they are going, however, is the question nobody other than Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and Co. really know.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE ROSTER?

There are some tough decisions to be made. Asante Samuel has been the subject of trade talks for months, and now we're going to find out what the Eagles have in mind with him. A player like offensive tackle Winston Justice has a high salary and is currently in a backup role, so can the Eagles keep him on the roster?

While the Eagles have only so much room within the salary cap, they also have the ability to create more room, if needed. How much will they need? How active will the team be in free agency? The indications so far are that the Eagles want to take care of their own players -- not only those players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, but current players on the roster as well -- as their primary focus before the draft.

Maybe the Eagles will watch for much of free agency, believing that the roster they have in place combined with an opportunity in April's draft, will be enough to make this a Super Bowl team. Maybe the Eagles have an elaborate plan to sign players that they just aren't divulging.

Whatever, we are going to find out in a week's time. All of this patience and perseverance will be rewarded, Eagles fans. Free agency is finally, finally, just around the corner.

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