The names are bouncing off the wall. Will any stick? Three weeks before free agency begins and we're caught in the waiting and wondering game. Free agency is just can't get here fast enough …
Everyone is "name" crazy. "Dave, which big-name cornerback do you think the Eagles …" Big names don't interest me. Good football players interest me. The Eagles added impact in the free-agency period last spring, signing safety Malcolm Jenkins, adding special-teams aces Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman and trading for running back Darren Sproles.
Impact, with varying degrees, from all of them.
This year, the Eagles need players who can come in and make a difference. How do they acquire them? As the coaching staff and personnel department descend upon Indianapolis for the NFL's Scouting Combine, we're all wondering the same thing.
- The common thinking is that the Eagles will go defense in the first round of April's draft, a theory shared by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who held a conference call on Monday with reporters. During his three-hour question-and-answer session, Mayock said he thought cornerback was a real possibility at No. 20 for Philadelphia.
"I think Jalen Collins, the underclassman from LSU, is really intriguing. He's 6-2. He fits what Philly does to a T," Mayock said. "I think Billy Davis would love him. He's a press corner, not afraid to play in your face, will tackle, understands how to play the game, has some physicality about him. I think he's going to be a first-round pick. If (Michigan State's) Trae Waynes is already gone, you have to do your homework on Marcus Peters, the Washington kid, off the field. But I think Jalen Collins really fits what they do. I already talked about the two safeties, Shaq Thompson and Landon Collins, either of whom would be an improvement. There's a middle-round safety from Chestnut Hill Academy named Ibrahim Campbell who is a pretty good football player. He's a guy I like in the middle rounds at safety. As far as inside linebacker is concerned, I mentioned a couple guys, I think they'd be better off getting an inside linebacker in the second or third round. I think Kendricks from UCLA, brother of Michael. Denzel Perryman from Miami. Stephone Anthony is a guy they could get in the third or fourth round from Clemson."
Names, names, names.
- It's still too early to know who will hit the market in free agency, but I find it hard to believe that teams are going to allow too many difference-making players to reach the streets. The salary cap is expected to be adjusted in the next couple of weeks and teams could have as much as an extra $10 million to spend if the cap rises that much, as has been reported. New England has a pair of outstanding defensive backs in cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Devin McCourty. The Patriots also had quarterback Tom Brady restructure his contract to allow more freedom to retain outstanding players, so will either of those players reach the market? Byron Maxwell from Seattle? Outstanding cornerback. But will the Seahawks really let him go and weaken their secondary? Let's wait until March 9 to dig in deep here. The market looks great now. It's going to look dramatically different when free agency begins.
- Nothing new to report on pending unrestricted free agent Jeremy Maclin, who had a career year at wide receiver in 2014. Three weeks to go before free agency starts …
- Linebacker Brandon Graham is an interesting player to watch as free agency nears. ESPN.com recently had Graham rated as the 16th-best player in free agency, so we'll see how the Eagles handle Graham's situation. Does Graham return and work in at the outside linebacker spot along with Connor Barwin and Trent Cole and, hopefully, Marcus Smith?
- According to OverTheCap.com, the Eagles have in excess of $18 million to spend under a projected $140 million salary cap, which is very much middle of the pack in the NFL. In other words, while the Eagles are not up against the cap, they don't have a tremendous amount of breathing room given the pending free agency of Maclin, Graham, quarterback Mark Sanchez and others. This is going to be a very, very interesting period of time. How aggressive can the Eagles be in free agency, if they choose to take that approach?
- And finally, more Mayock. This time, he's talking about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is the biggest story of April's NFL draft. What can Mariota do at the Combine to improve his stock, or change any perceptions?
"I don't think there is anything Marcus Mariota can do this week to elevate him or drop him," Mayock said. "The important thing for quarterbacks at combines is rip the ball the day you're supposed to rip it, but more importantly, it's all about meeting the coaches and talking to the people for those 15 or 20 minutes you get at night, and the kid is going to shine in that people are going to be intrigued by him and like him and want to buy into him. I think everybody's going to be impressed. If he's (running the) 40, it's going to be 4.55, maybe better, and he's going to impress people. So it's going to come down to whether or not you buy into the fact that his individual skillset can turn into an NFL pocket passer."
Let the names, and the pre-action games, begin.