They have been mum on their plans. Secrecy is the approach, as it is in every off-season with the Eagles. With everyone convened at the NovaCare Complex, a series of moves is about to be ignited, starting right about now, and over the course of the next several days we are going to find out just how much action the Eagles can expect to have in free agency and in the trade market.
Something has to give. The Eagles have six players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on Friday at 12:01 a.m., and they have another two (Nick Cole, Hank Baskett) who must be given tender offers no later than Thursday. That's a lot of work to be done, and there has been no moment in history when Joe Banner and the team's salary-cap strategists have waited until the last minute to complete such a large handful of work.
So, I'm on alert throughout the next 24 hours. One way or the other, the picture is going to be just a little bit more defined by the end of the day on Wednesday. I feel it. I don't know which comes first -- tendering the restricted free agents or going in a certain direction with the veterans scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
There is also the matter of sizing up and making decisions on some interesting names who have recently been released by their former teams: Safety Gibril Wilson by the Raiders and wide receiver Marvin Harrison by the Colts. They are just two of the names the Eagles must evaluate as they enter free agency.
I think both Cole and Baskett will be safely tendered, with Cole receiving something along the lines of what Joselio Hanson got last year -- the second-round tender. I expect both players to be on the team in 2009.
As for the potential free agents -- running back Correll Buckhalter, safety Sean Considine, safety Brian Dawkins, offensive tackle Jon Runyan, tight end L.J. Smith and offensive tackle Tra Thomas -- my guess (and this is not going out on any kind of limb, of course) is that Dawkins and Thomas are the priorities to get signed. I'm not sure either or both *will *be signed prior to 12:01 a.m. on Friday, but those are the two logical candidates. Buckhalter, Considine and Smith want to find more playing time and fatter paychecks in free agency, and Runyan has to wait until his surgically-repaired knee is healthy to sign with a team.
The Eagles are moving forward behind the scenes. Rest assured that Banner's plate is full right now, and that he is burning up the telephone lines in conversations.
Here we are, at Wednesday. We have all been patient and anxious at the same time. Once Hanson agreed to terms on his long-term deal on Friday, I figured things would fall swiftly into place. I was wrong. A few days have lapsed. Now there simply isn't much time before free agency starts, so prepare to hold on to your seat and see what unfolds in the next few days.
Free agency is either going to start with a bang and then fade away, or it isn't going to start at all for the Eagles. The market says they either will get something going in the first weekend or they won't get much going with the dearth of depth in talent. The trade market will gurgle along, likely quiet until the draft nears.
There is no choice but to expect something to give. The Eagles haven't given away a single hint of their plans, and so now their actions will do the talking for them. Any minute now, the Eagles will present a piece of their off-season puzzle, one that won't be complete for many months to come.