Philadelphia Eagles News

Coming: A Secondary Makeover?

Consider how many resources the Eagles used in recent seasons with the hope of making their defensive secondary one of the strongest in the NFL. There were draft picks (Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman), expensive signings in free agency (Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha) and even a high-profile trade (acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie).

Now, as free agency prepares to open on Tuesday at 4 p.m., it's conceivable that most of those pieces will be gone from the Eagles' roster. Samuel was traded last year to Atlanta, a deal that netted the Eagles running back Bryce Brown. Jarrett never made it here after he was drafted in 2011. Rodgers-Cromartie is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday and Asomugha is expected to have his contract, set to pay him $15 million this year, addressed one way or the other.

So if Rodgers-Cromartie leaves and if the Eagles and Asomugha can't come to a common ground, as the two sides are reportedly talking about doing, and if the safety picture is a gigantic question mark, could it be that the Eagles will rip it all up in the secondary and start from scratch in 2013?

Yeah, sure.

Hey, look, anything can happen here. The walls of secrecy at the NovaCare Complex are tightly guarded, so nobody outside of the team's decision makers really knows the plan. Somewhere in the strategy, though, there has to be some design to shore up the secondary, which had long been a strength of the defense here.

These last few seasons, though, the Eagles haven't found the solutions. They've thrown all of those resources at the secondary and have not received back the hoped-for results. Samuel made three consecutive Pro Bowls in the 2008-2010 seasons, and then his play slipped in 2011 and the Eagles thought that Rodgers-Cromartie would step into the role of a starter opposite Asomugha in 2012.

Those two started, but they both struggled badly. The Eagles allowed a franchise-worst 33 touchdown passes in the 4-12 campaign, necessitating a coaching change.

Now we're going to find out how much of a price the roster is going to pay.

Who stays? It's likely that defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants to take a look at Allen and Coleman, both of whom are young and have shown flashes of good play. Colt Anderson played well at times in his role as a starter late last season, and he's one of the game's best in special teams coverage when healthy. Anderson, a restricted free agent starting on Tuesday, should return.

What about the cornerback spots? It sure seems possible that both of last year's starters will be gone, leaving the cornerback positions to second-year man Brandon Boykin and young veterans Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. No offense to those young players, but there isn't a whole lot of previous NFL success to suggest that what the Eagles have on hand will be enough to man such critical areas.

It's fair to say, then, that the secondary should be a high priority for the Eagles. It may not be reasonable to suggest that the Eagles can fix the many problems of recent seasons in one fell swoop of a single offseason, but that's the goal through a sounder defensive scheme, better players and more effective play from the defensive front four and, understanding the total team concept of the game, the Eagles' offense. Playing with a lead certainly helps a secondary more than scratching to come from behind.

Free agency is right upon us, and shortly we'll have a much better feel for what Kelly wants to do with his offense, defense and special teams. The Eagles have a handful of players due to be unrestricted free agents on Tuesday, and how many of them will return? Long snapper Jon Dorenbos? That certainly makes sense. He played well last season. Anybody else from a list that includes defensive end Darryl Tapp, offensive linemen King Dunlap and Jake Scott, linebacker Akeem Jordan, defensive tackle Derek Landri and, of course, Rodgers-Cromartie?

The Eagles have their list and they've checked it multiple times. Who they are targeting, I don't know. I do know that the team has plenty of room within the salary cap and they have as much flexibility as any team in the league.

One more day, one more day, one more day. Tuesday at 4 p.m. is the magic hour when Kelly's vision starts to become a bit more defined for those of us who have been aching for some answers since January.

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