Finally, finally, finally. The "offseason" is finally here! It has been delayed by months, but better late than never, right? Let's go over what the Eagles need to do in the next few weeks.
Get A Right Cornerback
This is the most pressing need the Eagles have. Trevard Lindley is atop the depth chart for now, but I'd like to see him get another year of practice before expecting him to challenge for a starting role. Lindley showed some good things as a rookie, but isn't my first choice at right corner.
There are a ton of possibilities and just as many rumors. Will the Eagles go after Nnamdi Asomugha? Will they go after Ike Taylor? Will they trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC)? There isn't one player that is an absolute perfect fit. Asomugha is a great cover corner, but he's older and would cost a lot. Taylor would be the kind of physical, aggressive corner we could use, but he's older and is the least gifted of the trio. DRC is really intriguing. He is in the prime of his career and could be the right corner for the next five or six years. He's got a good frame and excellent speed. He can be a physical press corner. The downside is that DRC is coming off a down year. He was inconsistent with his coverage and struggled as a tackler. I think he was greatly affected by the Cardinals' overall struggles, but that doesn't let him off the hook for his level of play.
I think you can make a compelling case for each player. I'm excited to see what the Eagles do. There is a fourth guy who could be in the mix. Johnathan Joseph has been a good player for the Bengals. He's not an ideal fit for the Eagles based on the way the Bengals used him, but Joseph was a physical press corner in college so he can play that style. He's also young, which makes him attractive. You'd rather come away with a long-term solution than a short fix. I don't know if the Eagles have serious interest in Joseph.
No matter what, the Eagles do need to come away with one of these guys or a player of similar ability. We don't yet know which players will get cut or be on the trading block. If the Niners let go of Nate Clements, he could be a short-term option. If Miami decides to enter the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes and put Vontae Davis on the block, that deal would likely get done in a hurry.
I know the Eagles didn't come up with a right corner last year, but that was greatly impacted by the six-year free agency rule. A lot of good players didn't hit the market. The Eagles didn't throw money at a lesser player. They knew there would be better options this time around. Now they must make a deal and get us a top-shelf right corner.
Trade Kevin Kolb
Some people will argue that the Eagles should keep Kolb. I don't see that as the case. You deal him and try to land a player who can help you win this year. The Eagles were hurt by not being able to shop him prior to the draft when many teams were interested. That number has been reduced, but Arizona and Seattle are serious suitors. I wouldn't be shocked if the Dolphins got involved. I think the Browns will stick with Colt McCoy, but Tom Heckert has spoken glowingly about Kolb in the past so never say never. The Eagles should get a fair deal for Kolb. If they hold him until next March, I don't think that they will get the same value in return. Plus, the situation will be highly complex since Kolb will be about to hit free agency. There are ways around this. The Patriots dealt Matt Cassel under similar circumstances. Still, just make the deal now.
Add Key Backups
I'm not sure the team has any starting holes beyond right cornerback. Some spots might be up for grabs, but there are at least players already there to compete for the jobs. There are a couple of key positions to fill.
Assuming that Kolb is dealt, the Eagles will need to add a backup quarterback. Mike Kafka is in place, but he's another guy I think is a year away from being ready to handle a key role. In the past the Eagles could win with defense, special teams and sound offense. No more. The Eagles are now built around an explosive offense. That requires a backup quarterback that can step in and keep things going at a high level. You need a veteran who knows how to run a complex offense and how to read crazy defenses. The player must also be a skilled passer.
My ideal choice is Matt Hasselbeck, but he might have a hard time turning down an offer to start if some other team gives him that chance. Marc Bulger will be on the market and could be a quality backup. Jake Delhomme will reportedly get cut by the Browns. He would be a very good choice to come here as a backup.
The other spot the Eagles must fill is backup running back. Jerome Harrison is a free agent. If he goes elsewhere there isn't an ideal candidate to replace him. Eldra Buckley is a good role player, but is more of a No. 3-type running back. The backup must be able to start if called upon. Buckley isn't a guy you want starting. Rookie Dion Lewis will be in the mix, but at 193 pounds I'm not sure he's ready to block well enough to see a lot of time as a rookie. Lewis has to show the coaches that he can pass protect before he can be counted on for anything.
The most interesting rumor involves the Eagles having interest in Reggie Bush. He is an incredibly talented offensive weapon that would make an already explosive offense even more dangerous. I'd certainly be OK with adding a player of his ability. Bush is a good runner and great receiver. If the Eagles go for a more conventional choice, I hope Cadillac Williams is a player they consider. He has good size at 5-11 and 220 pounds. He is an outstanding pass blocker and receiver. Williams knows that he's no longer a workhorse runner and would likely embrace a role in our offense. Another interesting possibility would be Clinton Portis. He said on Jim Rome's radio show last week that he knows he needs to share touches. He's no longer a guy that can tote the rock 20 times every week. Portis is a great blocker and solid receiver. Some people like the thought of adding Darren Sproles. He would be a lot of fun to add to the mix, but I'm not sure he'd make the team a whole lot better. Moving the ball wasn't the problem last year. Scoring touchdowns was.
Improve Red Zone Play
We have a good offense already in place. Any additions to the offense should be done to help red zone execution. There is a lot of speculation about the Eagles going after Plaxico Burress. He is a great red zone player so I'd be fine with that. Sproles scored two touchdowns last year, both receptions. The most he's run for in a season is three. I don't see him helping us much in the red zone. Portis and Williams are good red zone runners. Bush is a matchup nightmare for defenses in the red zone. He can run or catch. He can line up at running back or wide receiver. I'm all for anything that makes the Eagles a better red zone team.
Help The Defense
I really like a lot of the young talent the Eagles have gathered on the defensive side of the ball. That said, I'm all for helping them out by adding a couple of veteran players. I've already talked about the need for a right corner. That's the one spot that must be addressed. The Eagles could add someone to take over at left defensive end. There are a lot of fans that want the team to make a run at Charles Johnson. I'm fine with going for a guy like Jason Babin. He's familiar with the Eagles and also knows Jim Washburn and his defensive line system. Linebacker is the mystery position. We don't know what will happen there. If things don't work out with Stewart Bradley, the Eagles ought to at least take a close look at some players. Some people favor Stephen Tulloch from the Titans. I prefer Paul Posluszny from the Bills. Again, this isn't a spot that absolutely must be addressed. The Eagles do like Casey Matthews.
What Can We Expect
There are a couple of things to remember as we head into the "offseason." The Eagles expect to be active and aggressive, but let's not forget the way they do things. They are very selective shoppers. The Eagles target specific players. If they don't land those guys, that doesn't mean they automatically move down to the next guy on the list. Sometimes the Eagles prefer to stick with players already on the roster if they don't land the other players they tried to get. Generally speaking, I think this is the wise way to do things.
The other thing to remember is that this is now Howard Mudd's offensive line. The Eagles added him to run the line the way he wants. Some fans think sticking with Winston Justice at right tackle is crazy. Why not go for Doug Free or Tyson Clabo or someone in free agency? I think Mudd will stand pat with Justice and let King Dunlap challenge him for the job. The bottom line is that whatever the Eagles do, Mudd was pushing for that. If they stay as is, then you know Mudd likes Justice and Dunlap. If we do see change, I've been guessing wrong and Mudd wasn't happy. There could be some interesting changes on the depth chart as Mudd works with the line. He requires different types of players than Juan Castillo did. Give Mudd and any changes he makes a chance. Let's see what the guys up front can do in the new system.