Things have slowed down in the second full week of free agency. Role players are getting signed, but the big names are mostly off the board. Any of the big names that are available have some issues that are keeping them on the street and off anyone's roster.
The Eagles have been rumored to have interest in a ton of players so far this year. A lot of the reports are simply started by agents who use the Eagles name to try and drum up interest in their clients. Media pundits also continue to link us to every possible receiver that is available who had any kind of success in the past.
I understand the notion of the Eagles being linked to star receivers. How could you not put the Eagles on a short list of teams that would aggressively pursue a guy like Anquan Boldin if he became available? That I get. The Eagles have always been open to upgrading a position if a premier player was on the market.
On the other hand, I don't get the speculation that we'll trade for or aggressively go after Torry Holt. That is a guy on the downside of his career. Is he really an upgrade on Kevin Curtis? Wouldn't you be better off adding a rookie to the rotation? That way you could have someone ready to take over for Curtis in a year or two. Marvin Harrison is the one that really gets to me. He will turn 37 over the summer. He was perfect for the Colts offense and they let him go. Is he really a guy the Eagles would bring in? That doesn't fit their modus operandi and I don't think it makes a lot of sense. We'd all love to add a star receiver to the offense, but those guys rarely become available. Focus on the draft when it comes to wideouts.
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The only thing official that came down on Wednesday was the addition of safety Rashad Baker, who signed a one-year deal. This will be the fifth team for the 27-year-old Baker, but he's coming off of a career year. He had a career-high 24 tackles and three interceptions for the Raiders last season. In the past, he was mainly a special teams player. He could be a solid role player.
So are there any free agents the team might go after? Where could the Eagles look to improve? The best thing to do is go to the roster and sort it by position. Look at where the holes are. You'll see that the Eagles are light at running back, fullback and tight end. Those are the key areas to watch.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported on Wednesday that the Eagles have been in talks with free agent fullback Leonard Weaver, who is an interesting player. He has fullback size at 6-0 and 242 pounds. He has running back skills. That is both good and bad. Weaver isn't a powerful lead blocker. I would say he's an adequate blocker, but nothing more. He is a good runner and a gifted receiver. Check out the Seahawks' win over the 49ers in October and you'll see Weaver at his best.
In that game, Weaver caught four passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. One of the scores came on a short throw over the middle where he simply outran the defense. Star linebacker Patrick Willis was chasing him, but couldn't make the tackle. That is impressive for a fullback. Weaver also had an impressive run in that game. He leapt over a defender on an outside run play and got additional yards. You don't see that kind of athleticism from many fullbacks.
Here are my raw notes on Weaver: Outstanding receiver … Catches the ball naturally … Has good hands … Athletic enough to be good in space … Good runner … Can fire off the ball and attack upfield, but will surprise you with his athleticism … Fast enough to get to the edge and be effective outside … The Seahawks used him in some of the one-back sets … Blocking is not his strong suit … Engages targets under control, but doesn't go through them … Uses his shoulder and gets under his targets … Looks smart enough and seems to choose the correct defender.
I would not view Weaver as a solution at fullback, but only part of the solution. I think the Eagles would be smart to bring him in with the notion of using him as a big back and fullback. I would still spend a roster spot on more of a pure fullback. This could be Dan Klecko, Kyle Eckel or a rookie. The other fullback would be mixed into the offense as a blocker and would contribute on special teams. I didn't see Weaver playing on special teams in the games I watched. The reason a guy with Weaver's ability is still available at this point is because he's not a pure fullback. He does have added value to a team that throws the ball a lot and runs the West Coast Offense. I'm sure that is why the Eagles rumored to be in the mix for his services. We'll see if anything gets done.
I mentioned tight end as also being an area where the Eagles are thin. Don't look for starters to be brought in so much as role players. Here are some possible names of interest:
- Billy Bajema – 6-4, 256 – Reports indicate that he was a player the Eagles wanted to take in the seventh round the year he came out, but the Niners grabbed him first. Purely a No. 3 kind of tight end. OK blocker. Will play on special teams. Has OK hands, but only seven career catches.
- Tory Humphrey – 6-2, 255 - Interesting guy. Mainly a special teamer and blocker for the Packers, but did catch 11 passes last year. I don't know how good a blocker he is. Only 26 years old. Could develop into a good No. 3 tight end.
- Tony Curtis – 6-5, 251 – Bounced between the No. 2 and No. 3 tight end for Dallas last year. Caught eight passes. Comfortable in his role as a backup. Can block and play special teams. The Eagles always like to sign guys from division rivals if they can.
- Darnell Dinkins – 6-4, 260 - Older guy at 32. Has some ability. Has 25 career catches and three touchdowns. Solid special teams player. Lined up at fullback on occasion. Solid blocker.
- Will Heller– 6-7, 270 - Big guy. Could be a good role player. Has 36 catches in five years. Will play on special teams. Has bounced around with several teams. Has time with Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden so he should know the West Coast Offense
That isn't exactly a who's who of NFL players, but those guys are what the Eagles need. They fill holes and help do the dirty work. One outside possibility is restricted free agent Quinn Sypniewski of Baltimore. The Ravens were really high on him coming off the 2007 season when he caught 34 passes. Unfortunately he tore his ACL last April in a mini-camp and missed the entire season. The Ravens took a gamble and tendered him low. Any team able to sign him away would only owe the Ravens a fifth-round pick. The Eagles just happen to have four of those.
Sypniewski is big at 6-6 and 270. He can block and catch. The ACL tear is a concern, but it happened almost a year ago. He should be all the way back by the start of training camp. Most guys get hurt between August and December. That gives them a short period to get ready for the following year. Sypniewski will have more than 14 months between his injury and the start of the 2009 training camp, no matter which team he plays for.
Going after him would make sense for the Eagles. They could then add an athletic guy in the middle of the draft and have a really good young trio of players that all complement each other in terms of size and skill set.
Left Tackle Situation
Hall of Fame-bound Orlando Pace was cut on Tuesday. Should the Eagles have any interest in him? I don't think so. He played in eight games in 2006. He played in one in 2007. He did play in 14 last year. That is a total of 23 games in three years. Tra Thomas started 19 games for us in 2008. I just don't know that I value an older lineman who has trouble staying on the field. Pace got hurt against us in the opener and struggled when he was on the field. He's really fallen off in recent years from what I've seen.
I'm excited to see what Todd Herremans or Shawn Andrews can do at left tackle. Both guys are physical run blockers. That will add a dimension to the offense that hasn't been there in a long time. Neither guy is as gifted at pass protection as Thomas. I'm glad to see he signed with Jacksonville. I wish him all the best. He spoiled us for 11 years with good left tackle play. It makes me feel old to see these guys that I studied as draft prospects moving on to other teams late in their careers or even retiring.